Peckham - situated between Rotherhithe in the north and Forest Hill in the south - was mentioned in the Doomsday Book (1087) where it is called 'Pecheha'. The name is probably Anglo Saxon and means 'village among the hills'. The old English word for hill being 'peac' and 'ham' meaning village. The nearby hills would be Honor Oak, Forest Hill and Telegraph Hill. Rye comes from the Old English 'brook' and would have been named after the little river Peck that once flowed across the Rye. Part of this stream can still be seen on the West side of Peckham Rye Park today.
During the reign of Henry I, Peckham belonged to the King and he gave it to his illegitimate son, Robert the Earl of Gloucester, who became the Lord of the Manor.
Peckham was a village back then with mostly a farming community. Much of the land was used for growing crops and fruit and by the 18th century Peckham was famous for its melons, figs and grapes. Due to its proximity to the centre of London some of this fruit was destined for the Palace. With so many farms there were also good pastures and cattle drovers used Peckham Village as it was known then, as a stopping place before going onto the markets of London. Their herds were put out to graze whilst they themselves took refreshments at the various inns.
Peckham Rye has had its fair share of famous historical figures. The poet William Blake walked from the City of London to Peckham Rye when he was a child. He said that he saw a vision of a cloud of angels in a great oak tree. The Angel Oak, as it was later called is no longer on the Rye. The other great poet John Donne often used to stay in Peckham with friends. Poet and playwright Oliver Goldsmith lived for a time in Peckham as did John Wesley.
From the 17th century onwards the district became more commercialised and a popular place to live. Houses were built and the population increased. In the 1800's with the Victorian industrial revolution the area began to change as new business moved in. Thomas Tiling introduced a new bus service in 1851 that took passengers from Peckham to the West End and in 1865 the railway came to Peckham Rye. With the railways came the speculative builders and soon the remaining fields and market gardens were built over and lost forever.