Case study

Peckham Rye train station


Peckham Rye Station, designed by noteworthy Victorian railway architect Charles Henry Driver in 1865, is a Grade II listed railway station in South London. It was built with five separate platforms, but over the years it had two significant re-orderings, losing much of its original detail. In the 1930s a shopping arcade was constructed in the former station forecourt, which met the busy shopping street, Rye Lane.

This project was funded by Network Rail with co-funding from the Railway Heritage Trust and the Heritage of London Trust, the restoration work is expected to stand for another 100 years once complete.

The design and conservation work were led by the local practice, Benedict O’Looney Architects, which have helped initiate six earlier restoration projects at the station, leading to the station’s recent comprehensive external restoration.

This restoration project was complex due to the requirement that the station was fully operational at all times, and as the building was listed, there was close scrutiny of the materials and detailing.

Benedict O’Looney Architects’ earlier projects at the station included unbricking windows closed up in the 1960s, restoring the internal cast iron and stone stairs and opening up a large abandoned waiting room at the station’s platform level. One of the main tasks in the external restoration project was to clean the brickwork, repair the roof and prepare the station to open the long-disused waiting room to the public for community use. Among the different areas of the renovation, the re-tiling of the roof proved to be a substantial task which had an impressive visual impact.

The original contract drawings and period photographs clearly showed that the four wing roofs had clay tiles, which were lost in the inter-war period. The architects were aware that similar Victorian patent tiles had been recreated by Keymer for Leatherhead Station, also built by the London, Brighton & Southcoast Railway’s architect, Charles Henry Driver, in the 1860s.

Working from black and white historic photographs, the initial assumption was that the roof tiles were red clay as used at Leatherhead Station. However, during the restoration of Peckham Rye Station’s south stair, fragments of the original roof tiles were found, showing them to be a distinctive buff colour, which beautifully matched the external brickwork. The architects shared the fragments with Wienerberger who usefully came back with a technique for matching the original tile colours.

Keymer, renowned for its expertise in period tile remaking, played a pivotal role in the restoration project. The company provided bespoke roof tiles to replicate the Victorian ones, ensuring the new tiles were a faithful replacement of the old, harmonising with the station’s Suffolk White brick and Bath stone detailing.

Colour matching was a critical aspect of the project. Keymer’s team worked closely with Benedict O’Looney Architects to experiment with different shades and ultimately decided on a mix of three tones that worked well with the station’s existing 19th-century brick and stonework. Skilled craftsmen at Wienerberger’s Broomfleet tile works pressed the ‘Taylors Patent Roof Tiles’ using fine-grained Humberside clay, adding an engobe glaze to the exposed top faces. The result was roof tiles in three buff tones, closely replicating the original tiles’ appearance.

Careful handling of the tiles was essential due to the engobe glaze. Roofers from Richardson Roofing, known for their expertise in historic roofs, ensured that the tiles were installed with precision, avoiding any chipping or damage during the process.

Preserving Peckham Rye’s historical legacy

Benedict O’Looney, lead architect, praised Keymer as one of Britain’s leading manufacturers of Victorian roof tiles and was particularly impressed with their adaptability and thoroughness.

Benedict said: “Keymer’s custom tiles perfectly echo the original Victorian design of the Peckham Rye Station roof, powerfully recreating the station’s original materiality. These new roof tiles are made to last, ensuring the station’s roof remains weather-tight and good looking for years to come.“Working with the Keymer team was a delight; they are very experienced and always on-hand to help with any queries. The team at Broomfleet tileworks led by the Heritage Service Manager, Nigel Dyer, were patient at getting the colour matching right and understood the chemistry in creating the glazes we needed. I could completely trust Keymer to do an excellent job and there was little debate when deciding on a tile manufacturer to work with.”

Keymer’s devotion to craftsmanship and tailored solutions has been instrumental in the restoration of Peckham Rye Station’s roof, securing the preservation of this south London landmark for future generations. This roof restoration project has come to national attention, winning the Pitched Roofing Awards for ‘Best Use of a Heritage Roof’ in November 2023 as well as being shortlisted for the National Railway Heritage Awards.

In the coming year, Southwark Council will demolish the 1930s shopping arcade in front of the station revealing the station front as it was originally conceived. The new roof by Keymer crowns an important urban railway restoration project creating a stunning architectural focus for Peckham’s new Station Square.

Project Summary | Client: Network Rail with co-funding from Railway Heritage Trust and the Heritage of London Trust | Architect: Benedict O’Looney Architects |  Roofers: Richardson Roofing | Photographer: Paul Childs

Awards and Accolades | Pitched Rooding Wards for ‘Best Use of a Heritage Roof’ in November 2023 | Shortlisted for the National Railway Heritage Awards