Charlton station mural celebrates 100 years of The Valley

Lionel Stanhope with the (almost) finished mural

The drab bridge over the railway line at Charlton station has been brightened up by a colourful new mural marking 100 years since Charlton Athletic first played at The Valley.

Artist Lionel Stanhope, whose creations have livened up drab corners all over south-east London, has spent two days working on the mural on Charlton Church Lane along with fellow artist and sculptor Zara Gaze. The project has been paid for by the Charlton Athletic Museum, an independent charity which seeks to preserve and celebrate the football club’s distinguished heritage.

Network Rail has supported the project, which sees Charlton join Brockley, Hither Green, Lee, Forest Hill and Plumstead as neighbourhoods with a Stanhope mural.

Only the undercoat was visible on Wednesday

Charlton Athletic first played at The Valley on September 13, 1919. The first match in what was then known simply as the Charlton Enclosure, was a 2-0 win for Charlton’s “A” team against Summerstown. It took place in the South Suburban League – league football was still two years away.

Volunteers had converted the old sand pits – then known locally as The Swamp – into a usable football ground after an appeal from the local MP, Sir Ion Hamilton Benn, at a public meeting at the Mission Hall in Troughton Road a few months before.

The mural marks 100 years since Charlton first played at The Valley
Mural in progress
The mural took two days to create

Since then The Valley has been the scene for triumphs and failures as well as protests and celebrations, such as the pitch invasion last May when the Addicks won their play-off semi-final against Doncaster Rovers on their way to promotion to the Championship.

Stanhope, who used graffiti-resistant materials to create the mural, told The Charlton Champion: “It’s a nice one to do. The colours are really going to brighten up this little stretch outside the station.”

Stanhope’s other work includes this deliberately-faded sign at Hither Green
Forest Hill mural
Stanhope’s mural at Forest Hill features the Horniman Museum walrus

He has completed over 25 murals – mostly large creations under bridges, but a few, like Charlton’s, are smaller works on overbridges. His work is now spreading to railway land outside London, including Kent and Sussex and as far afield as Wales.

Ben Hayes, a trustee of the Charlton Athletic Museum, said: “As a museum we wanted to do something to mark the centenary of The Valley but at the same time brighten up the area. I drink in the Radical Club in Plumstead before games, so always see Lionel’s work by Plumstead station and thought it would work perfectly at Charlton, Eddie Burton at Network Rail was really helpful and Lionel was keen from the start.

“The Valley has a special place in Charlton fans’ hearts for many reasons. Nearly all fans love their own stadium but what makes The Valley special is that it was dug out in 1919 by fans, one of whom was Bob Sims, my great-uncle, and players.

“And then in the 1980s and 90s when we were forced to leave the fans, along with Roger Alwen and the other directors, fought to bring us home. The Valley is Charlton and Charlton is the Valley.”

It was paid for by the independent Charlton Athletic Museum
It directs visitors to The Valley

Hayes added: “We hope it helps local people take pride in their area. It certainly brightens up what was a bit of a drab railway bridge. The football club played a major part in reviving the local community just after World War One when the Valley opened and the sign is one way of that.”

Fellow museum trustee Clive Harris said: “’Now more than ever our community is important. Charlton Athletic is so intrinsically entwined with the local community that to us, as a museum, it seemed the perfect way to commemorate the centenary of our beloved Valley. We hope it becomes an integral local landmark for generations to come.”

The mural includes a tribute to Charlton fan Seb Lewis, who died this week

‘Seb 1076’

The mural also includes a small tribute to Seb Lewis, a 38-year-old Charlton fan who died from Covid-19 this week. A familiar and much-loved figure at The Valley, Lewis had attended 1,076 consecutive matches since 1998 before being admitted to hospital earlier this month. Stanhope was asked to add “Seb 1076” to the mural this morning, a couple of hours after fans heard about the news.

“I just heard about it this morning – it’s a nice touch to add his name and the number of games he’d been to,” Stanhope said.

Seb Lewis went to 1,076 consecutive matches, home and away, before he was taken to hospital this month

Hayes said: “When adding ‘Seb 1076’ was suggested, we thought it was a brilliant idea. It makes the design extra special for everyone connected to the club. Seb was a regular visitor to the museum so we’re grateful to have a way to commemorate him in a small way.”

