chris outside southend house

My Penge: Christopher O’Shaughnessy

I have lived in Penge since 1971, originally in Samos Road, a few doors down from where the poet Walter de la Mare lived. I was born in Exeter, Devon, and moved to London in 1964 to train as a teacher at St Mary’s University, Strawberry Hill. My ancestors are all either from the West of Ireland or from Somerset. I think this background explains my lifelong love of nature, poetry and music.

I met my future wife, Lesley, at college and we have been married for almost fifty years, with five grandchildren. As a teacher I always incorporated drama techniques in my teaching and went on to gain a MA in Theatre from Royal Holloway. For several years, in the seventies, I ran a successful Writers Circle at South London Theatre, attracting visits from the National Theatre’s script department. Now retired, after forty glorious years in various London comprehensives, I am doing a PhD in Theatre at Goldsmiths. Last year several of my Penge friends came to see my
practice-as-research play Servants (about Virginia Woolf and her servant) when it was staged there in Studio 3.

For several years I have been Chair of the Friends of Cator Park and Alexandra Recreation Ground. We stage a summer Music in the Park event every year and a pre- Christmas Carols in the Park event followed by mulled wine and mince pies, not to mention arranging bulb-planting sessions in late October. I am also a member of the Penge Forum Executive committee and the Penge Town Team with a special interest in developing the Penge Heritage Trail.

I serve on the committee of Penge Partners with the aim of developing the cultural facet of the Penge Festival. We now have a successful Festival Poetry Competition, an ambitious and thrilling Art Trail, various Ira Aldridge events, a Walter de la Mare talk and walk, and various Bridge House Theatre events, courtesy of Rob Harris, the theatre manager. Guy Retallack suggested we involve the theatre and Rachel Tucker suggested I give my annual Walter de la Mare talk there. It’s also great to have the backing of the Walter de la Mare Society and generous sponsorship from local businesses.

My favourite thing about Penge is the sense of a rich historical past reflected in the buildings, the green spaces and the illustrious people who have lived there.

My least favourite thing about Penge is the run down aspect of some of the areas and the comparative neglect (until very recently) by Bromley Council who seemed unaware of Penge’s charms and narrative history.

You should move to Penge because of the growing vibrant and diverse community, the green leafy spaces, the fascinating architecture and the village atmosphere.

I wish Penge had more bookshops. It used to have an excellent one, Titles, but now we are dependent on charity shops or the (excellent) library.

When I fancy a night out in Penge I go to the Bridge House Theatre and maybe have a lovely meal in the pub. We are so lucky to have a professional theatre in Penge.

On a typical Sunday morning in Penge I am likely to attend St Anthony’s Church. Sacred spaces are important to me whether they are in a place of worship, in green open spaces or by the sea.

My favourite bit of Penge trivia is the account of sheep being herded across the former level crossing at Penge East station on their way towards Sydenham.

The thing I wish people knew about Penge is that from either end of the high street you can see a church spire or tower. It evokes a sense of the bygone ‘hamlet of Penge’.

Penge in three words: vibrant, quirky, historic.

'My Penge: Christopher O’Shaughnessy' have 6 comments

  1. 27th August 2016 @ 7:16 pm SJB

    Lovely. Thank you!


  2. 15th August 2017 @ 10:22 am sally

    On lower chesham allotments between chesham road and ravenscroft road there are the remains of an anderson shelter.
    Does anyone have any memories of seeing or using it?


    • 22nd May 2021 @ 12:55 pm Conway Castle-Knight

      My father had an allotment there 1957-60 but I had no idea the remains of an Anderson Shelter was there.


  3. 7th October 2017 @ 7:59 pm Richard

    I am trying to find the name of a shop that was a few doors down from the Crooked Billit pub. In the 1960s I used to buy my Levi (to shrink) jeans and Ben Sherman shirts there and I can’t find the name of the shop anywhere. I just wondered if anybody remembers this shop and could tell.


    • 15th October 2017 @ 1:21 am Christopher O'Shaughnessy

      There was a shop called Dales, I think, on the corner where Boots the chemist is now. It sold the clothing you mention and the Dales chain was popular in Britain throughout the sixties. There was also a shop in South Norwood.


    • 15th February 2021 @ 7:17 pm elbowendjohnie

      I think it was called Sherricks. Friends and I used to buy “Mod” clothes there in the 1960s. We also bought clothes in Dales which was in a more modern building than Sherricks which was quite small and a bit untidy.


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