Them and us: Nunhead

Maybe it's just because the sun was out last time we visited Nunhead, but we've recently been forced to reevaluate the area. We used to think of it as a lonely parade of shops pressed up against a quaint but empty little green, on the way to other places.

But on the last couple of occasions, we've started noticeing little architectural details which make the place more interesting and flower boxes have burst in to bloom, which make Nunhead feel more homely. The universal praise from BC readers for FC Soper has also given us a reason to think of Nunhead as a destination, rather than a shortcut.

We also discovered that we know someone who lives there. So we asked her a few questions about the place. Here's what she told us:

How long have you been living in Nunhead?

Since August last year, so about 9 months.

Why did you move to the area?

It was cheaper than the area of Peckham that we were living in… you could actually buy a whole house for the same price of a flat!

What are the best and worst things about living in Nunhead?

Best things: The local shops and pubs. The butchers and bakers are superb, the Old Nun’s Head pub is just around the corner, and the Rye Hotel isn’t too far away either.

Worst things: If you miss your train it's 1/2 an hour wait till the next one, and no matter how much you think you can beat it by getting on the bus, you never do!

Why should people in Brockley think about visiting?

Nunhead cemetery is beautiful, and Peckham Rye park is just around the corner. From time to time there are also a few little fetes and art events that happen on Nunhead green.

Do you ever visit Brockley? What is your perception of Brockley?

I never have and to be honest and don’t know too much about it. I’m sure I’ve probably driven through before, but that’s about it I’m afraid.

Tell us one thing about Nunhead you won't find on Wikipedia?

It apparently gets its name from a nun who was executed many years ago (not sure why), but whose head was then placed on a stake and put in the middle of Nunhead green as a warning to any other people looking to defy the government. No idea if that’s true, but they’re the rumours!


Anonymous said...

I can vouch for FC Soper and the cemetary - if you're a fan of Gothic architecture then it's worth a look. Don't know about the Old Nun's Head though - may have to look that one up.

Monkeyboy said...

Cheaper than Peckham! Blimey.

Brockley Kate said...

Peckham's pretty pricy, I moved to Brockley because I couldn't afford to buy in Peckham.

Headhunter said...

Parts of Peckham are pricey. I cycled over to the gym on Goose Green and then afterwards tried to cut across Peckham/Camberwell etc to get to Asda on OKR but got lost and was quite impressed by some of the lovely leafy streets I found myself on. Very smart, large Victorian villas, set back from the road, all in very good nick. They looked very expensive, more reminiscent of Highgate than Peckham. I think it was somewhere round about Bellenden Rd but I'm not sure. I'll probably never find them again... Interesting what one stumbles across whilst lost on a bike...

The story of the nun's head is on a board outside the Old Nun's Head pub. It has something to do with the Abbess and her fellow nuns putting up a fight against Henry VIII's soldiers when they arrived to disolve the nunnery in the area at the time of the disolution of the monasteries. She put up quite a fight apparently but in the end came a cropper and they stuck her head on a stake.

Anonymous said...

Nunhead was a shambles before community action won it a £500K grant towards a makeover. The green was completely re-landscaped, trees planted along the little high street, new sign posts and street furniture. It completely changed the area and definitely for the good. Two filthy old pubs were transformed into trendy little bars in the time that followed. Ahhh I remember those meetings well, thinking it would lead nowhere.

So keep up the momentum you have so far with Brockley, it's so got to be next on the list!

Tom said...

I used to live between Peckham Rye and Nunhead, and the little high street is a bit of a gem.

A bakers, a butchers, a fishmongers, a greengrocers all in a line, and now there's a deli there also.

The council estate just above the high street means the area is a bit tough, but it also keeps the shops alive.

There's more places to go out to in the area also - I remember when Page 2 first opened, and that's ended up being the first of three or four good bars/pubs in the area.

And of course you can walk across the Rye to E Dulwich, with the Clock House pub a nice find, right on the Rye.

