Old Waiting Room

From Peckham Vision
Old Waiting Room 2010
Old Waiting Room 2007
original Victorian staircase

13th December 2023 OWR as Asset of Community Value

In August 2023 Peckham Vision nominated the Old Waiting Room (OWR) as an Asset of Community Value (ACV) under the Localism Act 2012. See the nomination letter here.

  • Extract from the letter: "The nomination letter clearly demonstrates that (a) there is an actual, current and non-ancillary use of the Old Waiting Room that currently furthers the social wellbeing or social interest of the community and (b) it is realistic to think there can continue to be similar use. Therefore, the statutory tests under section 88 of the Localism Act are clearly satisfied, and the Council accordingly seems obliged to list the Old Waiting Room as an asset of community value."

Photos accompanying the nomination letter are shown below. Registration as an ACV would give some protection from the commercial development of land and buildings that have significant community benefit. The Council is required to take a decision within 8 weeks under the Localism Act. See Southwark News report

OWR staircase exterior view OWR front view OWR interior facing platform 2 OWR interior facing platform 3 OWR staircase interior

The red lines on the two exterior images show the location of the Old Waiting Room (OWR) on the floor above the ticket hall, and the restored and extended staircase leading directly and only to the Old Waiting Room. The first of the two images of the OWR interior is facing platform 2, and the second is facing platform 3. There is no exit to platform 2 since the reconstruction of platforms 1 and 2 in the 1960s. The exit to platform 3 is now a fire and emergency exit for the OWR. The final image is of the restored and the extended staircase.

Public Access

A2 - OWR 4 Nov 23 poster v4c COL with splash+bord2 - Who is here today v.01.jpg

4th November 2023 drop-in

A2 - OWR 4 Nov 23 poster v4c COL with splash+bord2 - Welcome v.01.jpg
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The event on 4th November about community action to improve Peckham town centre and described below was very successful. Over 270 people visited and many people signed up to support and take part in the future actions highlighted by the community groups present - Peckham Vision, Friends of the Old Waiting Room (FOWR), Aylesham Community Action (ACA), Peckham Heritage, Peckham Refresh along with the Peckham Business Forum. See the visitors' leaflet for more information about these groups.

This was the publicity for the 4th November drop-in event: -
This is a rare opportunity organised by Peckham Vision to drop in, for a short or longer time between 11am to 3pm, to the enchanting Victorian Old Waiting Room above the ticket office in Peckham Rye station.

  • Derelict for many years, it has been rescued by local people since 2007 through Peckham Vision and the Peckham Society, with the support of the Railway Heritage Trust, the rail companies and Southwark Council. Now it is accessible up the restored and extended staircase without going through the station.
  • Come and be inspired by the amazing space and meet local people who are actively working together in their local groups and with local businesses to bring out the best in the town centre. This includes - protecting and restoring local heritage, campaigning to get a good result for Peckham in the Aylesham Centre redevelopment, finding ways to deter the tsunami of graffiti, working with local independent businesses to improve the town centre, keeping a watch on the multitude of redevelopment projects in and around the station, and more.
  • There will be short talks at 12.30-1pm and discussion of the history and future of the Old Waiting Room and, before and after that, lots of information and informal discussions about many town centre matters.

There are stairs and currently no lifts. Lifts to each platform are included in the plans to redevelop the back of the station. Come to the drop-in and find out more about that as well.

TWR Web Tiles-10.png

October 2023

August 2023

Peckham Vision led the campaign from 2007 to restore the Old Waiting Room as a community events space. It was restored enough by 2010 for events like Peckham Vision’s 3-day exhibition about the town centre during the Olympics in 2012. Over 700 local people visited.

  • Since then the work led by local architect Benedict O’Looney focussed on restoring and extending the staircase from the forecourt to create public access independent of the station.
  • This enabled even more community organised events in this historic space. Meanwhile the ownership of the 150-year lease was sold by Network Rail to The Arch Company, along with many other parts of the railway network structures not used for the running the railway.
  • Recently they let the space to ArtAngel for the Sara Sze installation from last May and still open to 17th September 2023. It is open free to the public Wed–Sat: midday to 8pm, and Sun: midday to 6pm. See a review here.

