A short history of Brixton
Brixton has been the residence of many famous faces throughout history. Some famous names include:
- David Bowie who was born on Stansfield Road
- Vincent Van Gogh who lived in a boarding house on Hackford Road
- CLR James, the writer and black activist who lived in Railton Road
- former British Prime Minister John Major, who spend part of his childhood in a two room flat off Coldharbour Lane.
History of Brixton
The earliest evidence of settlements in the Brixton area are the Roman roads of Clapham Road (A3) and Brixton Road (A23). By the eleventh century Brixton was known as Brixiestan, meaning 'at the stone of Brihtsige', and was recorded in the Domesday Book. Over the years the name was shortened to Brixton.
Until the beginning of the nineteenth century and the coming of the Industrial Revolution Brixton remained undeveloped and mainly agricultural, the main settlements being near Stockwell, Brixton Hill and Coldharbour Lane.
In 1816 the Vauxhall Bridge opened, improving access to Central London. In turn this led to a flurry of developments around Acre Lane. Today some of the oldest buildings in Brixton include 46 Acre Lane (1808), St. Matthew's Church (1812), Brixton Windmill (1816) and the Trinity Almshouses on Acre Lane (1824).
The 1850s saw Angell Town, Brixton's largest single development, laid out around Wiltshire Road on property belonging to the Angell family. Between the 1860s and 1880s the small settlement underwent a huge transformation as railways and trams linked Brixton to Central London. Large houses were built along the main routes into Brixton attracting the middle classes, and in 1888 Electric Avenue became the first shopping street to be lit by electricity, with a protective iron and glass canopy for shoppers.
By 1925 Brixton was one of the best shopping centres in South London with department stores (including Morley's), a thriving market, shops, pubs, cinemas and a theatre.
The 1940s and 1950s saw a large influx of immigrants from the West Indies into Britain. The first immigrants arrived on the ship the Empire Windrush in 1948 from Jamaica, and were temporarily housed in the Clapham South deep shelter less than a mile away from Coldharbour Lane in Brixton. In 1998 the area in front of the Tate Library in Brixton was renamed Windrush Square to mark the 50th anniversary of the arrival of the Windrush, and recognise the important contribution that the African Caribbean community have made to Brixton.