Camberwell Beauty


Above: Camberwell Beauty butterfly depicted in large tiles on a wall in Wells Way.

Among several claims to fame in the history of Camberwell is an interesting fact related to butterflies. In 1748 the Camberwell Beauty was discovered in Camberwell. Today nearly all the land in Camberwell is covered by streets, houses, gardens, shops and small factories. Until the 19th century most of the land was open fields, with a few farms but mainly market gardens. Unlikely though it sounds this butterfly, which is quite rare today, was first seen in the locality. Most people living in Camberwell today have probably never seen one and most of them never associate the place name with this beautiful insect.

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Above: A view of the Samuel Jones factory in 1976. The whole building was demolished a few years later. Only the butterfly tiles were saved.

In 1868 Samuel Jones opened his paper factory in Southampton Way. By the 1960s everyone knew his name and the factory had become a very large building – making gummed paper in various colours and fancy stationery, as well as cardboard boxes for packaging items to sell. Samuel Jones decided on the colourful butterfly as his trade mark. At the top of his large building he had a large mural constructed, using coloured tiles, showing the butterfly.

The Samuel Jones factory, in Southampton Way, was a local employer of workers. This meant that those who lived locally could simply walk to their place of work from where they lived. The large employer has often been likened to the Peek Frean biscuit factory and the Hartley’s jam factory – both in Bermondsey – who also employed local residents.


Above: The old buildings in Wells Way, formerly a library and public baths.

When the factory was demolished in 1982, the enormous butterfly picture was carefully taken down and placed on the blank wall of another building in Wells Way. The work was carried out so skilfully that the butterfly looks as though it has always occupied that position. The old Victorian building, once a public library and public wash-houses where local people could go to take a bath in days when their own houses did not have such a modern facility, is now in use as the Lynn Boxing Club.


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2 Responses to Camberwell Beauty

  1. Iris Barrett says:

    Remember these buildings very well, one of my baby walking excursions trying to encourage her to sleep.


  2. Many of us remember the buildings and it is good that at least the butterfly was preserved for others to enjoy.


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