May 2023

Some of the long saga from 2006 in 3 short videos:

April 2023

Southwark News 'Hidden gems of the Peckham Rye Station restoration revealed in our sneak video preview – including an abandoned billiard room and secret staircase. When the scaffolding is lifted, commuters will be greeted with rooftop gilded crestings and a repointed facade...'

update April 2022

Plans to create lift access to the Old Waiting Room have finally been appropriately aligned with Network Rail's accessibility project for the station. A lift will be installed designed to go to the Old Waiting Room from the public side of the ticket hall and to go to the platform levels from the platforms side. These works are scheduled to conclude by 2025. Further info on the accessibility project is available on Network Rail's website. In the meantime, the new owner of the long lease on the Old Waiting Room is The Arch Company who own all the commercial properties on Network Rail land in the area. They have said that they are willing to discuss a lease for community use. Discussions in the community have now been revived to develop a proposal.

September 2019

  • The Old Waiting Room was used for several ad hoc community events in 2019, facilitated by the informal local residents friends group in liaison with Network Rail. The future of the space is not yet clear following the forced sale of most of Network Rail's commercial spaces to large corporate investors.
Central Rye Lane Walk visiting the Old Waiting Room 15 Sep 2018

September 2018

  • On Saturday 15th September, in the Peckham Festival, Eileen Conn from Peckham Vision led a walk of Central Rye Lane telling the story of the buildings and all those whose future had been saved by community action since Peckham Vision started in 2005. On the way from the Bussey Building and Copeland Park across the road in Rye Lane, saved in 2009, the tour walked up the restored and extended staircase from the station forecourt to the Old Waiting Room for a short talk about the history of the room and Peckham Vision's community work to promote and support its restoration since 2006. Then on to the businesses operating in the rest of the buildings around the station and the businesses saved from total clearance for the proposed redevelopment in 2014, including especially the micro economy in Blenheim Court Arches Studios.
  • On 22nd & 23rd September the Old Waiting Room will be open from 10am to 5pm in the London Open House weekend.

update August 2018

Now that the staircase is completed and access is possible from the forecourt, the room has been used successfully for some one off public events with Network Rail's agreement. This is to test the uses of the space while Network Rail is preparing to sell all its property not needed for running the railway system. [links to the events to be uploaded.]

Staircase restored and extended

Final Peckham Heritage Talk 3 Wed 14 June.jpg

update September 2017

The staircase was completed and the room open to the public for the Open House weekend.

14th June 2017 completion of the stairs

Benny O’Looney, architect and a founder member of Peckham Vision, will give a talk on the restoration of the Old Waiting Room, with a focus on the latest phase – the Stair Project: the restoration techniques; the conservation ‘philosophy’; and the local trades involved: steel fabricators, lath and plaster specialists, lime mortar restorers, etc. Wed 14 June 2017 6.30 - 8.15pm; arrivals from 6.15pm via door on left of entrance to Peckham Rye Station.Tickets must be booked through Julie Mallett: julie.mallett@southwark.gov.uk / 020 7525 3265

13 March 2017 Evening Standard report

The community initiated work on the staircase is nearing completion this year. It means people can get into this wonderful space without going through the station. It can be used as it is almost straightway, as an interim use before long term decisions are taken. It is a fantastic space for all kinds of different events celebrating the railways. We are looking forward to talking with Network Rail about this.

update February 2017

The work on restoring and extending the staircase into the Old Waiting Room is proceeding and should be completed during 2017. Peckham Vision has asked Network Rail for a discussion about our proposals for use of the room, once the staircase is useable, to celebrate the railways as a meanwhile use before decisions are taken about the long term restoration and use of the space. If you would like to volunteer to contribute to the management of that project please email info@peckhamvision.org

4 March 2016 ITV News

3 March 2016 Southwark News

"Up the stairs and through time to the Peckham Rye waiting room we all forgot about" News report on the restoration work to the staircase, which will lead to public accessibility to the Old Waiting Room in the summer 2016.

