About Streatham

Streatham means “the hamlet on the street”. The street in question, the London to Brighton Way, was the Roman Road from the capital Londinium to the coast near Portslade. It is likely that the destination was a Roman port now lost to coastal erosion, which has been tentatively identified with the ‘Novus Portus’ mentioned in Ptolemy’s Geographia. The road is confusingly referred to as Stane Street in some sources, although it diverges from the main London-Chichester road at Kennington.

After the departure of the Romans, the main road through Streatham remained an important trackway. From the seventeenth century it was adopted as the main coach road to Croydon and East Grinstead, and then on to Newhaven and Lewes. In 1780 it then became the route of the turnpike road from London to Brighton, and subsequently became the basis for the modern A23. This road (and its traffic) have shaped Streatham’s development.

Streatham’s first parish church, St Leonard’s, dates back to Saxon times, although only the mediaeval tower remains in the present church. The mediaeval parish covered an extensive area, including most of modern Balham and parts of Tooting.

Streatham appears in Domesday Book of 1086 as Estreham. It was held by Bec-Hellouin Abbey (in Normandy) from Richard de Tonbrige. Its domesday assets were: 2 hides and 1 virgates; 6½ ploughs, 4 acres (16,000 m2) of meadow, and herbage. It rendered £4 5s 0d.

The village remained largely unchanged until the 18th century, when the village’s natural springs, known as Streatham Wells, were first celebrated for their health giving properties. The reputation of the spa, and improved turnpike roads, attracted wealthy City of London merchants and others to lay out their country residences in Streatham. Few of these large houses still remain, as the area was rapidly urbanised as London expanded.

Streatham Park or Streatham Place

Main article: Streatham Park

In the 1730s, Streatham Park, a Georgian country mansion, was built by the brewer Ralph Thrale on land he bought from the Lord of the Manor - the fourth Duke of Bedford. 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, most notably the lexicographer Samuel Johnson. The dining room contained 12 portraits of Henry’s guests painted by his friend Joshua Reynolds. These pictures were wittily labelled by Fanny Burney as the Streatham Worthies.

Streatham Park was later leased to Prime Minister Lord Shelburne, and was the venue for early negotiations with France that lead to the Peace Treaty of 1783. Streatham Park was demolished in 1863.

Park Hill

One large house which survives is Park Hill, on the north side of Streatham Common, rebuilt in the early 19th century for the Leaf family. It was latterly the home of Sir Henry Tate, sugar refiner, benefactor of local libraries across south London, including Streatham Library, and founder of the Tate Gallery at Millbank.


Development accelerated after the opening of Streatham Hill railway station on the West End of London and Crystal Palace Railway in 1856. The other two railway stations followed within fifteen years. Some estates, such as Telford Park to the west of Streatham Hill were spaciously planned with facilities such as tennis clubs. Despite the local connections to the Dukes of Bedford, there is no link to the contemporary Bedford Park in west London. Another generously sized development was Roupell Park, the area near Christchurch Road promoted by the Roupell family. Other streets adopted more conventional suburban layouts. Three more parish churches were built to serve the growing area, including Immanuel and St Andrews (1854), St Peter (1870) and St Margaret the Queen (1889). There is now a mixture of buildings from all architectural eras of the past 200 years.

The inter-war period

Between the First World War and the Second World War Streatham developed as location for entertainment, with Streatham Hill Theatre (now a bingo hall), three cinemas, the Locarno ballroom (now Caesar’s nightclub) and Streatham Ice Rink all adding to its reputation as “the West End of South London”. With the advent of electric tram services it also grew as a shopping centre serving a wide area to the south. In the 1930s large numbers of apartment blocks were constructed along the High Road. 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. In 1932 the parish church of the Holy Redeemer was built in Streatham Vale to commemorate the work of William Wilberforce.



Notable residents

The first Mayor of London and former head of the GLC Ken Livingstone spent most of his childhood in Streatham.

The only official English Heritage blue plaque in central Streatham is on the childhood home of composer Arnold Bax in Pendennis Road.

Just within the modern boundaries of Streatham Hill, although historically it was in Norwood, there is also a blue plaque on the house in Lanercost Road where Arthur Mee the writer of Arthur Mee’s Children’s Encyclopedia lived.

Ken Mackintosh, one of the leading dance band leaders of the 1950s and 1960s, lived for many years at 26, South Side, Streatham Common. Drum and bass DJ Grooverider is from Streatham.Mark King (Level 42) lived for several years in the Spinney and Boon Gould (Level 42) lived for several years in Gleneldon Road.

Siobhan Dowd, author, lived in Abbotsford Road (1960–1978). Beryl Kingston, popular novelist, lived at Strathbrook Road, from 1956–1980 and taught at what was then Rosa Bassett School in Welham Road, and also at Sunnyhill Primary School. Dennis Wheatley, author, was born in Streatham, and lived for a time on Valley Road. Leila Berg, author and journalist, lived for many years at 25, South Side, Streatham Common. Several of her books feature photographs by John Walmsley taken in Streatham, which depict residents of Streatham in their daily lives.

From the world of fashion, Sir Norman Hartnell, dressmaker to the Queen, was born in Streatham. The Dior fashion designer John Galliano spent some of his youth in Streatham, before moving to nearby Dulwich. Naomi Campbell, model, went to Dunraven Comprehensive School and lived in nearby Norbury. TV presenter Sarah Beeny has lived in Streatham for many years.

Perhaps because of its good late night transport connections to the West End, and the availability of apartments as well as family houses, Streatham and nearby Brixton Hill have attracted entertainers to live in the area since the days of music hall. There is a Streatham Society plaque to the birthplace of comedian Tommy Trinder at 54 Wellfield Road. Others with local connections include actors Roger Moore, Simon Callow, Peter Davison, Nicholas Clay, Neil Pearson and June Whitfield, saucy seaside postcard artist Donald McGill and comedians Eddie Izzard, Jeremy Hardyand Paul Merton. Actor Hywel Bennett lived in Streatham and attended Sunnyhill Primary School, and comedian and broadcaster Roy Hudd lived for a time on Hoadly Road.

Aleister Crowley, spent his teenage years during the 1880s in Streatham at a house opposite the present ice rink. Cynthia Payne made headlines in the 1970s and 1980s with her brothel in Ambleside Avenue. Afghan warlord Zardad Khan lived in Gleneagle Road before his arrest in 2003.

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