Doing the Lambeth Walk

Any time you’re Lambeth way, any evening, any day, you’ll find . . . that just a few minutes’ stroll from the SalvaDore’s headquarters is Lambeth Walk, made famous by the show-stopping song of the same name from the 1937 musical “Me and my girl”.

Lambeth Walk is an ancient thoroughfare. It appears on a map of 1746 under its earlier name of Three Coney Walk — a name that reflects the street’s rural nature at the time, since “coney” means a rabbit or hare.

As Lambeth grew, the street became famous for its bustling market, and in 1861 the social historian Henry Mayhew counted 164 costermonger stalls there.

When “Me and my girl” first appeared, Lambeth Walk was still thriving, and older local residents may remember a vibrant Saturday market with barrows lining the length of the street.

But this once bubbly shopping street is now in a sorry state. Its decline is often blamed on the German blitz of the 1939–45 war. However, despite heavy bombing in the area, most of the Walk escaped destruction. (Pharmacy note: the few casualties included a branch of Boots The Chemists.) Sadly, the loss of the street’s lively character must be blamed not on German bombs and rockets but on devastating vandalism by British urban planners, both before and after the war.

Why don’t you make your way there? Go there, stay there.

There is still one good reason to make your way there (though not to stay there). Go there and take a look at the former Pelham Mission Hall, the oldest surviving building in Lambeth Walk, built in 1910. This curious edifice has the unusual feature of a first-floor outdoor pulpit, from which preachers once addressed the crowds of market-goers below.  It closed as a mission hall in about 1970 and later became the Henry Moore Sculpture Studio, part of Morley College. Sadly, the pulpit no longer has a use.

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