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Buildings in this area date from the nineteenth century or before

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Road · Streatham · SW16 ·
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2019
A street within the SW16 postcode




 

Streatham

Streatham - the hamlet on the street.

The street in question which gave Streatham its name, the London to Brighton Way, was the Roman road from the capital Londinium to the coast near Portslade.

After the departure of the Romans, the main road through Streatham remained an important trackway. From the 17th century it was adopted as the main coach road to Croydon and East Grinstead, and then on to Newhaven and Lewes. In 1780 it then became the route of the turnpike road from London to Brighton, and subsequently became the basis for the modern A23. This road (and its traffic) have shaped Streatham's development.

Streatham's first parish church, St Leonard's, dates back to Saxon times, although only the mediaeval tower remains in the present church. The mediaeval parish covered an extensive area, including most of modern Balham and parts of Tooting.

Streatham appears in Domesday Book of 1086 as Estreham. It was held by Bec-Hellouin Abbey (in Normandy) from Richard de Tonbrige. Its domesday assets were: 2 hides and 1 virgates; 6½ ploughs, 4 acres of meadow and herbage.

The village remained largely unchanged until the 18th century, when the village's natural springs, known as Streatham Wells, were first celebrated for their health-giving properties. The reputation of the spa, and improved turnpike roads, attracted wealthy City of London merchants and others to build their country residences in Streatham.

In spite of London's expansion around the village, a limited number of developments took place in the village in the second half of the nineteenth century, most notably on Wellfield Road and Sunnyhill Road. These roads are today considered an important part of what remains of the historic Streatham Village as they found little or no influence from the growth of metropolitan London.

Wellfield Road, which had previously been known as Leigham Lane, was renamed in honour of the famed natural springs of Streatham Wells, one of which can still be found today in the nearby Rookery Victorian Gardens next to Streatham Common. From the early 1860s a number of attractive terraces and small cottage properties were built on Wellfield road, which underlined the village's increasing popularity and reputation. Indeed, the Streatham Village area today remains a highly sought-after location, especially due to its proximity to Central London and convenient public transport services.

Development accelerated after the opening of Streatham Hill railway station on the West End of London and Crystal Palace Railway in 1856. The other two railway stations followed within fifteen years. Some estates, such as Telford Park to the west of Streatham Hill, were spaciously planned with facilities like tennis clubs. Another generously sized development was Roupell Park, the area near Christchurch Road promoted by the Roupell family. Other streets adopted more conventional suburban layouts.

After the First World War Streatham developed as a location for entertainment, with Streatham Hill Theatre, three cinemas, the Locarno ballroom (latterly Caesar's nightclub, which closed in 2010) and Streatham Ice Rink all adding to its reputation as the West End of South London. With the advent of electric tram services it also grew as a shopping centre serving a wide area to the south. In the 1930s large numbers of blocks of flats were constructed along High Road. These speculative developments were not initially successful. They were only filled when émigré communities began to arrive in London after leaving countries under the domination of Hitler's Germany. In 1932 the parish church of the Holy Redeemer was built in Streatham Vale to commemorate the work of William Wilberforce.

In the 1950s Streatham had the longest and busiest shopping street in south London. Streatham became the site of the UK's first supermarket, when Express Dairies Premier Supermarkets opened its first 2,500 square feet store in 1951; Waitrose subsequently opened its first supermarket in Streatham in 1955.

However, a combination of factors led to a gradual decline through the 1970s and a more rapid decline in the 1980s. These included long term population movements out to Croydon, Kingston and Sutton; the growth of heavy traffic on the A23 (main road from central London to Gatwick Airport and Brighton), and a lack of redevelopment sites in the town centre. This culminated in 1990 when the closure of Pratt's - a department store, which had grown from a Victorian draper's shop, and had been operated since the 1940s by the John Lewis Partnership - coincided with the opening of a large Sainsbury's supermarket 1 km south of the town centre, replacing an old, smaller Sainbury's store opposite Streatham Hill railway station.

In September 2002, Streatham High Road was voted the Worst Street in Britain in a poll organised by the BBC Today programme and CABE. This largely reflected the dominance of through traffic along High Road. The poll was a catalyst for Lambeth London Borough Council and Transport for London's Street Management to co-operate on a joint funding arrangement for further streetscape improvements, which benefited The Dip between St Leonard's and Streatham station and the stretch north of the Odeon as far as Woodbourne Avenue.

After several years of delay and controversy over phasing, construction started in the autumn of 2011 on the Streatham Hub - a major redevelopment next to Streatham railway station.
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