Streets of London: Walworth Road, SE1

Time Out finds eccentric shops and affordable flats within walking distance of Waterloo

  • Streets of London: Walworth Road, SE1

    A rare sighting of a traffic-free Walworth Road

  • Walworth Road is one of the forks running off the Elephant and Castle roundabout down towards Camberwell. At first glance the area conjures up visions of a giant Tetris game of grim high-rise towerblocks. Given this,why would anyone consider moving to Walworth Road? Firstly, Elephant and Castle is the focus of a huge regeneration project which includes the flattening of the shopping centre. This makes it a good buy for long-term investors. Secondly, there are pockets of beautiful period houses which Hitler’s bombers kindly overlooked. Thirdly, traffic and transport links are excellent.

    Walworth Road itself is a long, lively, jumbly road with bags of personality. Houses are a real mix: mainly ex-council with the occasional architectural oddity and some nice streets of Victorian or Georgian terraced houses. Its relative narrowness makes its noise, chaos and grubbiness characterful instead of depressing.

    In shopping terms, the area plays host to some prize eccentrics, such as Walworth Surplus Stores at No 211. Everything in here – kerosene lamps, duffel coats, camouflage vests – is covered in a thick sediment of dust. The owner purposefully never dusts as a cunning sales scheme (‘It's atmosphere, isnit?'). Further up the road is the Oli Food Centre (332 -334 Walworth Rd), a 24-hour Turkish supermarket which has not shut once in five years. It sells just about everything, including ten different kinds of olives.

    Further up, Men’s Traditional Shoes (171 Camberwell Rd), sells brogues, Oxfords and loafers for 30 per cent less than West End prices. Then there are the bed and sofa shops, selling suites that are almost psychedelically hideous. Shopping here is anything but bland. There are also useful chain stores like Boots (No 289-291), M&S (at 311), and a Fitness First gym (No 332). There are many charity shops and a great market on East Street selling fruit and veg alongside flammable lingerie and diamanté glitz.

    The area is full of ex-local authority property, and not all of it as daunting as the infamous Heygate and Aylesbury Estates. Off East Street market there are pleasant low-rise blocks with a high number of owner occupiers; we found a well-decorated one-bed ex-council flat on Rodney Road for £170,000, and on average a three-bedroom ex-council flat sells for around £275,000.

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