Latest January-June 2016

The original staircase is now being restored and extended so that it can reach the Old Waiting Room. This work has had strong and welcome support from the Railway Heritage Trust,, in addition to some Network Rail funding and some small neighbourhood grants from Southwark Council. It is expected to be completed by autumn 2016. It coincides with the 150th anniversary of the opening of Peckham Rye station and the railways coming to Peckham. That heralded a dramatic change in the built environment and demographics of Peckham. The areas needed before for food growing to feed central London were given up for housing, much of which remains today. Peckham Vision is asking Network Rail for permission to use the Old Waiting Room to hold a series of informative exhibitions and events to celebrate the railways during this 150th anniversary when the stairs are completed. The events would cover railway history and operations, and events which link to that history in some way. Anyone who would like to contribute to this, or who wishes to join our group to enable this programme to happen, please email info@peckhamvision.org. Click here for more information

Community Business proposal to Network Rail June 2014

Peckham Vision has developed a viable business case for an interim lease to use the Old Waiting Room as a multi purpose venue for hire once the staircase is restored and extended and before the plans for the final restoration of the Room are developed. We have asked Network Rail for discussions about our proposal and request for an interim lease.

Background upto 2014

The huge magnificent empty space above the ticket hall began to come to light again during the recent years through campaigns by Peckham Vision with Rye Lane & Station Action Group and the Peckham Society. It was referred to as the Old Billiard Hall as it had been used for many decades by the railway staff as a recreation room. In those years access was by a staircase added on the front of the building entering the room through a door in what was and is now again a window space. This can be seen in this 1979 episode(2.20 minutes into this short clip) of the Sweeney TV programme chase at Peckham Rye station. That additional staircase was reached from the forecourt by the original staircase in the SE tower.

initial restoration

But the Billiard Hall was closed and the windows bricked up over 40 years ago and it remained a secret silent place inhabited mainly by pigeons. It was originally the Waiting Room for platforms 2 and 3, so it is also referred to as the Old Waiting Room. Over the last few years, it has been revived and opened to view again. This work has been inspired and led by Benedict O’Looney, local architect and historian, from Benedict O'Looney Architects, with small grant funding from the Nunhead & Peckham Rye Community Council Cleaner, Greener Safer Scheme (CGS).

First the windows at the platform level were unbricked and revealed original Victorian paint. Then the original wooden floor and the electrics were repaired. This was celebrated in the Old Waiting Room with many of those, who had helped and supported in some way, present on 16th July 2010 - see picture.

temporary uses

The room has in this minimally restored state been used temporarily:

The Old Waiting Room cannot be used in more than these ad hoc ways, negotiated each time with the two rail companies, until the original staircase is restored and extended to reach into the Old Waiting Room itself. The first step towards this is completed - the windows and door at ground level are restored and the staircase once again is visible from the forecourt. See the latest news above.

The stages of restoration for the Old Waiting Room up to 2014 are described below. For the staircase stages see here.

Developing plans for interim use August 2013

Old Waiting Room: plans are being developed for raising the funds (approx £750,000) for final restoration and also for interim uses for the room as it is, once the staircase is extended to give access from the forecourt. The room cannot be hired until then. Peckham Vision is seeking an interim lease for when the staircase is completed. This is the original Victorian grand staircase which is to be restored and extended to reach into the Old Waiting Room itself. The first step towards this is completed - the windows and door at ground level are restored and the staircase once again is visible from the forecourt. The aim is to raise a further £60k to complete the stair restoration and extension by early 2015. Peckham Vision is developing plans to bring the Room into interim use and to hire it out when the staircase can give access to the Room from outside the station, and is seeking discussions with Network Rail for this. Meanwhile, an application to the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has been partially prepared in case that becomes the route forward for the substantial funds needed, beyond the stair restoration, for the remainder of the Old Waiting Room restoration and to equip it with insulation, heating, lighting and water. There would also need to be a lift installed for disabled access and goods delivery. Peckham Vision made some proposals for the way this could be part of the Network Rail development work to seek funds from the Department for Transport (DfT) for the installation of lifts to all the platforms.

