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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Coronavirus in Charlton: Log on for Big Red Bus Club’s online storytelling sessions

The Big Red Bus Club next to Charlton Park has had to close its doors because of the Covid-19 outbreak – ending its stay-and-play sessions for under-fives.

But yesterday it began storytelling sessions online, so you can keep the little ones entertained.

“Join the Big Red Bus team online at 1.30pm every week day for songs & stories and to share our best stay at home activities, as we experiment with going online.

“Our first story Peace at Last, read by Annie, follows poor old Daddy Bear and his nocturnal adventure trying to get some sleep in the noisest house in the world!”

Charlton’s flat-dwellers might be able to identify with that.

Daddy Bear’s adventures were yesterday’s story, so there’ll be something new today – head over to The Big Red Bus Club website to find out how to take part.

If you’re doing something special to help local communities get through the Covid-19 crisis, drop us an email and we’ll try to feature it on the site.

Coronavirus in Charlton: What are the churches doing?

St Luke with Holy Trinity, Charlton
St Luke with Holy Trinity has had to stop regular services

The coronavirus pandemic means local churches have had to close their doors. The Rector of Charlton, REVD LIZ NEWMAN, updates us on what is happening at Charlton’s two Church of England churches, St Luke’s and St Thomas’s.

As the challenge of the coronavirus grips the world, and we are all being asked to rethink our lives, the Church needs to find new ways of doing what it’s always been called to do – to love and to serve.

Sadly, our public worship will have to stop until further notice. Our usual pattern of Sunday services and other gatherings must be put on hold. But this does not mean that we have shut up shop. Far from it.

Over the coming days we’ll be putting into place a plan to open our churches at set times for private prayer or contemplation.

We’ll be offering pastoral and spiritual support to anyone in Charlton who might need it in these painful times, through different channels.

We’ll be doing all we can to support the wonderful community efforts springing up all around us to give practical help to people who are self- isolating or remaining indoors.

We’ll be praying for all those who ask for our prayers, for our community, our government and nation, the world and especially for those who work in our health and emergency services. And we’ll be finding ways in which those who want to can worship together while remaining physically apart.
 
Please send us a message via our website www.charlton.church if there is anything your parish churches can do for you. It will be our privilege to serve.

If you’re doing something special to help local communities get through the Covid-19 crisis, drop us a line and we’ll try to feature it on the site.