Brockley Cross, 1970s

Marty I had a horrible nightmare. I dreamed that I went... back in time. It was terrible.
Lorraine Well... You're safe and sound now, back in good old 1955.

- Back to the Future

There are two types of architectural mistake: The first type are those that with hindsight were clearly flawed, but looking at historical photos, you can understand how planners at the time were seduced by their ambition or beauty - things that worked before people moved in and ruined them by using them in ways they weren't supposed to. The Bullring and Rotunda in Birmingham or the elevated walkways of the City seemed to herald a bold, modernist future.

The second type are those projects that were always hideous, and no amount of historical empathy can help you understand what people saw in them, like Robin Hood Gardens.

BrocSoc's Rob has sent us this photo from the early 1970s that proves that Brockley Cross belongs firmly in the second category. It has always been horrible. The idea that 40 years on, with the Council's attention finally focused on improving the site, they would opt to keep the same basic layout, is perplexing.

The pavement was in a better state back then, though.

Note: Rob wasn't sure of the provenance of this photo, which he acquired off Ebay, so apologies if we are violating anyone's copyright, please let us know.

89 comments:

Anonymous said...

You can bet they weren't queueing up to buy namby pamby fairtrade beans in those days. Ah for the days of good, honest hard work and grit.

drakefell debaser said...

And stupid ideas, it seems.

I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall when they came up with the tyres around bollards idea.

Brockley Nick said...

That's right, they were eating sausages made from eyeballs and sawdust and ice cream made from whipped pig fat. Ah, the good old days.

Anonymous said...

And they certainly weren't going to a supermarket for cheap bananas and booze, or chickens that were 2 for £6 and pumped full of chemicals. Petrol cost less than £1 a gallon and you could take a train from London to Birmingham just by turning up buying a reasonably priced ticket and getting on the first available train. The utilities were nationalised and cheap. Punk was happening and Lewisham was blessed with 3 cinemas. The market stalls were in the road and Molesworth Street was a quiet backwater. Proper blokes worked down the pit and went to Catford dogs.

Brockley Nick said...

Punk was the most overrated movement in music history and if you think the real cost of motoring or utilities was lower as a proportion of average income, you are kidding yourself.

Maybe they didn't have chicken pumped with chemicals (though I bet they did), but they still thought asbestos was the best thing since sliced bread and if you took that train to Birmingham, you'd have to sit a carriage full of cigarette smoke.

Anonymous said...

What is wrong with pig fat. In Peckham an enterprising woman has set up a home made pie business 'Lardy Dah' I think its called. Couldn't be more of the moment. I suppose the 1970s were before most of you were born and therefore sometime just after the last Ice Age. Personally I wouldn't touch any of todays supermarket sausages with the proverbial.

Anonymous said...

Punk was awesome. Nick, you truly have no soul. I expect you took moral offence from their leather jackets?

Brockley Nick said...

Pig fat is OK if you know that's what you're getting. But it doesn't make for nice ice cream.

D said...

For right or wrong, punk changed the mindset of many many people so as a movement surely it's up there with any other? (I'm not too sure how or why you even start to rate a 'movement' though)
90% of the music was crap but that's not the point.
And anyway, what better symbol of anarchy could you think of than that bloody double roundabout?!

l. mckeown said...

You said it, you could sit in a train!
Happy days. I smoked then so yes you're right about that. If you think punk is overrated then you're too young to remember Roller-mania, the Osmonds,et al, and 'prog rock'. It was an exciting time in London, pity you missed it.

Brockley Nick said...

Anon 10.38 - I like rock, leather jackets and all. I even like the clash and a lot of music which you could say was influenced by punk (although I reckon punk's fans make a lot of exaggerated claims for punk's influence, just because there were so few good actual punk bands). But really, there were a handful of half-decent punk bands - as a musical genre, it produced about as much good stuff as New Jack Swing.

Brockley Nick said...

@D - I would say that the quality of the music is the point.

In terms of "sticking it to the man" and shaking up the system, that's what youth movements have been doing since the Jazz age.

