The Kennington Oval may refer to the road adjacent to the Oval Cricket ground, the cricket ground itself or, rather confusingly, the triangular piece of land opposite St Marks Church and the Oval Station. This article is about that triangular piece of land that TfL controlled red routes have arguably turned into an urban desert island although the triangular shape itself is getting on for 200 years old.
This map of 1868 clearly shows the triangle as does this map circa 1820. However, this slightly earlier map from 1817 seems to suggest that the triangle was then linked up to the site where St Marks Church, Kennington (built 1822-24) now is but as the area of interest is right on the edge of the map, it is not conclusive.
The triangle almost certainly arose as a consequence of Vauxhall Bridge (originally Regent Bridge) opening in 1816. The opening of the bridge established a demand for Camberwell New Road – a turnpike road authorised by an 1818 Act of Parliament (according to British History on line). The new road linked into to Harleyford Street and then on to Vauxhall Bridge. The siting of St Marks Church emphasised the boundary and the triangle was properly formed probably by 1822 at the latest but probably no earlier than 1818.
The triangular space is bounded by the A3 (Kennington Park Road) , A23 (Brixton Road) and A202 (Camberwell New Road). These same sides of the triangle were, in 1868, named upper Kennington Lane, Kennington Road and Windmill Row. The 1822 and 1817 maps show upper Kennington Lane as Harleyford Place. Camberwell New Road was then New Camberwell Road.
It is a possibility that the New Camberwell Road followed an existing path defined perhaps by desire lines and the path may well have continued to Harleyford Street thereby defining the third side of the triangle so the shape may be relatively ancient. However, it probably became a distinct triangle defined by roads circa 1820 which means that the ‘Kennington Oval’ is coming up for its 200th anniversary. It would be nice to get the space sorted out including it’s ambiguous name. It is now being suggested that the space be given a more appropriate name – Kennington Triangle being one option.