Peckham Vision town centre exhibition August 2012

The Old Waiting Room in use again 2nd to 4th August 2012

entering the Old Waiting Room at last from platform 3

We had a non-stop stream of visitors to the 3 day exhibition, about Peckham town centre in the Old Waiting Room, as part of the Peckham Cultural Olympiad. Over 600 visitors all keen to know more about the Old Waiting Room, the station restoration, the new public square and the town centre generally. It is clear that there is great local enthusiasm for the planned changes. Here below are a few photos to give an insight into the magical experience for three days. For more photos: OWR exhibition photos. For all the display panels and a full report on the exhibition see OWR exhibition.

NOTE: This use of the Room was with a special temporary license from Network Rail, and with the agreement of Southern Rail and the station manager, because of the team of volunteers escorting visitors from the ticket barriers. The Room is not available for hiring out, and can not be until there is access to the Room without coming through the station. Peckham Vision is working on making the original staircase useable, and seeking the lease from Network Rail to run the Room as a social enterprise and as a multi purpose venue but this is some way off in the future.

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thumb OWR exhibition
thumb OWR exhibition

Old Waiting Room

Exhibition 2-4 August in Old Waiting Room June 2012

Peckham Vision is arranging an exhibition about the town centre in the Old Waiting Room in Peckham Rye station on 2nd – 4th August as a Peckham Rye Lane contribution to the Cultural Olympiad. There will be talks and more each day.
Exhibition times: Thurs 2nd Aug 5pm – 9pm. Fri 3rd Aug 1pm – 9pm. Sat 4th Aug 11am – 3pm.
Volunteers are needed for a few hours during the afternoon or evening on Thurs 2nd Aug or Fri 3rd Aug, or morning or afternoon on Sat 4th Aug? To find out more, email: owrexhibition@gmail.com. Read more…

Cultural Olympiad Exhibition in the Old Waiting Room: latest news May 2012

Plans to hold the exhibition about Peckham town centre's history, current issues and future developments are well advanced. It is planned as part of the central Rye Lane Cultural Olmpiad contribution to take place during the Olympics. Details soon available.

the Old Waiting Room project October 2011

A small core team of local residents, from Peckham Vision and the Peckham Society, are working on ideas about future uses and the work to get the external staircase restored and extended into the Old Waiting Room so making it accessible to the public without going through the station. Some substantial further repair and restoration work has to be done inside the room before it can be useable permanently by the public,including the installation of lifts. We hope that enough can be completed to enable the Room to be publically accessible for a short exhibition by the summer of 2012. [NOTE: we did not get the staircase renovated in time for this. But we reached agreement with Southern Rail and Network Rail to have a team of volunteers as escorts from the ticket barriers to the OWR on Platform 3 and the exhibition was able to go ahead.]

The exhibition would become a striking and attractive venue in the planned Peckham Cultural Olympiad Festival, along with the many artistic and cultural enterprises operating within walking distance of the station. Peckham Rye station is just 10 to 15 minutes from parts of central London, and just about 25 minutes by rail from the Olympic Stadium.

Discovery and initial restoration 2006-2010

Celebrating the Old Waiting Room and Peckham's historic buildings 31 March 2011

Old Waiting Room: 31 March 2011

On 31st March 2011, the Peckham Society with Peckham Vision held a meeting in the Old Waiting Room to celebrate Peckham’s historic architecture. It was standing room only as over 120 people crowded into the historic room. New research was reported by the Peckham Society and English Heritage about the local landmarks, there was a report on progress with the proposed Conservation Area to help restore and preserve the best local buildings for the future. Exciting ideas on improving the forecourt as it is now, including new lighting, were described. An enthusiastic welcome was given to a major fund raising campaign launched at the meeting, and new volunteers recruited to the growing team. see many more pictures

Local residents campaign for social enterprise multi purpose venue Dec 2010

Old Waiting Room: multi purpose venue?

