Originally named Brixstane, meaning the stone of Brixi, a Saxon Lord, Brixton has a long and rich history. From our world-famous markets to our historic buildings and green spaces, our town centre is a distinctive destination.
Brixton Village and Market Row
Market Row was built in 1928. Designed by RS Andrews and J Peascod, the covered market occupies an infill between buildings on Electric Avenue, Atlantic Road, Coldharbour Lane and Electric Lane.
Brixton Village, originally named Granville Arcade after the developer Mr Granville-Grossman, was designed by Alfred and Vincent Burr. It was opened by the actor Carl Brisson on 6th of May 1937.
Brixton Village is similar in architecture to Market Row, with a curved steel truss roof structure that lights the avenues.
The markets have adapted over the years to reflect the local community. Famous now for their global food outlets, largely influenced by the extensive Afro-Caribbean community that settled in Brixton after WWII.
Brixton Market is infamous for stalls selling plantains, Jamaican patties, yams, green bananas, ackee, saltfish, gungo beans, scotch bonnets and more. The role of Brixton’s markets in its social history helped form the decision to grant Grade II listed status to the buildings in 2010.
Electric Avenue was built in 1888. It was the first shopping street to be lit by electricity and a little while later a Victorian iron and glass canopy was installed. The street soon became a focal point of Brixton’s thriving shopping centre.
Brixton Academy was originally built in 1929 as the Brixton Astoria Theatre and was opened on the 19th of August 1929. Designed by T. R. Somerford and Edward Albert Stone as a Super Cinema with stage facilities, the theatre’s exterior was designed in the Italian Renaissance Style, with an auditorium decorated by Marc Henri in the ‘Atmospheric’ style. The theatre became known as the Brixton Academy and was designated a Grade II Listed building on 16th January 1974 and this was upgraded to Grade II* Listed building on 26th March 1990. In 2006 renovation work was carried out to restore the building to its 1929 splendour. In a sponsorship deal with the mobile telephone company O2, it was re-named O2 Academy Brixton from January 2009.
Brixton Windmill was built in 1816, the windmill was operated for all its working life by three generations of the Ashby family, and was known locally as Ashby’s Mill. It is the only remaining windmill of 12 that stood in the Lambeth area at various times. These included several industrial mills along the River Thames. This 204-year-old Grade II* listed building is London’s last working windmill.
Bon Marche opened in 1877 as the first purpose-built department store in the country. The railway and horse-drawn trams enabled customers to come from a wider area, and other large stores began to open in Brixton. The Bon Marche itself trebled in size in 1887. Built between 1876-1877 to the designs by Lambeth architects, Messrs H. Parsons & Rawlings, the store was the first steel frame building in the country. The department store was named after the original Bon Marché in Paris the department store opened on 1st April 1877 at a cost of £70,000.
Reliance Arcade runs between Brixton Road and Electric Lane. Built into an existing Georgian house between 1923 and 1925, in the Art Deco style. The Electric Lane frontage is a rare surviving example of Egyptian inspired terracotta architecture which was in fashion following the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922.
A strategic redevelopment plan for Brixton was devised by Ted Hollamby, at that stage the Director of Development Services for the Borough of Lambeth, who conceived a new town centre with raised walkways linking shops, offices and houses to a central hub, a recreation centre, for the area’s fast-growing population. The Rec was the first phase to be implemented.
Eurolink building (formerly Brixton Synagogue) was opened in 1913, prior to that services were held from 1905-09 in Carlton Hall and from 1909, at 44 Brixton Road. The building was enlarged in 1921 but closed in 1986, when the congregation amalgamated with the Streatham Synagogue.
The Tate Library, on Windrush Square, was gifted to the community by Sir Henry Tate. The library was opened in 1893 by the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII). It was designed by Sydney R. Smith, who later designed the first Tate Gallery, now known as Tate Britain.
Lambeth Town Hall
The Edwardian Baroque building of Lambeth Town Hall was designed by architects Warwick and Hall, who won a competition that attracted 143 entries. It was formally opened by the Prince and Princess of Wales, the future King George V and Queen Mary on 29 April 1908.
Bradys is a Victorian building and listed tower used to house one of the most infamous drinking establishments in Brixton, The Railway and, after a name change, Brady’s of Brixton. Jimi Hendrix is rumoured to have played here after a gig in the West End in the 1960s, as well as many other well-known performers.
Black Cultural Archives
1 Windrush Square was built in 1824 as two houses, 1-3 Effra Road, with an additional meeting hall built around 1885. In the 1960s the buildings became derelict and fell into disrepair following the closure of Raleigh Hall Works. The Black Cultural Archive was granted the lease of 1-3 Effra Road, and opened with its current address 1 Windrush Square in 2014, with the modern architectural additions. The Archives were founded in 1981 by educationalist and historian Len Garrison and others. BCA’s mission is to record, preserve and celebrate the history of people of African descent in Britain.
The Atlantic Pub
The Atlantic was first opened in 1870 as a Victorian hotel. For many years it was ‘Brixton’s most visible Black pub’ and was an important part of the local community. It was close to the epicentre of the Brixton Uprising of ’81, but was targeted in the 1995 Brixton Riots, after reopening as Dogstar. The current owners restored the building in 2016, lighting the Atlantic sign at the top of the building and highlighting the victorian architectural decoration on its facade. The Atlantic is important for its architectural, social and cultural history.
The Ritzy Cinema was built next door to the Brixton Theatre and originally opened as the Electric Pavilion in 1911. Constructed by E.C. Homer and Lucas for Israel Davis, one of a noted family of cinema developers, the Electric Pavilion was one of England’s earliest purpose-built cinemas with 750 seats, complete with an organ by the side of the screen to add musical accompaniment to the silent films.The Edwardian cinema was enlarged in the 1990s and now occupies part of the site of the demolished Brixton Theatre.
Built in the Greek Doric style by C F Porden, St Matthew’s Church was built on a part of Rush Common in the 1820s, with the foundation stone laid by Dr Charles Manners-Sutton, Archbishop of Canterbury, on 1st July 1822.
The Rush Common Act had allowed for the building of St Matthew’s Road and Effra Road, and left a triangle of land suitable for a church, but it had banned building on the land, so another Act, known as the 1821 Rush Common Amendment Act was passed to allow for the building of St Matthew’s Church.