I know it was all supposedly about shaking up the 1970s rock establishment, but big deal. Ultimately, the rock dinosaurs - and Abba - had the last laugh.

Anonymous said...

You had to be there, not viewing it thru' the lens of the Southbank Show.

Brockley Nick said...

All you are saying is "I enjoyed being in my teens and early twenties and I liked some of the music of the time". We all did.

Barbara said...

Speaking of history, am just reading Journal of the Plague year and Defoe is talking about plague on this side of town, and talks about the parishes of "Norwood, Dulwich, Camberwell and Lusum". Which has surely got to be Lewisham. Makes it sound so cool and Roman!

Anonymous said...

Actually I was 29 in 1976 and being teased for being 'an old fart'.

Welcome to 2011 said...

Punk's influence isn't much in evidence in that photo. Little old ladies (who were probably only in their 40s) and men it flat caps. So much for seventies.

Brockley Nick said...

@Anon 11.11 - well it seems that history is repeating itself then. Nothing changes ;)

Anonymous said...

Look at the cars at the end of Coulgate St! Still you can bet that no one then was wringing their hands over it being a "dangerous place to cross". They would have just called them cars. Parked on a road.

boringoldfartdedicatedtopissingoffthe youngsters said...

Little old ladies and men in flat caps???

Are we looking at the same photo?

Lou Baker said...

Notice the roads.

Clear white lines, no pot holes.

The 70s rock.

Anonymous said...

I bet you could actually go into and walk around Duke's then, too.

Brockley Mung said...

Some lovely photos here

http://www.ideal-homes.org.uk/lewisham/assets/galleries/brockley

Vicious said...

@brockley nick

the ramones, the clash, black flag, bad brains, the sex pistols, patti smith, x-ray spex, the damned, the buzzcocks, dead kennedys, siouxsie and the banshees, the slits, new york dolls, mc5, the stooges....

lets avoid the music criticism and stick to local issues eh? as you clearly don't know all that much about music, no offense...

watch don letts' punk:attitude for a history lesson...

boringoldfartdedicatedtopissingoffthe youngsters said...

You won't convince Nick. Some people are born 40.

Brockley Nick said...

"the ramones, the clash, black flag, bad brains, the sex pistols, patti smith, x-ray spex, the damned, the buzzcocks, dead kennedys, siouxsie and the banshees, the slits, new york dolls, mc5, the stooges...."

Of those...

The Clash, Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Buzzcocks. As I said, a handful of decent bands.

No one seriously thinks the Sex Pistols were a great band anymore do they?

My "youth" was during the 90s indie scene which produced at least as many decent bands but god help me if I ever hear someone try to tell me that the Levellers were a great band or that Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine was changing the system.

I like music, I don't expect musicians to tell me how to think.

As for fighting the power...

Lydon sells butter, Iggy Pop sells insurance (sorry... he doesn't sell insurance, he sells time!)

Brockley Ben said...

From a traffic point of view I've never been too fussed about the double roundabout. But then I quite enjoy the cut and thrust of driving on the Old Kent Road. The fact that plenty of people say it's confusing, howerer, suggests that something ought to be done. And Nick's video certainly illustrates the problems facing pedestrians.

Just to play devil's advocate here, though, it occurs to me that the pictured layout, with the more prominent islands and the central barrier, might actually be less confusing that the current more open configuration. Each roundabout should be approached separately and with appropriate caution and I reckon this approach encourages that because the roundabouts are more obviously separate entities. The proposal currently on the table (with its much-scorned tree in the middle) may represent a return to something that works a bit better.

Having said that I'm really not sure why a single roundabout - even if it's a slightly wonky one - couldn't be accommodated. But if there are genuine reasons for this, and safe provision can be made for pedestrians, then maybe the answer is to build more separation between the two.

E. Marples said...

There are dozens of double mini roundabouts across Britain. Why does this one cause so much angst at BC Towers? It works doesn't it? Any radical alternative would involve complete demolition of the surrounding buildings. Any regular user of the junction knows the times that are better and worse for traffic congestion. Get up a bit earlier or leave a bit later, and if you can't I suppose you'll just have to live with it.