The Community Council applauded at their 8th December 2010 meeting the latest reports and pictures about the Old Waiting Room, and discussed suitable commercial uses to make the best of the wonderful space. Further funds are being sought to continue the restoration to the external staircase, & to improve the station walkways. This would be the public entrance to the space and make it useable for public activities. Local residents are developing a social enterprise project to bid for the lease for the Old Waiting Room from Network Rail as a multi purpose flexible venue. For more information, see brief here, and and blog here. If you want to get involved in this exciting project email oldwaitingroom@gmail.com

Two restoration projects completed at the Old Waiting Room July 2010

On Friday the 16th of July the latest stage of the restoration was celebrated to mark the completion of two restoration projects which have helped open up and reveal to the Peckham community the grand Victorian waiting room that had become a bricked up and forgotten space. This huge, vaulted, hall was ‘lost’ in the early 1960s when the station’s southern platforms were demolished and re-built further west. At this point British Rail closed the billiard hall that had been using the hall since about 1900, bricked up the windows and essentially forgot about this fantastic room. It became a time capsule with all its original Victorian paintwork and most of its joinery intact. The Peckham Society and the Rye Lane and Station Action Group have campaigned to restore and open up these lost parts of the Peckham Rye Station.
The station was designed by the talented Victorian architect Charles Henry Driver, who specialised in railway stations and civil engineering structures. He designed London’s great pumping stations at Abbey Mills and Crossness and detailed Bazalgette’s Thames Embankment. He also designed the London and Brighton and South Coast Railway stations at London Bridge, Denmark Hill and Battersea Park amongst many others across the south. He was passionate about the decorative possibilities of cast iron. The Peckham Society first persuaded English Heritage to list the station in 2008, then, with the help of Southwark Council, the Peckham Society architect and conservationist Benedict O’Looney began a programme of restoration.
With two ‘Cleaner Greener Safer’ grants first the windows were un-bricked and new doors and sash windows were fitted matching the original Victorian designs. The second project was to repair the large timber floor replacing the rotten areas with reclaimed 19th century wood, cleaning, sanding and sealing it. With another Southwark grant in hand, and a pledge of support from the Railway Heritage Trust, the next phase is to un-brick the sealed up windows at the station forecourt to reveal a spectacular stone and cast iron stair that has also laid unused, collecting dust for 50 years.
To celebrate the completion of this first phase of the work we decided to have a gathering in the old waiting room on the evening of Friday the 16th of July. Friends in the Peckham Community, Southwark politicians and council officers, and a strong contingent of enthusiasts for Victorian architecture all gathered to examine this ‘lost’ historic room. Hannah Parham from English Heritage spoke about why they listed the station, Paul Dobrasczcyk, the expert on the architect Charles Driver, set the Peckham Rye Station in the context of Driver’s career, Benedict talked about discoveries during the restoration project, and local activist Eileen Conn celebrated the joy of community led regeneration.

Student workshop in the Old Waiting Room May 2010

Student workshop in the Old Waiting Room 28 May 2010

Over 40 students from the 2nd year Canterbury School of Architecture came to Peckham on 28th May 2010 to show their designs for the area around the Peckham Rye Station. They met in the Old Waiting Room at the station.

For the last two years the school’s spring term design studio has focussed on Peckham’s town centre, in particular the open spaces in front of and behind the station. Many of the students come from south London.

The event was held at the enormous former waiting room at the Peckham Rye Station, which has been unused for more than forty years. This remarkable, grand, space is one of the highlights of Peckham’s architecture and is being restored by the local architect Benedict O’Looney, with the help of Southwark Council. Benedict is a conservationist active with the Peckham Society and a design and history teacher at the Canterbury School of Architecture.

Southwark Council’s community-oriented ‘Cleaner Greener and Safer’ fund has put forward several grants to unblock the windows and restore the floor to the former waiting room, which was used as a billiard hall from the 1890s to 1960. This room was bricked up and closed off to public use when the station’s southern platforms were rearranged in 1962. The Peckham Rye Station was designed by the eminent Victorian architect Charles Henry Driver in 1865, and this large and lofty waiting room was the building’s principal interior space. The Peckham Society has been campaigning for the restoration of this prominent local landmark and was successful in getting the station listed grade ll in 2008. It is hoped that the former waiting room will one soon find a new life as a community meeting space, gallery or cafe. The large student gathering on Friday made clear the space’s excellent community potential.

