Peckham Rye station’s long-lost waiting room is reopening this May

For more than 50 years, a hidden chamber in Peckham Rye station has slumbered, its fine Victorian plasterwork crumbling and its woodwork rotting. It used to be the station’s waiting room, a key part of architect Charles Henry Driver’s flamboyant vision for this 1865 building. Each morning, it would fill up with bowler-hatted nineteenth-century commuters killing time in its comfortable grandeur.

It fell out of use in the early twentieth century and became a hangout for station staff, who’d play billiards there in quiet moments. Then there was a big platform reshuffle in the 1960s and it was closed for good, with most passengers passing through the station completely unaware that there was a huge hidden space right above the ticket hall.

Now, it’s finally reopening, and it’s totally free to visit, as long as you don’t mind taking in a bit of art while you’re there. New York-based artist Sarah Sze is known for making ambitious installations in forgotten spaces, and Peckham Rye’s waiting room will house her latest work, brought to you by site-specific art organisation Artangel. She’ll create a complex arrangement of cascading lines from ceiling to floor, illuminated by projections to turn it into a giant magic lantern. You’ll be able to visit the artwork from May 19 to September 17: all you need to do to is to tap in, as the waiting room is past the station’s ticket barriers. 

It’s not clear what will happen to the space after September, but there’s an active group of local campaigners who are keen to make sure this isn’t the end of the line. In 2007, Peckham Rye station was grade II-listed, and since then it’s had a careful refurb job which is still underway: architect Benedict O’Looney and National Rail have already spruced up the facade, and there are more plans underway. It looks like Peckham Rye’s going from being one of London’s most neglected stations to becoming one of its prettiest: pay a visit this summer to see it in all its arty finery.

Peckham Rye station, Station Way, SE15 4RX. 

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