Brockley Nick said...

"There are dozens of double mini roundabouts across Britain. Why does this one cause so much angst at BC Towers?"

Because this is the one in Brockley, which is the site's remit. I don't care about the others, but they are probably all awful.

"It works doesn't it?"

No, it doesn't. It's dangerous, confusing for cars and rubbish for pedestrians. That's the point. Check out all the other discussions from people ranging from community groups to councillors - there are big problems with it.

"Any radical alternative would involve complete demolition of the surrounding buildings."

I don't think that is true and don't argue for a radical alternative. A single mini roundabout would be acceptable and I can't see why it wouldn't work just fine. Certainly no need for any demolition, although some pavement widening would be necessary and desirable.

"Any regular user of the junction knows the times that are better and worse for traffic congestion. Get up a bit earlier or leave a bit later, and if you can't I suppose you'll just have to live with it."

I'm not campaigning on behalf of drivers who want to get through it, but residents who have to live with it.

E. Marples said...

Drivers (possibly local) don't count?

Tamsin said...

Although I have public renounced my allegiance to the double roundabout - I think I need to recant for a second. IMO this picture from above does show what I sort of felt before but never articulated, that a single roundabout would need to be more of an oblong-about if one is to have any pavement width. This might prove just as confusing - and potentially difficult for anyone approaching and wanting to turn right. I know the idea is to make things difficult for vehicles, but heavy traffic at the junction of two district distributors are inevitable and too many cars backing up causes its own problems for pedestrians, commerce and residents.

Danja said...

There's a lot more to be said for punk than for the prog it swept away.

Brockley Nick said...

@Marple - I didn't say that, but you said that we should all just wake up earlier if we had a problem with it. I am saying that its ability to process traffic quickly is not the issue. It's all the other stuff I mentioned, plus all the other stuff raised in previous threads.

D said...

Nick - I'm just going to assume that you're jealous that Carter got on the 'local' bandwagon before you! ;-)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wPIMr42FuQI

Anonymous said...

Looks even worse back then.

paddyom said...

The lack of hideous grimy plastic shop fronts was a massive improvement back then however. And the place doesnt look as dodgy or something...

Darren said...

Is it just me, or do the stripy cones give BrocX the fitting appearance of a go kart track?

Anonymous said...

All I worry about is the Ocado van being held up at BX. My Peruvian asparagus might be delayed. Ironic eh?

smelly wee said...

Are you referring to the same irony that Alanis Morrisette sang about?

Anonymous said...

In the strictest sense, yes.

smelly wee said...

Ok, its just that, like the song, I don't see the ironic link between late asparagus and a the roundabout.

Anonymous said...

Today there were 15, yes fifteen, removal vans parked around brockley commons.

5 of them on the Brockley Road yellow line !!

If the Council is concerned about traffic flow, perhaps they should start enforcing the already existing restrictions.

Re: Brockley Cross everything has been said already on this blog.

Only thought I may add is that the Council seems keen to allow developers to build flats with no provision for car parking and the declared developer friendly strategy to push people to own less cars and use more pubblic transport and bycicles. Following the logic one would think that if the vision is a future of less cars, then Brockley Cross should be designed to reduce and slow down car traffic and improve pedestrian traffic.

Guess what they went in the opposite direction it seems

Anonymous said...

Its cosmic irony.

D said...

smelly wee - you've missed the point. Alanis Morisette's song as a whole was ironic as she was saying things were ironic that clearly weren't.

True, she missed the point too but as an unintended counter-argument I like it.

David Attenborough said...

As usual the elephant in the room has been ignored.

Since the 1970s there are a lot more people on the planet and thus a lot more vehicles on the road - even in Brockley.

The human race needs to breed less and more slowly.

You doggers are probably not helping.

Anonymous said...

A single roundabout could not work here. The roads do not approach at 90 degrees. It leaves some movements on extremely tight corners, manageable for cars, but not for anything larger.

for a 'squashed' roundabout to work it needs to be much larger to have acceptable radii.

Anonymous said...

