Peckham Experiment

From Peckham Vision

The Peckham Experiment

The Peckham Experiment was a study into the nature of health in the 1920s-1940s. The researchers decided to study the family unit in a community setting to identify what contributes to human health. See below for more information. This page records the current work in Peckham to bring the information about the Peckham Experiment back into Peckham today. Peckham Vision shop, in Holdrons Arcade at 135A Rye Lane, has original Peckham Experiment books and later publications for sale and reference. Eileen Conn, Peckham Vision coordinator and long term resident in Peckham, is the local contact and a Pioneer Health Foundation (PHF) Associate.


25th February 2017 Ilona Saga's arts event

Ilona Saga's arts event in the Peckham Experiment building - detail to be uploaded.

February 2017 Heritage Roots project

South London Gallery announced their heritage roots project funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.This will be exploring the history of the Peckham Experiment, and led by the Arts Assassins, South London Gallery’s young people’s forum. Peckham Vision and Pioneer Health Foundation are full partners along with the Wellcome Library, the Science Gallery at King’s College, and the Wilderness Wood. The project, which will run until autumn 2018, will see the group work alongside a historian-in-residence, heritage experts and artists to investigate the Peckham Experiment.

28th January 2017 Peckham Vision display at Community Council

Local Councils are now responsible for public health and well-being in their areas. So the Peckham & Nunhead Community Council held an exhibition from local organisations on local Public Health & Well-Being at its meeting on 28th January. Peckham Vision's displays were aimed at bringing the historic legacy of the Peckham Experiment to the attention of the people who live and work in the area now, and highlighting the way the information is still highly relevant today and how it links also to Peckham Vision's own work in strengthening the local community networks of relationships. The display was put together by Peckham Vision with the assistance of Pioneer Health Foundation (PHF) and Southwark Local History Library. The display included (pdfs soon to be uploaded to make them avialable here):

  • The ideology behind the Pioneer Health Centre - Lancet article by Dr Williamson
  • The First Pioneer Health Centre -1926-1929 - Why Peckham?
  • The Peckham Experiment 1935 – 1950
  • A Living Legacy (note from PHF)
  • Peckham Vision and the Peckham Experiment
  • How to contact the Pioneer Health Foundation
  • Further information about the displays and Peckham Vision
  • acknowledgement to Southwark Local History Library and Archive
  • A5 introduction leaflet to the Peckham Experiment

Photos from the Community Council and the exhibition:

The Peckham Experiment

Nature of the Peckham Experiment

The Peckham Experiment was a study into the nature of health in the 1920s-1940s. The researchers decided to study the family unit in a community setting to identify what contributes to human health. This was very different from the study of sickness and the prevention of sickness. The modern promotion of health is often focussed on preventing sickness or the absence of sickness. The Peckham Experiment was focussed on the nature of health and how it could be cultivated.

What was the Peckham Experiment?

The centre/laboratory, known as the Pioneer Health Centre, was purpose built for the Experiment in St Mary's Road, in Peckham. The blue shaded area of the map shows the boundary of the Peckham Experiment. The research was conducted by annual medical checks and observations of families interacting in social activities. Recognising the importance of sound nutrition, they rented a farm to provide fresh organic food. The experiment pioneered thinking, decades ahead of its time, about the way in which health could be nurtured rather than just sickness remedied. The Peckham Research Findings have influenced authorities across the world including the WHO. The Health Centre building is still here in St Mary's Road and is listed by English Heritage in recognition of its historic importance as architecture and its pioneering in health and social understanding. Read more...

Where was the Peckham Experiment?

Queens Road centre

The original catchment area for the Centre in 1935 is shown on the map below. The major part of this small area was in what is now called New Cross Gate in the London Borough of Lewisham. But in 1938 the area was extended west further into Peckham and just beyond Peckham Rye station, and south to Nunhead and north to just beyond the Old Kent Road, so that most of the eastern half of Peckham was covered. The main Peckham Experiment grew out of the first exploration in a centre in a house in Queens Road 1926-1929.