Monday, 27 April 2015

Charleville Circus – a South London Street

For the admirer of unusual street configurations, Charleville Circus in Sydenham with its twin concentric rings of substantial dwellings is a spatially intriguing prospect. Homes on the inner circle have pie-slice gardens that all meet at a single point. The developers who financed the Crystal Palace’s journey from Hyde Park to Sydenham purchased substantial parcels of land adjacent to what would become Crystal Palace Park for residential development designed to fund the project. Many of these 4 and 5 storey hyper-ornate Victorian villas survive to the present in Crystal Palace Park Road and on Sydenham Hill. As the project approached completion the last site to be built on was that of the former brick works that had supplied the entire development with building materials. The plot, wedged between Crystal Palace Park Road and Westwood Hill would become Charleville Circus when completed in the mid-1880s. The architecture doesn’t quite live up to the splendour of the layout, for the most part lacking the richness of detail that distinguished earlier phases of the development. The sense of circularity is undermined on the west side where the buildings followed a linear orientation. It’s hard to escape the feeling that there was an indecent haste to bring the development to a rapid conclusion and not squeeze profit margins by providing unnecessary architectural embellishments. 

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