Coldharbour Lane

Coldharbour Lane
Coldharbour Lane seen from Acre Lane.

Coldharbour Lane is a road in South London that leads south-westwards from Camberwell to Brixton. In total the road is over 1 mile long with a mixture of residential, business and retail buildings - the stretch of Coldharbour Lane near Brixton Market contains shops, bars and restaurants. The junction of Coldharbour Lane and Denmark Hill in Camberwell SE5 marks part of the boundary between Lambeth and Southwark boroughs. The other end of Coldharbour Lane meets Acre Lane in central Brixton to form the A2217.

The Loughborough Junction area, surrounding the railway station, marks the approximate centre point of Coldharbour Lane and the change in postcode from SE5 to SW9.



Coldharbour Lane was formerly known as Camberwell Lane.

Former British Prime Minister John Major lived in a flat in Coldharbour Lane when a child in the mid 1950s[1].

In 1981 the Brixton riots occurred in roads near Coldharbour Lane and some windows were broken on the street itself.[2]. With the support of community leaders and shop owners, there are plans to set up a mini-police station on Coldharbour Lane in the former premises of a drug dealer.[3]

Origins of the name

A "cold harbour" was an uninhabited shelter for travellers, often along a well-known route, and similar to a modern bothy. Unlike an inn, there was no staff, food or drink to be had. There would be a roof, door and quite possibly a simple hearth, although it was the traveller's responsibility to gather fuel. They were (generally) a little more than open-faced barns or animal shelters.[4]

"Coldharbour" also survives as the name of a village in Surrey and Bristol has both a 'Coldharbour Road' and a 'Cold Harbour Lane'.

Coldharbour Lane also gives its name to Coldharbour ward in Brixton although approximately one third of Coldharbour Lane is located in Herne Hill ward.

Pubs and bars

There are several pubs and bars on Coldharbour Lane.

Starting in Brixton the Prince of Wales [5] has been on the same site since 1800 [6]; The Prince Albert[7] has occasional live music and quiz nights [8] Then Living; then Dogstar [9] is a "three-floor DJ bar"[10].

Other pubs and bars on the road are The Green Man[11], The Angel[12], Living[13], and Club 414[14]. The Green Man, The Angel, The Enterprise and The Hero (latterly the Junction) all ceased trading between 2000 and 2007 and the Plough.

Mentions in culture

With a nod to The Rolling Stones, Brixton-based band Alabama 3 named their debut album Exile on Coldharbour Lane after the road. Although Woke Up This Morning on this album mentions Coldharbour Lane, the mention is omitted from the "Chosen One Mix", used as the theme song for the Sopranos.

"Coldharbour Lane" — with the hook "So long / I've done my time / Coldharbour Lane / Goodbye" — is a single from The Quireboys's 2001 This Is Rock'n'Roll release.

Markus Schulz named his own recording label "Coldharbour Recordings" in honour of time when he lived in a flat in Coldharbour Lane.

The Camberwell Beauty

Camberwell Beauty butterfly

The rare migrant butterfly, the Camberwell Beauty Nymphalis antiopa, was so named after the discovery of two specimens in Coldharbour Lane in 1748 [15][16]. The butterflies had probably arrived as stowaways on ships delivering timber from Scandinavia to the Surrey Docks two miles to the north [17]


Coordinates: 51°27′57″N 0°06′09″W / 51.4659°N 0.1024°W / 51.4659; -0.1024

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