A Saturday afternoon Mummy and Daughter trip into London to see friends afforded me the opportunity for my first Sweenealogical outing of the new year; I could travel in on an earlier train than them to maximise what, on a grey and gloomy January day, passed for ‘daylight’, and then meet them later for the train home again. Given the run of several hours at my disposal, I was almost paralysed by choice as to where to head for; in the end, I opted for Peckham on the basis that i) the locations I had so far identified are from the very first episode of S1 – and so why not go for it on chronological grounds, and ii) I felt it was at least a bit less likely to be an area I needed to go back to in future. (I have a notion of some dialogue in one of the later series – Jack saying to George, “the Rye is your manor”, and telling him to go and scout for information – so it’s possible I may be heading back there at some point; however, it is definitely less frequently featured than places like Hammersmith, Shepherds Bush etc. which crop up multiple times.)
So, Travelcard in hand I got the train to Clapham Junction, and from there to Peckham Rye. As the train rolled in, the landscape already looked pretty familiar; I could see down to the street where one of the shots must have been filmed from, and into the ‘arches’ that served as the location of Billy and Stupid’s lock up. Alighting from the train and heading down to the exit immediately ticked off one shot location: the stairs (1) down which Regan chases Billy Martin after he’s fled the lock up:
The platform signs have obviously changed, and there are some new yellow banisters; from here it looks as though the skylights on the platform roof may have been given a makeover as well. The tiles on the stairwell still look pretty similar – though it’s a little tricky to tell if they were actually blue in the 70s, or just appear that way due to the lighting. (I’m leaning towards the former.)
Exiting the station via the main (well, only) exit, you quickly have 2 more shot locations from the chase scene. Turning around and looking back at the station front (2) you get a view of one of my favourite bits of 70s grime – one that always captured the imagination, as it nestled in between alleyways and the divided tracks:
It’s clear that the brickwork has been cleaned up a fair bit since the 70s (it reminds me of the similar job they did on the Natural History Museum); there was some sort of external staircase originally as well, now obviously removed. Additionally, the wall on the right has new windows / doors that weren’t there in the days that Billy was tearing past; the whole place does however still retain a good deal of its original feel.
Just to the right of the shots above (i.e. in the direction that Billy is running), we get to where Regan and Carter finally catch up and collar him (3):
The floor has evidently been repaved – but on the whole, this area doesn’t really look or feel an awful lot more salubrious over 40 years later, despite Peckham’s gradual succumbing to the hipster tide.
Walking ‘into’ the shot above, and under the railway arch you can see ahead, turning right along the road then affords you the view of the station from the street that I mentioned previously; this is where in long shot we see Regan chasing Billy along the platform:
(I’ve mentioned before the difference in perspective between a TV film camera & my phone; the view is pretty much the same though, different signage apart.) From this angle, I might reconsider my assessment that the platform skylights had been replaced or cleaned up; it may have just been backlighting causing me to think that, as from here they looked just as yellow and opaque as in the 70s stairwell view.
The long shot of the platform was taken from down on Blenheim Grove, that runs along the south side of the station platforms; this is also where the railway arch units (4) are found, that provided the location for Billy & Stupid’s lock up. Unfortunately, however the exact arch (226) was in an area now privately owned by Network Rail & was thus unreachable; the best I could do was photograph the entrance:
(Of course, the ‘Arch 226’ on the sign doesn’t necessarily mean that’s where the shot was taken, as I’m guessing the sign was one made for the production; however, there seems no real reason to suppose that they’d wouldn’t have made the sign correspond to the unit in which they were filming.)
With that, I was done with the area immediately in and around Peckham Rye station; from there, it was a 5 minute or so walk to the next location at Bushey Hill Road. Well, it would have been about 5 minutes – had I not encountered a Brew By Numbers (BBNO) tap room in a railway arch just off the end of the station. It seemed rude not to drop in and have a quick beer, so that’s what did before carrying on my walk. Walking down Lyndhurst Grove towards Bushey Hill Road is where we first see Billy and Stupid out on the lookout for a car to steal:
This still looks largely unchanged; even the wooden fence doesn’t look much different. I daresay the house prices have gone up, though. The pair turn into Bushey Hill Road, which is where they steal Regan’s girlfriend’s Mini whilst he’s in a phone box across the road:
The road sign has been moved off the fence and onto a piece of ‘street furniture’ a little to the right, but otherwise again it looks remarkably unchanged. The phone box across the road is now a post box, however.
