urban75 blog

Lost streets of Brixton: Geneva Road, SW9

Now lost beneath the Moorlands Estate development of the 1970s, Geneva Road once ran south from Coldharbour Lane, and consisted of an unbroken terrace of solid three-storey Victorian buildings with basements.

The former junction with Coldharbour Lane is now buried under Southwyck House (aka the Barrier Block), and while no trace of the original road remains, the name lives on in the nearby Geneva Drive.

Built around the 1870s, Geneva Road fell into a slow decline after the war, and by the fifties were housing a large West Indian community.

A contemporary report from March 1955 observed life in the area:

About 3,000 West Indians are living in the Borough of Lambeth, in South London. Most have taken homes in Brixton, packing themselves into Geneva Road and Somerleyton Road, where the houses are large and high and dowdy.

To judge from the number of windows which at night are lit up, with the shadow of a dressing-table mirror thrown onto faded, pinned curtains, a lot of the houses have been divided into flats and bed-sitting rooms. ‘For Sale–8 Lots Without Reserve’ reads a notice outside one dusty looking residence. Is this, one wonders, the work of some rogue landlord

On a wall in one these roads someone has whitewashed the slogan ‘Keep Brixton White’ The whitewash has been partly covered by brown paint and the weather has taken off some of the remainder.

But the cool, menacing words are still just discernible and it is faintly sickening to read them in the lamplight. Yet from the evidence of a number of visits to Brixton, one would say that on the whole the Jamaicans are quite unobjectionable; as sober and as responsible in their behaviour and as modest in their bearing as anyone could wish.

Here’s an 1870 Ordnance Survey map of the area, showing large parts of Brixton still undeveloped.

Read more about Geneva Road and see more photos and maps here.