Windrush Square is the public open space in the heart of Lambeth, opposite the Edwardian town hall. Part of the historic Rush Common, it was formed by the amalgamation of Tate Library Gardens with the adjacent old Windrush Square. The part of Rushcroft Road that used to separate the two areas was closed and incorporated into the new square.
The area in front of Raleigh Hall, now home to the Black Cultural Archives, was laid out as the original Windrush Square in the 1990s. Previously, although part of Rush Common, this land had a garage built on it for motor coaches. Orange Luxury Coaches operated from here from the 1930s.
Some claim this to have been the first Motor Coach Station in London: it was built in 1927 on the plot of land between Ardville Road (now Rushcroft Road) and Saltoun Road. In 1933, there was a large banner under the arch announcing trips ‘daily to all seaside resorts’. The bus station faced Effra Road. Later a small fun fair operated in front of this.
To the left of the depot there was a small Esso petrol station. In 1980 the garage was adapted for other uses, including tyre & exhaust fitting for private cars, a cane furniture shop, and then small business units.
During the Brixton Challenge programme in the 1990s, the old garage was demolished and its site was laid out as public open space. This was later extended to include the adjacent petrol station site and the former car park of the Prince of Wales pub, and became the original Windrush Square.
In 2010 a refurbishment of the central area of Brixton took place. The scheme linked the former Tate Gardens in front of the Library and Windrush Square as a pedestrianised open space which was designed with safety in mind and includes improved lighting, better sightlines and CCTV coverage.
Design features included a new water feature, 21 new trees, new lighting and a sculptural granite seat which contribute to the creation of a new civic space. The project was led by Transport for London in partnership with Lambeth Council. It formed part of the Mayor of London’s Great Outdoors Programme.
The stone paving along the rear edge (and around the tree) is limestone and if you look carefully, you can see fossil sea shells in some of the slabs. The red brick paving with stone bands echoes the front wall of the Town Hall, and also the flats in Rushcroft Road.
The new water feature is controlled by an anemometer on one of the lighting masts, to switch it off if the wind is too strong. The West Indian heritage is echoed in the small area of cast iron paving panels adjacent to the underground toilets which have a sugar cane motif, the lights near the corner of Saltoun Road are called the Windrush Lights and there is commemorative text in the paving in memory of the Windrush settlers.
The new square was opened on Friday 26 February 2010 by the then Mayor of London Boris Johnson, together with the then Minister for London Tessa Jowell MP and Lambeth Council leader Steve Reed.