Removal vans? That'll be the booming rental market.

Monkeyboy said...

Dave, not exactly. Cars are much cheaper now. More people can afford them. That and the dogging.

bumbags said...

That long island is BRILLIANT, and makes sense of the whole thing- cars coming from Malpas Road are forced into EITHER a right lane for Shardeloes Road, or into the left to go straight onto Endwell Road or left towards the station. At the moment the lanes are really confusing and I've seen many near-misses.
The design looks a lot less crazy in this photo- at some point this long island was lost- can we please get it back?! The same idea still works coming back the other way. If we have to keep the basic layout, this would make a HUGE improvement. I haven't noticed it on any suggested plans.

Enlightenment Dude said...

"No one seriously thinks the Sex Pistols were a great band anymore do they?"

Only the cognoscenti.

Robert said...

I'm going to make a mix on an old school c90 and send it to Nick. Side 1: 77' punk; Side 2: New Jack Swing

Brockley Nick said...

If it's a greatest hits, you won't need a C90.

Anonymous said...

'a greatest hits'

Three little words that tell us so much about your musical world.

Enlightenment Dude said...

'a greatest hits'

Three little words that tell us so much about your musical world.

Brockley Nick said...

No, it's how you make the joke work.

But if anyone asked me what my favourite Beatles album was, I'd have to say The Best of the Beatles.

I wish you punk fans would make up your mind, is it about the music or the politics? Punk's impact on either is pretty inconsequential in my view, but at least be consistent.

Tressilliana said...

I've no idea whether chickens were pumped full of chemicals in the 70s but just about everything else was. It was a decade when packets of dried food were seen as a huge leap forward - Smash, Angel Delight, Vesta curries, Surprise peas and Surprise beans. I imagine most of you have never even heard of Surprise peas and beans. Well, you haven't lived, let me tell you.

The only dried food not much in use (in our house, anyway) was pasta. That had to be tinned.

Enlightenment Dude said...

"I wish you punk fans would make up your mind, is it about the music or the politics? Punk's impact on either is pretty inconsequential in my view, but at least be consistent."

Music isn't a political art form you seem to think. Bizarre.

Anyway, prepare for enlightenment. Listen to this and I think you will see that it was about both. In what I think is an inspired choice, you will see that my example even has some relevance to the original post.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DW4YtX0Ylp8

J O'Liver said...

And Ocado was just marketing mans' dream, along with Peruvian asparagus and Honduran prawns.

Brockley Nick said...

"I'm going to make a mix on an old school c90 and send it to Nick. Side 1: 77' punk..."

Meanwhile, in 1977, Stevie Wonder had just released Songs in the Key of Life and Bowie released Low and Heroes.

Matt-Z said...

@Robert

Home taping is killing music

Vesta Curry said...

Now ... who's being rude about Vesta Curries - watch it!

Tressilliana said...

I wasn't being rude! I loved Vesta curries. The only other time we got 'curry' was when my mum added a half-teaspoonful of curry powder to her sausage stew, and the only other way we got rice was in rice pudding.

wonderbread said...

Damn, you dropped the Wonder-bomb on them! No answer to that.

Tamsin said...

@ bumbags Well, the long island is where the present scheme wants to put the unfortunate "feature tree". I think making that owl beak thinner and turning it clockwise through about 10 to 15 degrees so it is more like the old long island would be an improvement (although a bit damaging to the owl image).

Common Fox said...

Hi Nick,
I think you've slightly missed the point about the original mention of Punk in these comments. Punk was more than just about music. It was a movement which affected many aspects of modern culture. It was indeed "happening" - although I doubt any self-respecting punk would have used that term at the time. ;)
Although I was never personally into it I could see it everywhere. It was hugely pervasive and influential. (I would argue that it's effect on fashion is probably even greater than it's effect on music.) And if we are just talking about music and the legacy Punk gave us, even if you don't think the music has lasted well you have to realise that regardless of whether it stylistically still influences bands today, without Punk we would never had had the boom of the independent music sector.

Monkeyboy said...

