Not a day goes by when poor Peckham does not further cement its grubby reputation as a crime-infested hellhole, with tales of gang warfare, rapes, fatal stabbings and all manner of murky misdemeanours. Think of the Bronx minutes after the 1970s blackouts; that's London's Peckham district. Last month a man died clutching his baby after two teenagers tried to rob a christening at gunpoint. Last week a fugitive armed robber was rearrested straight after his double bypass heart surgery when a nurse recognised his mugshot on television show, Crimewatch. If Peckham has superseded violent Moss Side in Manchester as the UK's centre of lawlessness and inner-city blight, then the 40-odd hectare North Peckham and Aylesbury Estate - once Europe's largest council estate - is the eye of the criminal storm. It was here that 10-year-old Damilola Taylor was stabbed and left to bleed to death for his lunch money in a tower block stairwell, a crime that shocked the country. What little Peckham has going for it is largely fictional: playing host to Britain's favourite comedy character, Del Boy Trotter, the duckin' and divin' street trader from the television sitcom Only Fools and Horses. Del Boy famously tried to bottle local tap water and resell it as Peckham Spring, a comical rebranding surpassed only last week by the local mandarins at Del's local council, Southwark, who are bidding to put Peckham on the tourist map. But Peckham does have hidden delights: such as the state-of-the-art housing that is springing up over Damilola's now-demolished murder scene, and a vibrant mix of cultures, reflected at Rye Lane market, which boasts '15 different types of plantain'. The poet and artist William Blake had a vision of an angel in Peckham - albeit in 1767, when it was all market gardens, beekeeping and a zoo. History and architecture have a place, too - such as the Gothic graves of Nunhead cemetery and the award-winning, space-age library designed by architects Will Alsop and Jan Stormer, whose reading rooms lie in suspended pods. There are also twisty lamp posts created by fashion designer Zandra Rhodes, and bollards - posts for tieing up boats - cast from rusty steel by former Peckhamite sculptor Antony Gormley. Bollards? Who cares? critics might snipe. But some 25,000 maps of the district have been printed, requested from as far afield as Cardiff and New York. Perhaps Peckham should go the whole hog and erect a historic plaque to commemorate perhaps its most famous son - horror actor Boris Karloff, born in 1887 opposite Peckham Park. Peckham, it seems, has always been a horror story.