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Smart Brixton and Continental Streatham
A view of Brixton from sixty years ago
(Updated 17th October 2008)

Tasked with creating a record "of the changes which have taken place in the Metropolis of the British Empire between the two World Wars and much that is scheduled for reconstruction," 'London Marches On' by Harrold P. Clunn was published in 1947

Full of rosy post-WW2 optimism, the author purred enthusiastically about how a new London would rise from the ashes of WW2 to become a "shining monument to the courage, fortitude and enterprise of the citizens of this glorious metropolis of the British Empire."

"It promises to become the most magnificent city in the whole world," he added.

Here's his comments about Brixton and neighbouring Streatham:

quote A century ago London ended at North Brixton and once you had passed the Old White Horse Hotel the houses became fewer and fields and open country were close at hand.

Ellerslie Square, Brixton, 1944
White Horse, 1910

The Old White Horse Hotel, which has since been rebuilt, was a famous omnibus terminus in the days of the slow horse­drawn public conveyances, and little more than sixty years ago the conductors used to call out "Any more for London?"

To-day Brixton Road has become the Oxford Street of South London and its fine shops include the two large drapery stores of Messrs.

Quin and Axten Ltd. and the Bon Marche, both of which are now owned by the John Lewis Partnership, Ltd.

Unfortunately, the Quin and Axten store was completely destroyed in the earlier air raids of 1940 and only its ruined walls now remain. Its business is transferred for the time being to the neighbouring Bon Marche store.

Ellerslie Square, Brixton, 1944
Bomb damage, Ellerslie Square, Brixton, 1944

The shopping section of Brixton Road commences near Stockwell Road and extends southwards for about half a mile to Acre Lane. That portion which lies between Atlantic Road and Coldharbour Lane formerly included a wide open space which was used as a street market, but this was abolished in 1935.

A portion of this ground was utilised in 1936 to widen the roadway at a cost of £13,000 and the remainder was allotted for building to the owners of the frontages to Brixton Road.

This has resulted in the erection of several handsome new buildings on the site of the former shabby houses which lined the east side of the road. Brixton Road bears a smart appearance which is totally lacking in similar neighbourhoods.

Of the more attractive suburbs of South London first place should, perhaps, be awarded to Streatham, which affords all the amenities of a large and handsome town. It comprises Streatham proper and the ultra-modern district of 'Streatham Hill which lies to the north. Streatham High Road extends for a distance of two miles from the top of Brixton Hill to Norbury.

It is exceptionally wide at the northern end and is bordered for almost its entire length with smart shops, cinemas, theatres, and ultra-modern blocks of flats which give Streatham the most Continental appearance of any of the larger London suburbs.quote

Extract courtesy of external link Transpontine blogzine

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