Streatham1 is a suburb of south London that makes up the south-western part of the borough of Lambeth. The name 'Streatham' derives from 'Hamlet on the Street' via 'Street Ham' - the street in question is the road from London to Croydon that goes on to Brighton.
Streatham remained as a small village until around the time of the Great Plague (1664 - 1666) and the Great Fire of London (1666). People were forced to flee from the City, and many of today's London suburbs began to flourish. This proximity to the City and (at that time) countryside also meant that merchants and other wealthy individuals started to settle in Streatham, particularly when a 'medicinal' spa was discovered in the area. The population grew, and visitors became more frequent. By the late 19th Century, Streatham was a popular place for the wealthy to build their mansions and country retreats.
The next change in Streatham's population began with the opening of Streatham Hill railway station in 1856. The new ease of commuting into the City led to large numbers of middle-class workers moving to the area. In less than 300 years, Streatham had gone from being a small village, to being a rural sanctuary for the rich, to being a busy London commuter suburb.
Things To Do in Streatham
In the late 1920s, Streatham gradually began to develop numerous entertainment facilities. Today, Streatham boasts an eight-screen cinema, a bowling alley, a bingo hall, a nightclub, and a leisure centre with a swimming pool, gym, dance studio and sauna. One of Streatham's most notable venues is its ice-rink, home of the Streatham Chiefs and Streatham's Storm ice hockey teams for men and women, respectively.
Those wishing to eat out in Streatham can choose from over 30 restaurants. Almost any type of cuisine is available, from Chinese, Indian and Thai to Greek, Spanish and Caribbean. For those who like a drink, Streatham has somewhere in the region of 20 pubs.
Outdoor types can take a wander on Streatham Common, which includes a public garden known as 'The Rookery'. This was once part of a large house that has since been demolished, and marks the former site of Streatham's mineral spa. Other green parts of Streatham are Streatham Vale Park, Streatham Green and Hillside Gardens.
For those of a historical bent, Streatham contains a Grade 1 listed building2 in the form of Christ Church. Other buildings of interest include Park Hill, which is the former home of Sir Henry Tate3, St Leonard's Church, which appeared in the Doomsday Book of 1086, and the Southwark and Vauxhall Pumping Station, which looks a lot prettier than it sounds.
One thing that you can no longer do in Streatham is visit the 'disorderly house' that was once run by the celebrated madam Cynthia Payne. In 1978, the police raided a typical-looking Streatham house to find her running a brothel. In 1980 she was sentenced to six months in prison and a large fine. She has since used her 'experiences' as the basis of a career in writing and after-dinner speaking.
Streatham High Road
At a length of 2km, Streatham High Road - the main street running the length of Streatham - claims to be the longest high street in Western Europe. It runs from Streatham Hill station in the north all the way down to Norbury Park in the south. Along its length, the High Road has many shops - both small, local retailers and well-known chains - as well as restaurants, take-aways, pubs and most of the leisure facilities mentioned above. In 1999, the High Road was named as a 'conservation area' by English Heritage from whom businesses in the area have received grants for regeneration of their buildings and other environmental services. The need for such work was highlighted in a recent survey carried out by the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment, which determined that Streatham High Road is 'Britain's worst street'.
Transport in Streatham
Streatham High Road - also known as the A23 - is one of the main routes out of London to the south and, as a consequence, is always busy. To the north, it leads to Brixton - home of the Brixton Academy music venue and the most liberal soft-drug policy in the UK - and on to the centre of London. To the south it passes through Croydon on its way to Brighton. The South Circular Road - a sort of 'outer ring-road' for London - passes just to the north of Streatham, running east-west.
Streatham has a lot of bus services, and to list all the numbers and destinations here would be rather dull. Suffice to say that you can travel from Streatham by bus to:
- Central London (Westminster, Marble Arch, Oxford Circus, Chelsea)
- The City (Liverpool Street)
- South London (Brixton, Croydon, Crystal Palace)
- South-west London (Kingston)
- Main-line rail stations (King's Cross, Waterloo, Euston)
There are also two night buses that pass through Streatham, one from Marble Arch and one from Liverpool Street. These services run regularly throughout the night.
Streatham has three rail stations:
- Streatham Hill - at the northern end of Streatham High Road
- Streatham - roughly halfway along the High Road, near the ice-rink
- Streatham Common - towards the southern end of the High Road, in Streatham Vale
Streatham Hill and Streatham Common both have regular trains to London Victoria (every 15 minutes at peak times), although the stations are on different branches. It takes 15 - 20 minutes to reach Victoria. In the other direction, trains run to Crystal Palace and on to Croydon or Beckenham Junction. At peak times, trains also loop back and travel to London Bridge, taking around 25 minutes.
Trains from Streatham station travel regularly to London Bridge, and Streatham also lies on the Thameslink line from Luton to Sutton, via Luton Airport and King's Cross.
Streatham does not currently have a London Underground station, although a planned extension to the East London line is expected to arrive in Streatham in 2006.
Currently, the nearest tube stations are Brixton (Victoria Line) and Balham (Northern Line). Buses to Brixton station run frequently, while Balham can be easily reached by train from Streatham Common and Streatham Hill.
Streatham may not be the nicest part of London in which to live, but nor is it the worst. Local opinion seems to think that Streatham is rapidly becoming fashionable, in the same way that Islington did in the 1960s and Clapham and Battersea have more recently. It is helped by its proximity to Brixton (regarded by many people as a 'very trendy' area) and, if development of the area and its transport links continues, Streatham may soon be the place to live in south London.