Maple Road is famous for its market (1921-2010) and an account of this has already been given in Heritage Stories . But is the road evolving into a new identity?
It’s had a variegated history: prone to floods in the earlier part of last century, the site of a Button factory which burnt down; home to several pubs since the rebuilding of the Crystal Palace in the grounds of Penge Place in 1854 and also, interestingly, the site of several churches of various denominations.
Entering the much-missed Maple Textiles shop was like stepping back into Dickensian times with its rich variety of materials and even a spike for receipt copies.
Maple Road certainly knew how to celebrate, as depicted in this photo of Christmas decorations circa 1910. Such elaborate decorations persisted until the end of the First World War. The market took over afterwards.
The market brought a community together for over eighty years and generations of families ran stalls and were customers. People remember it with affection. Various attempts have been made to re-establish it but without success.
There is no longer a market but there are still colourful vegetable and fruit stalls and a butchers. Small supermarkets, newsagents, bric-a-brac shops, an off-licence and pizza outlets proliferate. Certain businesses tend to be long-established.
The Salvation Army has had a presence on the road since the early twentieth century.
The St John’s Cottages, built in 1863 and designed by Edwin Nash, the architect of St John’s Church, with their cottage gardens, continue to exert their charm.
Tom the Barber has cut men’s and boys’ hair for decades.
Since the demise of the market and the sad spectacle of derelict and empty shop premises, the road has risen phoenix-like as a kind of artists’ colony for Penge.
There is still a long way to go before it can be truly termed that but, certainly, all manner of artists, photographers, actors, dancers, musicians (many with their own studios) live on the road. There are studios for dance, photography, sound recording, art, music, even a private family gym.
The road has been invaded by street artists who have adorned shop frontages and garden walls with their own colourful, idiosyncratic designs.
Garden walls have their painted patterns and temporary boarding may sport a circus horse.
Whether you regard this as graffitti or art depends on your perceptions and personal values but there is no doubting the artistic skills on display.
There are some interesting venues such as the Blue Belle Café with its art exhibitions and popular music and poetry evenings. Erica Steencamp runs this much-loved café which is a hub for cultural happenings in Penge. Pop in for delicious food and fine coffee and admire the artwork on the walls or, maybe, buy a painting or two.
Write poetry? Then join Penge Poets and look out for its seasonal meetings in and around Penge
Creperie Chez Yves, the only genuinely French restaurant in Penge with its tempting food, hosts art exhibitions during the Penge Festival Art Trail and occasional vinyl record music events. There are ‘rolling’ art exhibitions by local artists throughout the year. A series of informal French music and song evenings is planned for the summer season.
The Hatome Studio is open during the annual art Trail and by arrangement. Yolanta graduated in Art in her native Poland and her work embraces a variety of techniques and materials. As a member of the thriving SE20 Art group, she takes part in the annual summer exhibition in Penge Congregational Church hall and exhibits her work locally and internationally.
SE20 Studio Art Space had a centre for creativity and a variety of workshops in the former Pest Control shop from July to December, 2018. Local artists enjoyed pop-up exhibitions here from time to time.
The new Tension Art Gallery in Maple Road has an enterprising programme of art exhibitions over the coming months.
Damien Borowik, a Goldsmiths graduate with an MA in Computational Arts, has a base in Maple Studios and also exhibits during the Penge Art Trail. He also teaches at BA and MA level at Central St Martins.
Damien has had commissions from Christian Dior, Samsung and Sir Terence Conran as well as artworks at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Daniel’s work can be seen on his website Drawing Machine.
There are a variety of eateries along the road.
The Thai Delight is a notable Thai restaurant and Nemo’s fish and chip shop continues its good reputation.
The Salvation Army offers a coffee morning from Wednesdays to Saturdays and, in December, provides free Christmas dinners to those in need.
Once the home to several legendary pubs such as the Lord Palmerston, the Hop Exchange, the Dew Drop Inn and the Golden Lion, Maple Road now has only The Maple Tree which serves hot and cold food and a very good Sunday lunch.
Is it just a question of time before Maple Road becomes the exciting Art colony it is eminently suited to become? A vibrant centre for fine art, music, poetry and performance? Wait and see.
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