Streatham, believe it or not, was once home to some of the wealthiest gentlemen in the capital, had the richest and most intricate architecture in south London and was known to be both enchanting and immensely popular! Unfortunately that sense of admiration for the buildings and residential pride is not something Streatham is able to boast in the current day. Nevertheless, the unexpected and undeniably fascinating history of Streatham provides both intrigue into the past and hope for the future. Today it is known for having the longest high street in Europe and one of the highest crime rates in the capital; a far cry from it’s halcyon days as a fashionable suburb.


Between the years of 1870 and 1894, Streatham Hill underwent several changes. Interestingly just north of Wavertree Road in 1870, there was the Royal Asylum of St. Anne’s Society which twenty-four years later toward the latter part of the Victorian era became the St. Pancras Workhouse where the orphaned, unemployed, homeless and mentally ill lived and worked to survive. Nowadays a block of flats and the Brixton Arriva London Bus Garage occupies this area. In the late nineteenth century, Leigham Court Estate also existed in Streatham Hill and consisted of a large and very grand house first occupied by John William Liddiard spanning several acres of land. By 1914 the majority of the estate's land had formed additional roads and terraced housing though the house itself still stood, thus building Streatham into a thriving residential area. Aristocratic estates were evidently becoming less common and too expensive to maintain during this time. 

Another interesting time frame in the history of Streatham Hill is the period just before the Second World War. Rent prices of the 1930s will have the post-graduate, recession-sufferers of today’s jaw’s take an almighty plunge. In a 1938 advertisement, rentals of ‘modern family’ two-bedroom flats with constant central-heating and what was once a great sales appeal- a billiards room, cost a mere £80 per annum. By modern comparison a flat such as this would cost approximately £550 per week, which is three hundred and fifty-eight times more than what was paid seventy-five years ago. Sigh.

Many areas of Streatham were destructed by the blitz. One remarkable picture shows a Nazi bomber taking part in the Sunday raids on Streatham High road at the top of Telford Avenue. Thankfully the bomb missed great blocks of flats (the 'cheap' ones previously mentioned) on either side of the street but unfortunately large pieces of flying stone smashed the windows as far as two hundred yards away. In addition, there are many collections of houses that stand out in the area from others on the street. On Telford Avenue for example, several clusters of houses are not of the dominant Victorian design and it has always been said that they were built after bomb damage. In fact the Victorians left many areas of the streets undeveloped and those houses were simply built post-war to provide more accommodation. It is remarkable how people who travel through or have lived in Streatham for so long can be so unaware of its complex historical heritage.


Streatham Hill as an area has truly transformed over the past century, from existing as a grand suburb fit for the upper class in the nineteenth century to being targeted by Nazi bombs in the Second World War. Although Streatham is debatably an up and coming place, there is still great stigma attached to it as a grim, trafficked high street occupied by charity shops, off licences and derelict cafes. Perhaps it was the mid-twentieth century that fractured the area, causing its reputation to descend considerably, but this rich legacy has great potential to be restored if development and restoration are left in the hands of the willing and the capable. The history of Streatham is as inspiring and promising as its future. Streatham ought not to be underestimated.