Contact: Benedict O’Looney, architect, teacher, Committee, the Peckham Society 07981 - 785 950 Kristina Kolotov, Second Year Coordinator, Canterbury School of Architecture 07977 - 038 105

External access to the Old Waiting Room March 2010

Two more CGS proposals have been accepted by the Community Council to take forward improvements at the station. The Peckham Society's bid for about £6k was successful to restore the 3 lower windows and 2 doors in the tower to the left of the forecourt. This will reveal the beautiful metal staircase leading from the station forecourt almost up to the Old Waiting Room. This adds to the work now completed on restoring the wooden floor, and the opening up of the windows and flooding the huge room with light.
Southwark Rail Users' Group's proposal for clearing up some of the clutter in the front (repositioning the notice board), improving the lighting and the role of the tub plants, was also accepted. This will enable SRUG to add to the money pot being provided by Southern Rail through our energetic Station Manager Barry Jones, and take part in working out the details of the improvements. We are moving slowly but steadily to being able to open up the magnificent old room for public use. This vindicates the plan from the community groups involved of taking it one small step at a time to get there.

Using the Old Waiting Room as a cafe October 2009

Peckham Rye station old waiting room Illustration © by Lettice Drake & Paloma Gormley Oct 2009

extract from Rye Lane & Station Action Group October 2009 minutes:
item 2.2 Use of the Old Billiard Hall/former Waiting Room
Lettice Drake and Paloma Gormley presented some ideas for using this historic space. They were responsible for the initiation, design and building of Frank’s Café, the temporary café on the roof Rye Lane’s multi story car park from July to September 2009. They worked with Southwark Council and Hannah Barry with a budget of only £4,500. Its success was overwhelming - attracting people from across London to visit it. The success of Frank’s Café highlights the role creative thinking can play in Peckham’s future. Their proposals included the following:

  • Significance of the space: The old waiting room has exciting potential. The space, as with Frank’s Cafe, is unusual and offers a unique opportunity to do something spectacular. Right in the heart of Peckham, between two platforms linking it to the rest of London. Peckham Vision’s aims for the room to go back into public use as either a restaurant or community facility are encouraging. The proposal is an attempt to marry sustainable regeneration, conservation and a viable business proposal. The significance of the space, as a gateway to Peckham suggests a use that has its roots in, and represents the existing community, serving a simple menu of high quality and affordable food offering a sustainable approach
  • Collaboration: The proposal would be to collaborate with a local chef or business. Running as a restaurant in the evenings and a café during the day, serving coffee and snacks to commuters through a hatch to platform 3, the space offers a viable business opportunity. There would also be the potential for the space to function as a venue, for community meetings, live music and events.
  • Access: They would propose to work alongside the Peckham Society and Peckham Vision to raise funds to continue the conservation work in order to make the room and external stairway fit for public use, creating street level access to the Waiting room independent from the station.
  • Design: The café and kitchen would be designed to be sensitive to the historic importance of the building and celebrate its heritage. The installation of the café and its kitchen would be reversible and non-invasive. Like Franks the design of the cafe would be informal, warm and welcoming. The space is so beautiful and full of character it would require minimal intervention to make it inhabitable. An open kitchen would retain the integrity of the single large space and add theatricality to the preparation and cooking of food. As with Frank’s, good design does not require large investment.
  • Summary: This proposal would mean this magnificent and forgotten space would open its doors again in a manner that is truly public. It would change people’s perception of Peckham. The involvement of local people provides an opportunity for Network Rail and Southern Rail to continue their work with Community Rail Schemes, and to lead the way in supporting innovative, locally rooted development. This space deserves to be used and should play a key and active part in Peckham’s future.

Old Billiard Hall comes back to life! April 2009

Daylight now floods, just as it used to, through large Victorian windows into the magnificent huge Old Billiard Hall above the ticket hall at Peckham Rye station. This huge room above the ticket office was originally the old waiting room and then for many decades a billiard room, but has been derelict for many years. The recent restoration is the successful result of collaboration since 2006 between The Peckham Society, Peckham Vision/Rye Lane & Station Action Group, Southwark Council, Southern Rail and Network Rail. The Peckham Society have now secured some funds from the Community Council for the next stage see proposals – to restore the wooden floor and make the room fit for community and public use again. This is a significant contribution to the transformation of central Rye Lane (see here). Read more here and here.

uses of the OWR

Some links: