The gentile residents of St Johns would have you believe their little enclave is a suburban paradise, nestled between the affluent neighbourhoods of Greenwich to the north, Blackheath to the east, Brockley to the south and Telegraph Hill to the west. Don’t buy this bullsh*t – it’s part of the puss-filled borough of Lewisham, so no amount of polishing will produce a shine on this ****, it’s just a **** in a goatee.
This tiny parcel of land – named after the 19th century church that lives on the top of the hill – was for a long time most famous for station announcements at London Bridge declaring any train heading south east was “not stopping at” St Johns. Railway management spent considerable effort trying to ignore St Johns in the hope that it would simply go away. They even employed the most inept contractors known to industry to replace one of the arched bridges at the end of the platform, killing two people when the whole thing collapsed.
The history books record a more tragic claim to fame for St Johns than intermittent train services – though still train-related. It was here on a foggy day in 1957 that saw Britain’s worst railway disaster, when two trains collided killing 90 people and injuring 176 more. The hasty ‘temporary’ repairs to the station remain largely unchanged – turning the photogenic little stop into an ugly battleship-grey carbuncle only reached from the road via a grim girder bridge, most recently featured on BBC’s Crimewatch when an optimistic trainspotter got done over for his camera gear. I mean, what was he thinking?
St Johns boasts two pubs, or three if you count The Talbot – which is technically closest to the church, but being on the other side of Lewisham Way clings jealously to its SE4 postcode and therefore argues it’s in Brockley. Of the two others, there’s the Royal George on Tanners Hill which could best be described as a traditional boozer; and the former sh*thole that was once the Cranbrook, but had a full hipster makeover in 2016 to become the Brookmill. Given the makeup of St Johns residents – beardy bohemians that couldn’t afford Shoreditch – you’ve got to wonder how long the George will hang on before you find your fish and chips being served on a roof tile.
St Johns is almost bereft of any retail space. The old pest control shop on Friendly Street was briefly an exorbitantly overpriced coffee shop, which has now given way to an exorbitantly overpriced boutique charity shop. Next to the railway bridge there’s a junk shop (locals would call it Architectural Salvage) where you can [definitely not] find the garden furniture that was robbed from your patio the previous weekend. Every Saturday the Lewisham College car park opposite the church gives way to Brockley Market where yummy mummies queue to Instagram their gluten-free artisan bread purchases while giving their pet peacock a walk. To actually buy real food, you need to get the f*ck out of St Johns.