Far from the genteel inner Melbourne suburb that it is today, Camberwell – as its name might suggest – was once a far more dangerous place. Its name derives from the former village (and now London suburb) of the same name, originally believed to have been named Cumber Well (‘the well of the Britons’), but actually means ‘cripple well’.
Not, I hasten to add, ‘the well of cripples’, but ‘cripple well’ – the verb form, not the noun form. It was a notoriously violent part of South London, but an even more violent and dangerous area of Melbourne. This may have had something to do with the large numbers of Scots settlers in the area, who were far from home and deprived of decent scotch. This – along with the extreme poverty caused by the fact that no one could understand them when they tried to get jobs – led to a culture of increasing violence.
Oddly enough, the delivery of a large quantity of Scotch to the area did little to alleviate this problem, in fact causing the violence to mount and the severity of the injuries inflicted to worsen. This in turn, made the endemic unemployment of the area worse still – since so many of them had been rendered unable to work, being well crippled.
Suburbs near Camberwell: