The East London Line opened its south-east section on 23rd May, inducting a whole new swathe of London into the world of roundels. Given that, for a lot of people, south-east London might as well be populated by dragons, we asked some locals to give you a tour round their gaffs. Today, Brendan Dodds, writer and comedian best known for his work with sketch act Pappy's Fun Club, takes us round Anerley.
When asked where they live, many Anerley residents casually redraw a few borders and say Crystal Palace. It's that or suffer the blank expressions triggered by 'Penge', or the mild sympathy from 'Croydon'. In truth, Anerley is one of the many areas of London that doesn't really exist beyond the name of the train station. In this case the train station took its name from a road, which in turn took its name from an individual house. Built in 1827 by a Scottish silk manufacturer, the house was named Anerly, from the Scottish word for 'solitary'.
These days Anerley has plenty of company, pressed tightly up against neighbouring areas and quietly bustling with people. Between Anerley and Penge, on Maple Street, an enormous German Shepherd prowls like a border patrol (though whether it's to keep the riff-raff of Anerley out of KFC in Penge, or the chicken-bone-litter of KFC in Penge out of Anerley, is not clear). To the West, Crystal Palace and its vast gentrified park are a short walk away. South is Selhurst and Croydon, to the East lie Beckenham and a Tescos slightly larger than Anerley.
It is a mildly attractive area, as South London goes, with friendly people. It isn't as crowded as Streatham, or as druggy as Brixton, or as cool as Clapham (thank goodness - the last thing we need around here is cool prices). But its charms are just that... mild. There's a pleasantly attractive patch of greenery, Betts Park, which contains one of the last remaining stretches of the Croydon Canal. There's a great local church in Christ Church. There's a fairly grand old Town Hall. There are some reasonably nice shops, selling things you could buy on any high street. It's all nice enough but a little unexceptional really.
On the edge of Betts Park rests the Bromley Millennium Rock. It does very much what it says on the tin, being a big chunk of rock that was placed there to mark the year 2000. It's one of several pieces of Lewisian Gneiss, an ancient metamorphic rock, to be presented to Bromley Borough Council by the Highland Council, and placed at various points around the borough. Let's be clear about this: to mark the year 2000 the Council transported a massive rock to Anerley from Scotland. The cynic in me wants tear into this lumpen monument as a pitiful example of lack of local ambition but, you know, now that I look at it, it's quite a nice rock really. I quite admire the quiet confidence of this self-aware statement. And it is a very old rock.
All this may of course change with the opening of the new East London Line. Suddenly Anerley is connected to the financial megaplex of Canary Wharf, and is in easy commuter range of bankers and accountants. But I don't think it will change much. Anerley would be a great place to live for a banker who wanted to save money and wasn't worried about the status of his locality. But few examples of that species exist.
In fact, even before the opening of the East London Line, one of Anerley's best features has always been transport, with a short train commute to London Bridge and an arterial network of buses providing easy access to Crystal Palace, Croydon, Beckenham and all the areas that lie between. I'm glad to be able to get out of Anerley so easily, to the shops, bars and attractions that lie in easy reach elsewhere, but I'm also glad to come back at the end of the day. Anerley is a nice place to live.
Notable residents include Thomas Crapper, the plumber famous for his promotion of the toilet, about whom no jokes remain unwritten.