Just off the roaring New Cross Road — a little before you reach New Cross Gate station — is Harts Lane. Flanked by brick walls (residential gardens on one side, a huge TK Maxx on the other) it seems uneventful enough. But walk right to the end of the lane, and you’re greeted with 100 hand-painted ceramic tiles, each with its own artist and story to tell.
The 100 Wishes of Hatcham is a collaboration that took place between May and July 2019, between New Cross locals and Dutch artist Tisna Westerhof. Residents were encouraged to visualise their wishes and words of wisdom, before they were transferred onto the tiles, painted and fired. Residents as young as three helped create it, and the idea of the two-by-two-metre artwork is to “send daily positive messages of hope and joy into the world for generations to come.”
“Dream big!” proclaims one tile featuring a vista of the city. “Help save the environment!” says one with a dolphin jumping out of the water. “Never underestimate the power of the Dark Side,” warns Darth Vader on another. (By the way, if you think you can see Rolf Harris just above Darth, it’s actually New Cross-born Gary Oldman. Phew.)
Turn the corner onto Brocklehurst Street to find another snappable piece of street art, claiming Charles Dickens wrote Our Mutual Friend at the nearby Five Bells pub. (The novelist is duly depicted with five bells dangling from his bristling chin.) The pub also appears on one of the 100 Wishes of Hatcham tiles.
If the name Hatcham itself isn’t familiar to you, it’s an ancient manor, whose name has largely fallen out of use. Not altogether, however. For instance, you can still see the beautiful Hatcham Liberal Club on New Cross Road.