Penge – Local History talk 15 January

Penge – the making of a South London suburb

Thursday January 15. 7.30 pm

Talk by Martin Spence

Upper Norwood Library

39-41 Westow Hill, Upper Norwood, SE19 1TJ

All are welcome, there is no charge but donations are welcome



Martin Spence wrote the superb book The Making of a South London suburb published by Merlin Press in 2007. It shows the processes involved in urban capitalist development.

The publisher states: ‘Penge is an unpretentious, unremarkable, resolutely unfashionable railway suburb, adrift in the low-rise sprawl of south-east London. It is an ordinary little place. But its ordinariness is precisely the point of this book, because the histories of ordinary little places like Penge are packed with interest, drama, and insights into the world in which we live.

This is not an exercise in ‘local history’ as that term is often understood. It is not a miscellany of recollections of bygone days, nor is it a chronicle of colourful local characters, events or anecdotes. It is, instead, a study of the transformation of the local landscape during the key period from the late C18th to the late C19th when Penge was transformed from a semi-rural hamlet into a thoroughly urban railway suburb. Its focus is upon the changing uses to which land was put and the changing ways in which land was exploited as this transformation took place. It argues that this process, the urbanisation of Penge, can only be understood as part and parcel of London’s emergence as the first capitalist world-city.

This book considers the emergence of this little suburb as part of a wider process of capitalist urban development. It is divided into two parts. Part I sets out a broad theoretical and historical framework, Part II tells local story in detail.’

ISBN. 9780850365894

The review in Socialist Worker can be seen at

Martin Spence is also author of a detailed account on the history of early co-operative housing schemes: Lucas Road, Penge,  which is available by sending an A5 sized S.A.E. to Martin Spence (Lucas Road Booklet), 33 Lucas Road, Penge, London SE20 7EE.

About seancreighton1947

Since moving to Norbury in July 2011 I have been active on local economy issues with Croydon TUC and Croydon Assembly, and am a member of the latter's Environment Forum. I am a member of the 5 Norbury Residents Associations Joint Planning Committee, and a Governor of Norbury Manor Primary School. I write for Croydon Citizen at I co-ordinate the Samuel Coleridge-Taylor and Croydon Radical History Networks and advise the North East People's History Project.. I give history talks and lead history walks. I retired in 2012 having worked in the community/voluntary sector and on heritage projects. My history interests include labour movement, mutuality, Black British, slavery & abolition, Edwardian roller skating and the social and political use of music and song. I have a particular interest in the histories of Battersea and Wandsworth, Croydon and Lambeth. I have a publishing imprint History & Social Action Publications.
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