Never heard of Nunhead? Don’t worry, you’re not the only one. This south London neighborhood flies under the radar to the point that a lot of born-and-bred Londoners don’t even know it’s here. But those that know it know it’s worth discovering, and today I want to share A Lady in London’s guide to Nunhead with you.
Nunhead sits next to hip Peckahm and pretty East Dulwich. With a small high street and big historic cemetery, the area is unique among London neighborhoods.
This is not least because of how it got its name. First recorded in 1680, some think it to have been taken from a local inn called The Nun’s Head.
However, local legend has it that the name refers to the 16th-century beheading of a nun during the Dissolution of the Monasteries under Henry VIII. There’s even a sign on The Old Nun’s Head pub commemorating this.
Whatever you believe, you had better believe this area has some fascinating history. More on that to come.
Like many parts of southeast London, Nunhead isn’t on the tube. It’s easily accessible by train from central London, though, and has its own eponymous station conveniently located near the high street (with a great garden shop across from it). That means there’s no excuse to stay away.
Things to Do in Nunhead
And when you get to Nunhead you’ll see why you shouldn’t stay away. Despite its diminutive size, the area has a lot going for it. The high street is full of shops and restaurants, there are historic local pubs, and the cemetery rivals the one in Highgate for beauty.
Nunhead High Street
Nunhead Lane (which becomes Evelina Road) is the area’s high street. It’s home to Nunhead Green, a pretty park surrounded by pubs and shops.
Many of said pubs and shops are worth a visit, too. The aforementioned Old Nun’s Head pub has great art on its facade and claims to be the Ryan Gosling of pubs (I’m sold).
Across the street, there are hip coffee shops, fishmongers, bakeries, and pizzerias with adorable names like Four Hundred Rabbits. There’s even a vermouth bar. Clearly Peckham’s trendiness has rubbed off on this place.
I love walking down the high street in Nunhead, taking in the colorful facades, smelling the fish, and popping into the shops. It always delights me that such a relatively short stretch has so many great places on it.
When I’m done on Nunhead Lane, I head over to Nunhead Cemetery. This is the least known of the “Magnificent Seven” Victorian cemeteries that were were created around London between 1839 and 1841 to ease the overcrowding of the city center’s burial grounds.
Despite being under-the-radar, Nunhead Cemetery is just as beautiful as the others. Abandoned in the 20th century, vines from the earth have risen up to reclaim the gravestones and tombs.
It’s now a local nature reserve with walking paths around the ruined chapels and through the overgrown stones. It’s peaceful and magical to walk around. I can never decide whether it feels more like I’ve stepped into a film set or time traveled.
Nunhead Side Streets
Beyond the cemetery and the high street, Nunhead has a few side streets worth exploring. My favorite is Consort Road, where historic almshouses with blue doors sit in pretty garden surroundings.
The almshouses are located opposite a huge street art mural from the Dulwich Outdoor Gallery, a collection of murals painted by celebrated street artists who base their works on historic paintings in the nearby Dulwich Picture Gallery.
From the mural, I like walking down Scylla Road. It has a great view of The Old Nun’s Head pub at the end and some hidden art tucked into one corner.
On the south and east sides of Nunhead Cemetery, I like walking down Limesford Road and Ivydale Road. Hidden red phone boxes and corner pubs surprise and delight, and houses with colorful doors abound.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this guide to Nunhead. It’s one of my favorite underrated areas in London, and I’ve had fun getting to know it better since moving to south London. If you want to explore somewhere new and undiscovered, this is just the place to do it.
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