Denmark Hill

Denmark Hill, Lambeth/Southwark

A street and locality in south Camberwell, connecting with Herne Hill at its southern end

The Maudsley Hospital by Peter Trimming

Orig­i­nal­ly Camberwell’s High Street, the road took its present name from Queen Anne’s hus­band Prince George of Den­mark (1653–1708), who hunt­ed here.

Lim­it­ed sub­ur­ban devel­op­ment began in the 1780s on land belong­ing to the de Crespigny fam­i­ly, French Huguenots who had set­tled here a cen­tu­ry ear­li­er. Their seat, Cham­pi­on Lodge, was demol­ished in 1841 to make way for more hous­ing. In the fol­low­ing year the writer John Ruskin moved into a detached house on the hill and stayed here for almost three decades.

St Matthew’s church was built in 1846 on the site of a pro­pri­etary (pri­vate) chapel. The church did not sur­vive the Blitz.

Even after the arrival of the rail­way in Decem­ber 1865, the empha­sis remained on build­ing sub­stan­tial vil­las, rather than the high-den­si­ty ter­raced hous­es that had con­sumed oth­er parts of Cam­ber­well. At the south­ern end, this restraint was the pol­i­cy of the gov­er­nors of the Dul­wich Col­lege estate.

Den­mark Hill school (now Lyn­d­hurst pri­ma­ry school) opened on Grove Lane in 1905 and Ruskin Park was cre­at­ed two years lat­er. To form the park, eight of the orig­i­nal hous­es fac­ing Den­mark Hill were demol­ished, includ­ing one in which Felix Mendelssohn had stayed, and where he wrote his ‘Spring Song’.

In 1913 King’s Col­lege hos­pi­tal relo­cat­ed to what had been the work­house of the parish of St Clement Danes and estab­lished a sep­a­rate school of med­i­cine here. The school acquired a house on Cham­pi­on Hill as a stu­dents’ hall of res­i­dence. Shown in the pho­to above,* the Maud­s­ley hos­pi­tal opened in 1915 as a mil­i­tary hos­pi­tal and then in 1923 as a Lon­don Coun­ty Coun­cil hos­pi­tal for the ear­ly treat­ment of acute men­tal ill­ness. Both hos­pi­tals are now branch­es of King’s Health Part­ners.

The heavy, brooding frontage of William Booth College
William Booth Col­lege

Marked with a big pink pin on the map below and shown in the small pho­to,* the Sal­va­tion Army’s William Booth Col­lege was built in 1932 by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott. Its mon­u­men­tal style is rem­i­nis­cent of Scott’s Bank­side pow­er sta­tion, now Tate Mod­ern.

Coun­cil hous­ing now occu­pies much of the hin­ter­land but many old­er prop­er­ties sur­vive on the main road, includ­ing some detached hous­es from the ear­ly 19th cen­tu­ry.

The locality’s main eth­nic groups are of British, Caribbean and African descent.

The first recorded game of roller hockey, a sport now especially popular in the USA and southern Europe, was played at the Lava roller skating rink on Grove Lane in 1885. The rink acquired its name because it was floored with a layer of lava from Mount Vesuvius. The building was converted to a military depot in 1914 and burned down around 1920.

Alan Bennett’s play Denmark Hill was written (but never made) for film or television in the early 1990s. This “modern day take on Hamlet” [the Prince of Denmark Hill] eventually appeared as a radio drama in 2014.

Postal district: SE5
Station: Southeastern and London Overground (zone 2)
Website: Friends of Ruskin Park
* The picture of the Maudsley Hospital at the top of this page is modified from an original photograph, copyright Peter Trimming, at Geograph Britain and Ireland, made available under the Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic Licence. The picture of William Booth College is adapted from an original photograph by ‘Dbiv’ at Wikimedia Commons, made available under the Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported licence. Any subsequent reuse is hereby freely permitted under the terms of those licences.