The recent sale at Sotheby’s of a painting by Camille Pissarro ‘St. Stephen’s Church, Lower Norwood’ reminded us that he lived here for a time. Pissarro took refuge in London from the Franco-Prussian War and the Paris Commune, and during the winter of 1871-2 stayed with his family at 2, Chatham Terrace, Palace Road, Upper Norwood.
His painting of St. Stephen’s Church was the cover picture for the catalogue of the Cargill collection, which Sotheby’s sold for more than a million pounds. The painting itself fetched £27,000. The Daily Telegraph reproduced it, along with a photograph of St. Stephen’s today, and commented: ‘At least one pleasant part of London has hardly altered in almost a century’. Unhappily for our local pride, St. Stephen’s is really in South Dulwich; The Vicar has appealed to the buyer to allow the painting to be exhibited in the district.
In Pissarro’s day, Norwood evidently covered a wider area than now. In the Courtauld Collection, there is his charming ‘Penge Station, Upper Norwood’: now Penge West. Another of his works, called either ‘Winter Scene’ or ‘Snow at Lower Norwood’ has been variously identified as showing not West Norwood but Fox Hill, Spa Hill or Grange Hill. It would seem that Fox Hill has the strongest claim, since Pissarro was only round the corner in Palace Road. Incidentally, a walk down the road today shows no obvious Chatham Terrace.
The Norwood Review Edition #15. Published 1963