Museum is for local people too

The museum has been open for five years and has generated interest from other clubs, as well as holding events like last summer’s Blitz walk of the area with local historian Steve Hunnisett. Hayes said: “We’ve had visits and enquires for other English clubs such as Wimbledon, Luton and Exeter who have plans for new stadiums or stands that will include museum rooms. We also had a visit from the museums of Benfica of Portugal and Boca Juniors of Argentina.

The mural is opposite Charlton station

“We hope that local people, whether they are Addicks fans or not will find something of interest. The way the club was founded in the streets near what is now the Thames Barrier by 14 and 15 year old boys is very much a local story. We’ve had plenty of non-Charlton fans visit and they have all found something that engages them. It might be the old rattles people used or the photos of local people stood on the packed Valley terraces.”

Should this wall be next for a mural?

Now Hayes and others are thinking about a bigger idea – decorating the blank wall on the corner of Floyd Road for a wider celebration of the local area.

“There is a big blank wall on the corner of Charlton Church Lane and Floyd Road that is ripe for a mural showing the history of Charlton from the Horn Fair, Spencer Perceval, Siemens, the Thames Barrier and, obviously, Charlton Athletic. It’s something we’d love to work on with local residents’ and history groups,” he said.

If you like the mural and want to help chip in towards the museum’s costs, you can send via PayPal to cafchistorian[at]gmail.com, or contact the museum on the same email address for bank details.

If you’re as interested in doing something with the Floyd Road wall as we are, get in touch with us at The Charlton Champion and we can start investigating ideas and how to get it funded.

If you’d like Lionel Stanhope to brighten up railway land near you, email eddie.burton[at]networkrail.co.uk.


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No trains through Charlton for next two weekends: 7-8 and 14-15 March

A train, seen on a weekday

There will be no trains through Charlton for the next two weekends as Network Rail is closing the line between Deptford and Plumstead for engineering works.

Despite the major closure, there has been little publicity about the works, which will affect fans this Saturday heading to Charlton Athletic’s match against Middlesborough – a team that traditionally brings a strong away following.

Two buses per hour will run between Lewisham and Plumstead, instead of the eight-train Saturday service and six-train Sunday timetable.

The Charlton Champion has asked Network Rail why the line is being closed and we’ll update this story when it responds. Update Wednesday: A Network Rail spokesperson would only say that the closure was “part of the Kent and South East London upgrade programme”. (see further update below)

There will be normal Jubilee line services to North Greenwich on the first weekend when the line through Greenwich is closed; however, on 14 and 15 March it will be closed between Waterloo and Stanmore, which is likely to mean a less-frequent service on the rest of the line. Docklands Light Railway services are also disrupted on 14 and 15 March, with no trains to Bank.

Disruption will also occur on Sunday 22 March, with no trains from Charlton before 9.15am and no Thameslink trains at all scheduled to run through the station.

The closures will cap a month of weekend service reductions on the line, with Thameslink services being reduced last Sunday despite The Big Half half-marathon taking place in Greenwich.

However, Charlton passengers will escape most of the disruption at Easter, when all lines through Hither Green will be closed as part of a major signalling project.

Friday update: Network Rail belatedly sent us an update yesterday to say the works will “lay nearly a kilometre of new track, sleepers and ballast on the line”.

“The work will allow the removal of speed restrictions which have been put in place because of worn out track, helping to speed up trains, reduce delay and give passengers smoother, more reliable journeys. Closing the line during the weekend means that the work can be done safely, in less time.”

“Fiona Taylor, Route Director, Kent. Network Rail said:

“‘While infrastructure faults are down by 30 per cent on this part of the network, we know that even a minor incident in this incredibly congested area will have a major impact on the train service. That’s why our upgrade work is so important to ensuring trains run reliably.

“‘We know it’s inconvenient for passengers when we close the railway and would like to thank them for their patience while we do this important work. Most of the network is open as usual but please check your journey before travelling.'”


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Whatever happened to Charlton station’s water fountain? We’ve found out

A couple of months ago, we got excited because we saw Charlton station had gained a new water fountain. It was all part of a London-wide plan to provide more drinking water taps, and reduce the need for people to buy plastic bottles of water. There was a heatwave on, it sounded fantastic.

Then a few weeks after it opened, it was covered up again. And moved. It’s still covered up today. Our refillable bottles have remained unfilled.

We asked Thames Water what was going on. A spokesperson got back to us very quickly and told us: “At the moment the water coming from the fountain isn’t of the standard we’d expect so we can’t let anyone use it until it passes all the right tests.”

Thames Water emphasises there is no issue with water in the wider area – it’s just an issue that affects the fountain.

Hopefully the fountain will be back in service soon.


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