Brixton has been home to a wide array of tradespeople for over 150 years. Innovative and community focussed businesses have been popping up ever since 1862, when the railway first came to the area.
In the late 1800s, Brixton was South London’s favourite place for shopping, eating out and meeting friends. Everyone loved Morley’s, Bon Marche, the Arches and Electric Avenue. The markets were busy – to the point of danger – with people, horses and cars. Brixton has always had a dynamic history where entrepreneurship and enterprise runs deep.
1919: the popular Pleasure Cinema at 26 Brixton Station Road had 150 seats in its railway arch and was one of nine cinemas in the area. It closed in 1919 like many other of the so-called ‘flea pits’.
1939-1942: Brixton suffered terrible bomb damage in World War Two. The middle class population left in droves, which led to many vacant spaces.
1948 – 1973: Many of The Windrush generation moved into the area and businesses changed within the Arches to reflect its new patrons from the West Indian and African diaspora. The Portuguese and South American communities also set up shop. The newer communities created opportunities and businesses to make Brixton their new home.
1996: Nelson Mandela comes to Brixton as part of a state visit, paying homage to the community whilst Brixtonians celebrated his freedom and leadership.
Today: Brixton was described as having “the most tremendous vitality” in 1933. Some things don’t change. Brixton is starting a new chapter with the re-development of its iconic arches, that will build on its roots of entrepreneurship, community, and hard work.