Then and Now: Geneva Road, off Coldharbour Lane
Photographic comparisons of old and modern views of Lambeth
(Modern photo © urban75, Feb, 2011, all archive photos © Lambeth Archives)
1912 Looking south-east along Geneva Road, from its junction with Coldharbour Lane. A pair of children play in the deserted street while a window cleaner's cart and ladder can be seen to the right.
The 1870 Ordnance Survey map shows only the middle section of the road developed, but by 1894 housing flanked the entire length of the street.
Looking east along Coldharbour Lane with the entrance to Geneva Road on the right (see 'then and now' view).
The solid three-storey Victorian buildings would have contained basement flats, and the smart iron railings running the length of the street, gas lamps, swept road and well tended trees suggest that this was an affluent, middle class neighbourhood.
The street ran parallel to Somerleyton Road and formed a T-junction with Geneva Terrace at its southern end.
July 2009 In the 1970s, the development of the vast Moorlands Estate saw the widespread demolition of hundreds of Victorian and Edwardian properties, many of them already semi-derelict after being intentionally run down by landlords.
Both Geneva Road and the adjacent Sussex Road disappeared forever, although a 'Geneva Drive' survives, albeit a much narrower and smaller affair, some distance from its original namesake.
The monolithic Southwyck House (aka The Barrier Block) now stands on the site of the road, and is this view taken on Coldharbour Lane you can see a partially demolished wall - a result of a car crash.
Geneva Road, c1965.
Geneva Road, c1965.
Life on Geneva Road
A document published in 1995, 'Jamaican Journeyman: Job-Seekers from the Isle of Sun and Poverty' ( PDF file) described conditions in Geneva Road and the surrounding 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.
They have their mannerisms, it is true. In the local pub ('Select Dining Room Upstairs') they play darts with the regulars and to a man keep their hats on their heads.
Some, like the two men who passed into the night, discussing how to keep warm, walk as to some inner, throbbing music. But only the chronically irascible would object to such things.
There are certain London streets which have the reputation of being 'tough', so that, it is said, the police always patrol them in pairs.
That is a fairly reliable guide to the amount of civic disturbance habitually expected from any given neighbourhood. Along Geneva and Somerleyton Roads the policemen walk singly.
Truth to tell, there are cat-calls to be heard in Brixton of a Saturday night, but they are from the local Teddy-boys and their flat-shoed girl friends, who as bearers of a white skin are exempt from having rude words written on walls about them.
Area around Geneva Road, Brixton, 1864, from [Stanford's Library Map Of London And Its Suburbs]
Geneva Road, Brixton, 1870. Atlantic Road (to the left) is nothing more than a country track.
Geneva Road, Brixton, 1894. Note how Brixton has built up considerably in just 24 years.
In late Victorian times, the gardens in the top left of the map were replaced by the Lambeth Carlton Club which later made way for the Brixton Village/Granville Arcade of the 1930s. A school has been built on the adjacent Sussex Road, and this survives as Hillmead Primary School, with its fine Victorian architecture intact.
Geneva Road, Brixton - Google maps view, 2011 [click on map for larger view].
Geneva Road, Brixton - Google maps satellite view, 2011.
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