We had a punk at my secondry school in the early '80s. He was called Rupert (well you'd rebel with a monika like that) He kicked me in the shins with his steel toecaps.

Now a PE teacher I believe.

Brockley Nick said...

@Common Fox - re: fashion, I agree with you. Re: its impact on music, I don't really buy that. You can say that all music is a progression, each new genre borrows elements from the past. To that extent, it had some influence. But if you're trying to say that without Punk we wouldn't have had independent music, I don't buy it. Independent rap and dance music labels don't owe any debt to punk.

My original point was that the music is pretty rubbish, for the most part. You can say that's missing the point, but it's a pretty fundamental issue, IMO...

Anyway, we digress...

Tamsin said...

Not really - this thread is now 70% punk culture and 30% Brockley Cross - and rather fun because of it...

patrick1971 said...

@Nick: But if anyone asked me what my favourite Beatles album was, I'd have to say The Best of the Beatles.

Do you have a fat back, too? Well concealed in casual clothing, but we wouldn't want to see you in your underwear.

Good old Alan Partridge.

Common Fox said...

Ah but that's not true at all. Up until the 70s the major music labels had a complete stranglehold on the market. If anyone tried to launch an independent label it would either fail or get bought up by one of the majors. It was only with the Punk music scene and it's DIY attitude that independent labels became viable. It's proof that the scene was so big that so many labels both in the UK and US were able to flourish. And this 100% definitely paved the way for rap and dance labels to follow suit because the independent distribution and manufacturing infrastructure was by then in place.
Digression is good.

Ed said...

Spotted Alan too. Best thread in ages, even the dogginf bits. Well done to all of you!

Brockley Nick said...

OK Common, well you can assert that independent labels would never have happened without punk, but that seems highly implausible to me. Punk may have been the genre that first facilitated indie growth, but if punk had never have happened, something else would have done it instead. Look at how the music industry has massively changed in the last 10 years. R&B has probably been the dominant musical force in that time - doesn't mean the digital revolution wouldn't have happened otherwise.

All these assertions sound to me like a lot of people of a certain age trying to reassure themselves that they lived through history (and were part of that history of course) of which we'll never see the like again.

To an impartial observer like me, it just looks like one iteration among many throughout the 20th century of youthful self-expression. Still, I'm sure Tony Parsons or Paul Morley will write a book about punk-exceptionalism very soon.

Enlightenment Dude said...

I would be interested to know what 'iteration' formed you young Nick?

Punk was complex and a bit of a curate's egg musically. But for me any movement that produces the lyric
"Sooner or later, you're gonna listen to Ralph Nader" can't have been all bad.

(Am I alone amongst the oldsters in smelling a little 'cool envy' in your dismissals of the 'golden time'. It is a vice of the children of Maggie that I've come across often before. Face it, history cheated you.)

Common Fox said...

Hmm. If punk hadn't existed would something else have come along to help make the independent music business possible? Almost certainly yes. But the fact is punk DID come along and it WAS punk that made it possible. Not wanting to give punk the credit for that is like not wanting to give MTV credit for making music videos so influential because some other channel would have come along eventually anyway.
For the record, I wasn't even in my teens when punk came along and I've never been strongly into it. But I was big on Rave culture in the 90s. And you couldn't hope to find a stronger parallel between the punk and rave cultures - both gave young people the idea that they didn't need to be professional musicians to have a go. Just grab some equipment and you could soon have your own record out. Those were indeed the days.

Brockley Nick said...

For me - 90s.

"A time when Acid House and Gangsta rap terrified the establishment, when Madchester merged in to Britpop to shake up the charts, which had become dominated by tired cover versions, a time when anyone with an Atari ST could be their own music producer, indie labels flourished and bootlegging exploded. It was a time when genres began to collide - Public Enemy v Anthrax, Primal Scream's indie-dance fusion, acid-jazz, etc, etc. When Grunge blew away the pompous stadium rock of the 80s.

"Ah, but that's just the "South Bank Show" version. To be young in the 90s in SE London meant being able to go to the Venue every weekend to see acts like Suede, Radiohead and yes, even Credit to the Nation!"

etc, etc.

