We are quite often asked about the origins of street names in the area. Today, there is a formal system for naming new streets and buildings. A developer, say, has to make an application to Lambeth council proposing the new name. The council consults various bodies such as the emergency services and local civic societies on the suitability of the proposed name. A final decision is taken by a council committee.
It was not always so in the past when landowners and developers chose any name they pleased. The origins of some names are lost in antiquity; names such as Acre Lane appear on the earliest maps of the area. Where we have been able to provide an answer, we are going to record as many as possible below for future reference. If you have any knowledge to share, please email email@example.com
The Angell family owned extensive estates around Brixton and Stockwell in the 18th century. A dispute over a complicated will resulted in the estate being divided between 2 different branches of the family. Angell Town as such was a central part of the estate on the east side of Brixton Road, arranged along Wiltshire Road, developed in the 1850s. The last part of the estate to be developed was Angell Terrace, between St. John’s Crescent and Gresham Road, only completed in 1868.
Much of the estate was demolished by Lambeth Council in the early 1970s to build their own Angell Town Estate, but much of this had to be rebuilt in recent years due to poor design.
Probably the largest surviving part of the original estate is St. John’s Crescent.
This is named after Professor Albert James Bernays, a very distinguished chemist. He lived in Acre House, No. 2 Brixton Hill, a grand house on the Corner of Brixton Hill and Acre Lane where the Town Hall now stands, until his death in 1892.
Early directories show the street name spelled correctly as “Bernays Grove”. At some point, someone decided to insert an incorrect apostrophe.
This was part of Lord Holland’s Lambeth Wick Estate. Vassall Road and Foxley Road nearby commemorate surnames of other branches of the family, so there may be a family connection with Cowley on the fringes of Oxford. One small terrace of original Regency houses survives at the north end of the street, but the rest of the east side was demolished in the early 1970s, and now forms part of “Oval Quarter”.
The Cowley Estate was built by the London County Council in the 1930s, and extended in the early 1960s to include the Brixton Road frontage.
This was formed in 1810 during the enclosure of Rush Common. It ran in front of Effra Farm, between Coldharbour Lane and Brixton Water Lane. Effra appears to be a corruption of Heathrow, the name of the farm or estate shown in medieval records. The Effra Hall or farmhouse stood roughly where the Effra Hall Tavern stands today.
The farm also gave its name to the river which runs through it. In fact the watercourse runs almost the length of Lambeth, rising near Crystal Palace, running alongside Brixton Road from the police station northwards, and emerging near the foot of Vauxhall Bridge.
Brixton was developing rapidly as a shopping destination during the 1880s, with the Bon Marché and other department stores attracting shoppers from a wider area by train and tram.
Electric Avenue was opened as a prestigious shopping street in 1888, the first such to be lit by electricity, from a coal-fired generator behind one of the shops.
Its distinctive feature was glazed cast-iron canopies over the pavements in front of the shops, so shoppers were protected from the rain. The electric lamps were suspended from the canopies.
When the Council allowed street traders’ barrows to extend into the Avenue in 1950, it was already looking a bit battered due to war damage and neglect. The last of the canopy was dismantled c.1989 but the Council had miscalculated and could not afford to put anything back in its place.
This used to be the northern end of Wiltshire Road, but was cut off by building of the Angell Town Estate in the early 1970s. The separate section was given this name because 5 roads appear to meet at the traffic lights where Loughborough Road takes a sharp bend.
see Slade Gardens.
The Loughborough part of the title comes from Henry Hastings, who was created 1st Baron Loughborough in 1660, when King Charles II was restored to the throne. Henry had commanded Royalist forces in Leicestershire during the Civil War, but in the 1660s he was living at Loughborough House, just to the east of Brixton Road, at the corner of the present Loughborough Road and Evandale Road. That house was rebuilt before 1700 but the new version was used as a boys’ boarding school in the late 18th and early 19th century until demolished c.1854, when the area was being covered with new streets of houses.
Most of the land along Loughborough Road was first developed by successive Lords Holland (see Myatt’s Fields). One Regency terrace survives next to the school. The next phase of development was in the 1840s and 50s under the 3rd Lord Holland, but most of this has been replaced by later flats, apart from sections in Barrington Road and Loughborough Park.
Loughborough Junction Station was genuinely a junction of railway services from the 1860s until the First World War, when local railway services were cut back. Nowadays only the Thameslink service between Blackfriars and Herne Hill stops here. Even the London Overground service sails past without stopping.
Between Brixton and Camberwell lay the extensive Minet family estate. The main part was let to market gardener Joseph Myatt until the 1880s, when most of the estate was built over. However a new park was created in the centre of the estate and opened in 1889 as Myatt’s Fields Park.
Other amenities provided within the estate were Longfield Hall, the Minet Library and a home for District Nurses.
Lambeth Council’s Myatts Fields Estates (North and South) were built in the 1970s on land further west which had been owned by Lord Holland in the 19th century, but which had later reverted to the Church Commissioners.
At one time it was supposed that the road was named after John Railton, who was William Booth’s deputy as leader of the Salvation Army, but the road was actually named (c.1869) before he even joined that organisation. The accepted explanation nowadays is that it was named from a local landowner back in the 16th century, Gregory Railton.
This must be one of the shortest roads in the area. It is a cul-de-sac off Stockwell Road leading into Stockwell Primary School.
It is named after Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador (1917-1980) who was shot dead while celebrating Mass on 24th March 1980. He was a leading light of South American “Liberation Theology”. Pope Francis declared him a saint on 14 October 2018.
Originally a residential area of smaller, cheaper houses away from the more prestigious Brixton Road frontage, the whole originally developed by Felix Slade, a wealthy businessman who is chiefly remembered for endowing the Slade School of Art, and a professorship at Oxford.
After bombing during the Second World War, most of this area was cleared to provide a small public open space. Original road names came from places in Yorkshire/ the Pennines, based on Slade family connections with that area.
Ingleborough Street is the only road name to survive, with just a small block of 1930s apartments left almost in the middle of the park.