The footbridge carrying Canterbury Grove from West Norwood across the railway line to Tulse Hill is a timeslip. It is a narrow, metal structure with steep steps up either side, of the kind that seem to belong to an emptier London of the 1970s. The bridge cuts Canterbury Grove, otherwise a steep street of an ordinary width, in two. There has been a bridge here since the 19th century when the railway was first dug out, originally a wooden structure as the name of the adjacent 1980s houses, Wooden Bridge Terrace, makes clear. On the opposite site a terrace of three remaining Victorian houses is part of the timeslip, still existing in an industrial era of works and workers, housed opposite their employment. All the factories are now gone, including the Meisenbach Works which offered colour printing before the First World War, and the housing that has replaced them is of variable quality.
In 1980, the director Patrick Keiller made a short, enigmatic film called ‘Norwood’ which, through an unnamed narrator and shots of Streatham and West Norwood streets, told a bleak story of crime and revenge in a strangely detached voiceover. The voice is Keiller’s own, but his original intention was for Vincent Price to play the role, a plan prevented by availability problems. It never happened, but the idea of the voice of horror becoming the voice of unknown Norwood streets is tantalising. The bridge is a crossing point over the railway to the narrator’s former flat, but he notes that while walking the streets one “…may trip and, anticipating concussion, fall rather into the realisation that one is truly somewhere else.” He is, in fact, already dead, and the bridge leads from one world to another, thinly separating the real from the imagined. There is no ferryman to make the crossing official or to provide assurance of what might happen on the other side. You have to cross this bridge at your own risk. We take it on the way home from Tulse Hill and, so far, have always reached the other side.