The Twentieth Century Society

Campaigning for outstanding buildings

C20 Society Gains Grade II Listing for Old Kent Road Mural

The Twentieth Century Society is delighted to announce the Grade II listing of the 1,000 square foot Adam Kossowski mural which adorns the former Peckham Civic Centre (now the Everlasting Ministries Church). The Society applied to Historic England for listing following news that the site is due to be redeveloped.

The frieze of five panels comprises 2,000 individually cast coloured pieces of ceramic. Documenting the history of the Old Kent Road, it takes in Roman times, the pilgrims’ route to Canterbury, Henry V’s return to London following the defeat of the French at Agincourt and Charles II’s procession to the throne upon his restoration in 1660. The final panel combines Victorian and mid Twentieth Century scenes to depict the area’s recent make-up – a pearly king, queen and child crossing the Old Kent Road via a zebra crossing with Belisha beacon, symbolising the local community as paramount in the advancement of the area; it may be famous as a thoroughfare but it is the people who use it who define its character. In the Roman section a boy gestures from inside an arch, inviting all who pass to engage with the past and thereby democratising it: history is ultimately comprised of the everyday. Life-sized children look out from the mural (rather than being in profile) to engage passing children in both the streetscape and the history depicted.

Adam Kossowski (1905-1986) was a Polish artist and lecturer who was arrested by the Nazis and sentenced to five years hard labour at the notorious Gulag. Kossowski promised that if he were to ever leave he would devote himself to God. Arriving in London in 1946 he was true to his word accepting many commissions of tempera and ceramic pieces for the Catholic church including The History of the Carmelites of Aylesford at The Friars Aylesford (Grade I listed) And the Chapel of St Aloysius R C Church, Phoenix Road, Camden (also Grade I) .

Public art historian Lynn Pearson describes Kossowski as “for the Catholic church, the most significant post-war ceramicist”.The History of the Old Kent Road mural is thought to be Kossowski’s only substantial secular work.┬áIn their listing report Historic England cite the C20 Society’s previous successful campaigns to preserve the Dorothy Annan mural at Fleet House and Alan Boyson’s Tree of Knowledge mural in Salford – both post war murals which have been designated separately to the host building and successfully conserved independently to them.

Following a site visit earlier this year by C20 Society Director Catherine Croft and Conservation Advisor Tess Pinto, the Society is now working with the developers to ensure the successful relocation of the mural within the local area.