Old Waiting Room

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Old Waiting Room

Latest April 2014

The Old Waiting Room cannot be hired out yet as there are some queries about the floor condition, and there is access only through the station. Network Rail is thinking about the work needed for the floor, and 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.


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.

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.

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 so far are described below. For the staircase stages see here.

Stages in Old Waiting Room restoration

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.

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
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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.

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 between The Peckham Society, 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.