You can write the same sort of narrative for any era. The difference being that the alternative scene of the 90s was a lot richer and more diverse than the dross listed above.

Grand Master Punk said...

Hip Hop is the most popular genre worldwide, not R&B.

Brockley Nick said...

"Not wanting to give punk the credit for that is like not wanting to give MTV credit for making music videos so influential because some other channel would have come along eventually anyway."

No, it's like not wanting to give Peter Gabriel's Sledgehammer credit for the success of MTV. You've hit the nail on the head. The shape of the music industry is shaped by external forces far more than it is by artists.

Re: 70s v 90s - exactly, see my last post. But there's nothing exceptional about these parallels - 60s and 80s bores could and do make the same sort of claims about their eras. It's actually the noughties that have had the most profound impact on the way we think about, find and experience music, but that's thanks to napster and myspace more than it is Muse or Dizzee Rascal.

boringoldfartdedicatedtopissingoffthe youngsters said...

I don't think the technology and the means to deliver the technology, napster ipods etc, is more important than the content. It may be new and shiny, but without the content its nothing.

Brockley Nick said...

If file sharing and the ipod hadn't come along, the music industry today would be the same shape it was in the 1990s, regardless of who was making the tunes.

Enlightenment Dude said...

So the violins created Mozart?

Danja said...

I think Nick is suggesting that if all the violins had been stolen, that would indeed have shaped Mozart.

Enlightenment Dude said...

My point was deliberately crudely reductionist, as it seemed the thread was heading that way, and I wanted to get in early.

Danja said...

Jolly good. Mine was just a cheap crack.

Brockley Nick said...

@Enlightment Dude - Speak for yourself.

The Common Fox said the great thing about punk was that it reshaped the music industry - not the type of music that was played. Of course the music produced would have evolved without the digital age, but the point is that musicians don't shape the industry. Technology as a means of production, distribution and marketing is what's important and it has brought about a music industry revolution.

Enlightenment Dude said...

Which I enjoyed. So jolly good right back at ya.

Common Fox said...

Oh. It's odd that you think that MTV and MySpace etc are more important than the content. Without content those delivery vehicles can't influence. Of course it's the artists and the music that is most important. The industry is shaped by the music and what people want to hear and how they want to hear it. It's the savvy business owners that can see where the wind is blowing and tap into that before anyone else.
Anyway, re Punk, just look at the Wikipedia entry on Punk Rock and you'll see how diverse that scene was. Much more than you are suggesting. As for Madchester? Influential yes but it hasnt aged well, and most of the musical energy came from the south east. And Grunge... surely you realise that this evolved from Punk right?
Anyway, it sounds like you can't be persuaded. But I'll leave you with this thought - 90s bands as diverse as The Prodigy and Beastie Boys either started out as punk bands or took the punk attitude to achieve their success.

Enlightenment Dude said...

On the broad point you are right ofcourse, technology is important. But its necessary not sufficient. You can't explain the Beatles or Mozart just by looking at the structure of the music industry when they were at their most creative. The interaction of the society, technology and artistic production is complex, and simple unilinear causal models will squeeze out much that is vital.

boringoldfartdedicatedtopissingoffthe youngsters said...

The so-called democratisation brought about by cheap technology and sites like MySpace just mean there's more crap around and more deluded people wanting to be 'famous'. For every Daniel Bedingfield making music with a laptop in a Lewisham bedsit now, there was a Kate Bush playing piano in the Rose of Lee in the 70s (the Dirty South). Technology can be dazzling, but talent will win in the end.

Brockley Nick said...

"You can't explain the Beatles or Mozart just by looking at the structure of the music industry"

Who's saying you can? We're not talking about the music, we're talking about the industry.

To quote Common Fox:

"The industry is shaped by the music and what people want to hear and how they want to hear it."

My point is very simple and should be completely uncontroversial: vinyl, CDs, radio, television, online retail, file sharing, social networks, economic growth - these are the things that shape the industry. The artists are responsible for the stuff that goes in to that industry.

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