Transport links, as mentioned above, aren't too hot. When not on a bike I used to end up walking to Peckham Rye train station - a long 15 minute walk.

brockley mutha said...

And ... to top it all Nunhead has its very own conservation area I believe.

Anonymous said...

they haven't got their own Nunhead Central blog though hehe

Tamsin said...

The nun allegedly haunts her eponymous pub.

Lovely shops - but alas that the extraordinary haberdashers has gone.

Headhunter said...

What was the "extraordinary haberdashers"?

Ewan M said...

I live in Nunhead and I can say that I have visited Brockley and very much like it (just so that you don't think all Nunhead residents are averse to venturing that way!).

For transport, yes it can be a bit of a pain. Depending on my destination I've found that walking to Queen's Road Peckham and getting the train to London Bridge can be better than waiting.

Re pubs: I'm not sure what's happened to Page 2, since it's now called "The Village Inn" and is mostly empty. But the Old Nun's Head is excellent.

Tamsin said...

@ headhunter A shop on the left side of Evelina going towards the Rye on on of the corners. Open at rather random hours and when open the door tended to stick so you were uncertain even then. It was run by an elderly couple who seemed unchanged from the early 1950s. But if you wanted emboiderly hoops, curved mattress needles, canvas, etc., etc. it was bound to be there somewhere on the very dusty shelves.

Headhunter said...

Tamsin - sounds fascinating! What exactly are "emboiderly hoops, curved mattress needles"?!

Tom said...

Random Nunhead fact: Gracie Fields' song "The Biggest Aspidistra in the World" was about a plant in Evalina Road, Nunhead.


Headhunter said...

Interesting. Was/is there a "Bunch of Grapes" pub in Nunhead (as per the lyrics)?

Tamsin said...

"emboiderly" hoops are my fumbled fingers! (Embroidery hoops are pairs of wooden hoops, in sets 6" to 9" in diameter, the inner one fitting snugly into the outer one which can be tightened with a wing-nut and bolt arrangement so that canvas or any other material stretched over the inner hoop is held firmly in place by the outer and can be worked on with your elegant stitchings.) I wanted some a few years back (not for embroidery and I now can't remember why) and this shop was where I found them. Now, of course, such specialist equipment is ordered from the web.

Curved mattress needles are heavy duty needles curved in a half circle with which you can stitch things to something as thick as a mattress, being able to go in and out from the same side. (Not that I've ever done so but this is what my granny told me.) Boring really - curved mattresses sound much more interesting...

Transpontine said...

The story about the Nun and her head is a folk legend, but sad to say there is no historical evidence whatsoever that it is true. The pub is definitely worth a visit though, went there last night and there was some good music upstairs at the Easycome Acoustic Club.

Tamsin said...

Unlikely propoganda, though, to be promulgated by the winning (protestant) side. (There's a tongue-twister for you!)

Headhunter said...

Oh actually I think I've heard of embroidery hoops but not the curved needles. I was wondering whether it was the matresses or the needles which were curved!

Anonymous said...

Personally I think that Nunhead isn't very nice or pretty. The few shops are handy but it's definitely not exciting or a place I would recommend to a friend. houses are very pricey for what's on offer, thanks to East Dulwich & Peckham. Peckham Rye is great though.

Hamish said...

The Village Inn is a cracking little boozer but needs a facelift so we are! We’ve just taken it over , renamed it The Duke and we’re in the middle of renovations at the moment; we’re putting in a new bar for our new range of speciality beers, ales and spirits which we hope you’ll love.
We’re also installing a new kitchen and have a new chef on board; and we’ll slowly reintroduce good quality food again starting with Sunday lunches in a couple of weeks.
We think it’s a cracking little boozer and we know it’s going to be a slow process but pop in for a drink and let us know what you think.
Hamish @ The Duke

Anonymous said...

The Restaurant is great also breakfast is posh.

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