Exploring Southwark and discovering its history
The Phoenix in Windsor Walk, Denmark Hill is a popular pub, much frequented by staff from nearby Kings College Hospital. The ornate facade points to a former time and inside there are lofty high ceilings, large windows and a huge clock. For a pub, the building has an unusual history.
Built in 1865, Denmark Hill Station was designed by Charles Henry Driver who also designed the nearby Peckham Rye Station. It was one of the stations on the new railway line constructed by the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway Company to run from London Bridge to Victoria later becoming known as the South London Line. In the Franco-Italian style, it is an attractive, highly decorative building consisting of a two storey central booking office flanked each side by single storey wings, one of which provided living accommodation for the station master.
In March 1980 the station was the subject of an arson attack that destroyed the roof and gutted the central booking hall. At that time, British Rail did not insure their railway stations because of high premiums and their plan was to make the building safe prior to demolition and use a portable cabin to sell tickets. The Camberwell Society vehemently objected to this and proposed restoration but British Rail maintained they did not have the money available for this. The Camberwell Society set about raising the funds. It was hard work and money was slow coming in, but eventually large donations were received from the Historic Buildings Council, the Greater London Council, and finally British Rail themselves were persuaded to contribute to the project.
The intention was for the central former booking hall to be used for other purposes while one of the side wings would be used as a booking hall. Various uses were suggested including a minicab office and as further space for the Salvation Army whose William Booth College is situated very close by. The owner of the Firkin chain of pubs became interested and proposed that should the Camberwell Society be able to raise funds to restore the external fabric, his company would refurbish the interior for a pub. The pub called appropriately the Phoenix and Firkin opened in June 1984. Sad to say, the large double faced clock inside the pub is not from the original Denmark Hill station but was rescued from Llandudno Junction station. Purely for decoration as it no longer works.
But in the last thirty years there have been changes. The Firkin chain of pubs was sold and for a time the pub became an O’Neills then closed for refurbishment and simply called the Phoenix upon reopening. In 2012 the South London Line service was ended and part of the track integrated into the London Overground service which stops at Denmark Hill. At the same time, a new smaller entrance and booking hall was built just around the corner from the old station which gives full lift access to platforms and a coffee shop installed in the single storey wing no longer required as a booking office. The only part of the original station still used as part of the station is the glazed walkway at the back of the building which is used as a bridge for access to platforms and the new ticket office. The old station building and platforms were Grade II listed in 1998 and described by English Heritage as a ”rare and unusually complete example of a Victorian suburban station.”
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Denmark Hill Station / The Phoenix, Windsor Walk, SE5