Monday, September 15, 2008

Walking New Cross (10): St James

St James is a small, quiet road in New Cross that is today entirely devoted to education and religion. Goldsmiths College occupies most of the former houses on the east side of the street, and one of its hall of residence (Loring Hall) is on the other side. St James Church of England Primary School has two sites – the main school and opposite it its nursery building.

A fine tree (False Acacia?) outside St James School

At the end of the street, the former St James Church building (built in 1853) still stands.

For some years it housed the Laban Centre for Movement and Dance before it departed to its new purpose-built dance building on Deptford Creekside. When Laban was in New Cross it was headed for some time by the US dancer Bonnie Bird, who invited the composer John Cage (her former accompanist) and Merce Cunninham to run workshops with students at Laban in July 1980; Cage and Cunningham performed in in the Great Hall at Goldsmiths (details in this list of Cage’s work). Among the graduates of Laban here was the choreographer Matthew Bourne, well known for his adaptions of Swan Lake and more recently Dorian Gray. Today the old Laban buildings seems to be used by the Creative Lewisham Agency.

Next to it is the new Church building, which dates from 1982:

On the side of the old Church is small garden of remembrance. There is a memorial to local people who died in the First World War and another for the 1939-45 dead ‘in Remembrance of all who died in this Parish through Enemy Action – called from World at War into his Kingdom of Peace’.

This is poignant, for at the other end of the road, on the corner of New Cross Road, the ‘temporary’ low rise buildings occupy the site of second world war bomb damage – directly opposite the Iceland store stands where on 25 November 1944 the Woolworth’s shop sustained a direct hit from a V2 rocket, killing 168 people – the worst attack of the war.

The quiet road of today has also seen less serious violence, from the religious riots of the 1870s outside the church, to the 1977 ‘Battle of Lewisham’ when anti-fascists gathered material from this road to throw at the National Front marchers.

Oh yes and there’s the cows! To encourage recycling, these bins have been decorated by Artmongers with a sign inviting people to ‘Feed the Cows’.

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