Sylvia Pankhurst on Peckham

Neither London nor Manchester nor any of the towns and villages described really come alive at all in The Suffragette, which is interesting given the way she often gives addresses and describes routes of marches and struggles with police.

The exception is this unexpected and quite brilliant description of South London, insulting as it may be. Curious how even when fairly newly built, these suburbs were so reviled by so many:

Peckham, as every Londoner knows, is one of that great forest of suburbs of mushroom growth on the south side of the river, its miles and miles of dingy streets are lined with monotonous rows of ugly little houses which the jerry builder tries to convert into villa residences by disfiguring with heavy over ornamented stone work and by planting a useless pillar on either side of the narrow doorway. A large proportion of these little dwellings are tenanted by at least two families, and the district is given over to small shopkeepers and clerks, shop assistants, teachers and those who belong more frankly to the working classes. No one who can afford to live elsewhere chooses to live in Peckham; it is full of honest, worthy people, but there is nothing romantic or attractive about it.

The Suffragettes opened their Committee Rooms in the High Street and fought the election well…

I am left to be thankful that my desperate search across South London for a flat yielded no results in Peckham — but more because that is beginning to turn and it is no longer affordable. Still, this is an interesting comparison to Father Potter’s view of Peckham through the lives of its poverty-stricken residents.

Leave a Reply