From here, it was a walk of a good 20 minutes or so to get to the penultimate set of Episode 1 locations in the area, a little to the north east and over the other side of Peckham High Street. These next locations were mostly residential back streets, where The Squad pull an ambush on the armed gang who are in turn attempting to ambush a police van to spring a prisoner being transferred. On the way, I passed another institution of old London, a branch of Manze’s Eel and Pie shop. I was unable to pass it by on the return walk. However, before pie & mash was on the table, a quick circuit of the back streets netted 3 shot locations. Firstly, where the robbers turn out of Pennelthorne Road into Fenham Road (1) to tail the police van:
Through the driver’s side window of the robbers’ van, it looks like there’s a low wall that isn’t there any more (the wall that is around that last house is now only about shin-height); the houses across the other side of Fenham road meanwhile, look virtually unchanged. There may have been the odd slightly different coloured coat of paint here and there, but that’s about all in the intervening 44 years.
The van turns left into Fenham Road and then immediately crosses Friary Road, which we see from the driver’s POV:
Predictably, the little yellow corner shop is now a private residence, and there’s been a coat of white paint applied to that and the building further down from it; right at the end of the street in the distance, you can see there’s a new set of flats across the end of Fenham Road. The houses in between, and the wall on the right belonging to a primary school all remain intact.
At the end of the street (in front of where the new flats are) the vans turn left again, into Furley Road (2). We see a shot of them coming towards us down Furley Road:
The trees have obviously grown a bit, but from this view little else has changed. Finally, at the end of Furley Road (3) the ambushes take place – robbers on prisoner van, Sweeney on the robbers:
The corrugated metal fencing in the 70s shot is around a vacant lot (ah, that lovely ubiquitous ‘waste ground’) that has now been built upon; the block at the end of the street in the centre of the photo has had some cosmetic procedures performed on the stairwell area by the looks of things. But beyond that, again the rest of the scene looks pretty much unchanged. Peckham may be slowly hipsterising, but there’s still a fair chunk of the old residential neighbourhood still standing.
With that, I was done in Peckham for the day; there was just one more visit to make for this trip – but first, as I mentioned previously, I just couldn’t walk past Manze’s a second time without being drawn in for some proper old school London grub. There are some things about old London that you don’t miss when they change or disappear; Manze’s with its green and white tiling and piles of liquor poured all over your pie and mash would not be one of them. I know the photo has nothing really to do with The Sweeney – but I can’t resist putting it here anyway.
Suitably sustained by that late lunch, I headed back to Peckham Rye Station and caught the train to East Dulwich for my last location of the day, Dulwich Hamlets FC. In the episode, Regan and Carter meet Bernard Driscoll here to obtain some information – Driscoll is sat on the old terracing whilst his dog exercises across the pitch. Back in those days, it looks as though the ground must have been one of those which you could just wander into at will; nowadays, not so – as it’s all fenced and walled off, and the only way in would be to buy a match ticket when there’s a game on.
Well, as it happened on this particular Saturday – the Hamlet were evidently at home to Chelmsford at 3PM, and as I got off the train there was a steady stream of people making their way to the ground. I debated for a while whether I wanted to pay £12 to get in just to take one more location photo full of football supporters – before deciding that yes, of course I did and joining the queue. I stayed up until half-time, at which point it was 1-1 (Chelmsford taking the lead in the first couple of minutes, Dulwich equalising about 5 minutes later) – I gather it ended up 3-1 to the visitors. It was quite an enjoyable end to the location visiting; here’s the then-and-now from the ground:
There’s a bit more of a modern stand along the far touchline now (and a Sainsbury’s behind it), and the old mud-and-sleepers terracing is long gone; I suppose it’s progress – but I think I preferred it as it was in the old days.
And with that, another Sweenealogy session was in the books. Until next time – shut it!