15 Things you probably didn’t know about Streatham in South-West London

Streatham means “the hamlet on the street”.

The street in question was the Roman road from Londinium to the south coast near Portslade, today within Brighton and Hove. The destination was likely the Roman port called ‘Novus Portus’.

The modern A23 was a Roman road.

After the departure of the Romans, the main road through Streatham remained an important trackway.

Streatham in the past had a different name.

Streatham, as it appears in the Domesday Book of 1086, was known as ‘Estreham’.

Streatham was the home of the rich and famous.

Starting in the 18th century, wealthy City of London merchants, build their country residences in Streatham. The natural springs are known as Streatham Wells. They were first acknowledged for their health-giving properties, during this century. Also improved turnpike roads were an important attraction.

The area takes its name from a Georgian country mansion.

Streatham Park, or Streatham Place, was built in 1730 by Ralph Thrale (1698-1758) on 89 acres of land bought from the local Lord of the Manor – the fourth Duke of Bedford. The estate was six miles from London on the edge of the common between Streatham and Tooting in a district which then was wholesome, green and rural. Streatham Park later passed to Ralph’s son Henry Thrale, who with his wife Hester Thrale entertained many of the leading literary and artistic characters of the day. The dining room contained 12 portraits of Henry’s guests painted by Reynolds. These pictures were wittily labelled by Frances Burney as the Streatham Worthies. The Streatham Park mansion was demolished in 1863 and the estate and adjacent fields were laid out for suburban development. The land that formed Streatham Park is now bounded by Tooting Bec Common to the north, Thrale Road and West Road to the west, and the London to Brighton railway to the east. This area is still known as Streatham Park today.

Streatham Hill railway station it’s 163 years old.

It was the first of the three stations to open in 1856. The other two overground stations in Streatham opened within the next 15 years, so the area has been well-serviced by trains for over a century.

The UK’s first supermarket was in Streatham.

An Express Dairies Premier Supermarket opened its first 2,500 square feet (230 m2) store in 1951, in Streatham; Waitrose after opened its first supermarket in Streatham in 1955, but it closed down in 1963.

Streatham was known as “the West End of South London”.

After the First World War Streatham developed as a location for entertainment, with Streatham Hill Theatre (then a bingo hall), three cinemas, the Locarno ballroom (Caesar’s nightclub, which closed in 2010) and Streatham Ice Rink. With the advent of electric tram services it also grew as a shopping centre serving a wide area to the south.

Streatham High Road is the longest high street in Europe.

In the 1950s Streatham had the longest and busiest shopping street in south London. In the 1930s large numbers of blocks of flats were constructed along the High Road. Although built with all modern comforts and facilities (like residents’ carriage storage, ballroom and entertainment halls, swimming pool, concierge etc.) these speculative developments were not initially successful. They were only filled when émigré communities began to arrive in London after leaving countries under the domination of Hitler’s Germany.

Streatham High Road was voted ‘The Worst Street in Britain’.

In September 2002, a poll by the BBC’s Today Programme voted Streatham High Road the “Worst Street in Britain”. A combination of factors led to a continuous decline through the 1970s and a more accelerated decline in the 1980s. These included long term population movements out to Croydon, Kingston and Sutton; the growth of heavy traffic on the A23 (main road from central London to Gatwick Airport and Brighton); and a scarcity of redevelopment sites in the town centre. This culminated in 1990 when the closure of Pratts, operated since the 1940s by the John Lewis Partnership, coincided with the opening of Sainsbury’s supermarket, half a mile south of the town centre, replacing a smaller Sainbury’s store located opposite Streatham Hill station.

Streatham was selected as one of the areas to enjoy Round 1 of the Mayor of London’s Outer London Fund.

First gaining £300,000 and later, it was awarded a further £1.6 million, matched by another £1 million by Lambeth. The money from this fund was spent on improving streets and public spaces in Streatham. Streatham has benefited from a large amount of regeneration. Including a £1.2m library refit, a new leisure centre with the capital’s only Olympic-sized ice rink and a new supermarket. Shopfronts and buildings on the high road also got a facelift. Including painting and cleaning, replacing shutters and signage. New lighting to some of Streatham’s more attractive buildings and monuments helped improve the Skyline.

A secret garden is hidden at the top of the hill of Streatham Common.

Opened in 1913, the landscaped Rookery area in Streatham is well worth a visit. The Rookery, formerly the grounds of a large house that housed visitors to one of Streatham’s historic mineral wells. Apart from its old cedar trees in the main garden, there is also a rock garden – with a cascade and lower water garden dominated by giant Gunnera. A series of walled gardens were created in part of the former kitchen gardens, including an Old English Garden and a White Garden. The White Garden was first opened to the public on July 1913. Queen Mary and Princess Royal visited in 1936. Queen Mary often visited the Rookery in the years during the war.

Sir Henry Tate lived at Park Hill by Streatham Common.

He was an English sugar merchant and philanthropist, noted for founding the Tate Gallery in London. Henry Tate made many donations, often anonymously and always discreetly. He supported “alternative” and non-establishment causes. He particularly supported health and education with his money. He also funded building a free library in Streatham. Henry Tate died in December 1899 in his home in Streatham. He was buried in nearby West Norwood Cemetery. Its gates are opposite a public library that he endowed. Park Hill became a nunnery after his death. Then refurbished as housing development around 2004.

Supermodel Naomi Campbell was born and raised in Streatham.

She went to school at Dunraven. There is a long list of famous people who had their roots in Streatham.

Streatham is by far one of the most diverse and vibrant parts of South London.

The area strong sense of community and lively cultural vibe has played a very important part in the regained success of the area in recent years.