History of Baytree Road

The article below provides a full history of Baytree Road, within in the wider context of the creation of London itself, up until to the present day.

It was put together by Rob Blakemore (number 20) by collating existing maps and photography from online and other written sources. It presents the material in chronological order, and text has been edited and abridged in an attempt to make it fit together in a logical manner. Diagrams have been highlighted for enhanced context, and explanatory notes have been added as necessary.

47 AD

Londinium was established as a civilian town by the Romans about four years after their invasion (in 43 AD).  London, like Rome, was founded on the point of the river where it was narrow enough to bridge and the strategic location of the city provided easy access to much of Europe. This was on the banks of the Thames roughly where the current square mile ‘City of London’ is located (around 0.5 square miles in size).

The romans chose the spot on the River Thames because the River Thames was quick way to transport goods between Britain and the Continent. The Romans saw this and built the town of Londinium around the river’s main crossing point. They built the first London Bridge.

The romans thus created this key crossing point over the River Thames and turned the city into a road nexus, major port, and major commercial centre. It was provided with large public buildings such as a forum and amphitheatre. 

100 AD

By AD100, Londinium had grown to around 45,000 people, and was the largest city in Britannia, replacing Camulodunum (Colchester) as the provincial capital.  By AD 150, Londinium was at its height. Its forum basilica was one of the largest structures north of the Alps - and the Roman Emperor Hadrian visited Londinium in 122.

The road network that the Romans built is still largely in place as modern roads in Britain. Of the fifteen British routes (as recorded in the 2nd/3rd century historical records), seven of these ran to, or from, Londinium.

The Romans built roads all the way to the south coast - roads which include those now known as "Brixton Road" and "Clapham Road". 

AD 400+

In 407,  Constantine III (a common Roman soldier in Britain) declared himself emperor over the Western Roman Empire and crossed the Channel over into Gaul (France), taking all of the mobile troops from Britain with him.  This act is considered to be the Roman withdrawal from Britain, since Emperor Honorius subsequently directed the Britons to look to their own defence, rather than choosing to send in another garrison force.

In the 440s the Anglo-Saxon invasions of England began in earnest. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle records Britons fleeing into Londinium in terror following defeat in nearby battles. However by the end of the 400s, Londinium was largely an uninhabited ruin, with its large church on Tower Hill burnt to the ground.

Over the next century, more Angles, Saxons, Jutes, and Frisians arrived and established tribal areas and kingdoms.

The name of Brixton is thought to originate from "Brixistane", a word which derives from/translates as: "the stone of Brixi"When the Saxon lord, Brixi, was travelling through the area, legend has it he erected a standing stone which could be seen for miles (atop of Brixton Hill). And so, "Brixistane", came to be used to identify a huge area of land south of the River Thames (which includes, but is much larger than, the area currently known as Brixton today).


The Domesday book of 1086, written for William the Conquerer, records name of Brixistan (deriving from 'the stone of Brixi' placed by the Saxon Lord) as the name for the large area south of the River Thames.  There are several entries for this "Brixistan Hundred" in the Domesday Book - see https://opendomesday.org/hundred/brixton/.  The extract on the left is taken straight the Domesday book - and clearly records the area Clapham [which falls within the "Brixistan hd" - meaning the "hundred of Brixton"] as belonging to Geoffrey de Mandeville.


By 1190, the 'Manor of Lambeth' belonged to the Archbishop of Canterbury.

During medieval times, the River Effra (which is a river that still flows, but is now completely underground) at Brixton was crossed by low bridges at the old Roman roads to the south coast (now Brixton Road and Clapham Road). These main roads were connected through a network of medieval country lanes, such as Acre Lane, Coldharbour Lane, Brixton Water Lane and Lyham Road (formerly Black Lane).


A ferry across the Thames

The image on the right from 1647 (an etching by Wenceslas Hollar) shows a horse ferry crossing across the Thames, linking the North and South banks of the river. 

The image depicts Lambeth (and shows Lambeth Palace, marked as such in the background of the sketch), as shown in the view from Whitehall (originally "White Hall"). Lambeth Palace sat opposite the Palace of Westminster and the fronts of these two important buildings were linked by the horse ferry across the water. Boats can be seen arriving above in the centre foreground at 'White Hall Stairs'. Horse ferries were the main form of transport before until bridges were built across the Thames. The horse ferry was a raft which carried both the horse(s) and a cart (or carriage) across the water. It had to be wide enough for a cart or carriage to fit onto it and it had to be long enough to allow the horse (or horses) to stand in front of the cart without being taken out of harness. For more detail on horse ferries and a colour painting of this Lambeth ferry link, go here.


Until 1750, the entirety of North Lambeth - with the exception of a small area very adjacent to the banks of the Thames - was all marshland.  It was crossed by just those few roads that had been raised to protect against floods. Everywhere else south of the Thames was dominated by woods and commons with only a few villages and settlements, most notably at Clapham and Streatham on the old Roman roads to the south coast.

The only industry in South London was concentrated along the Thames riverside - predominantly glass-making, pottery and boat building.

The original Westminster Bridge was opened in 1750, and it marked the beginning of major development in Lambeth. The new bridge gave people a chance to escape the noises and smells of the city.

The drawing on the left shows a view of the Thames from The Adelphi, looking up river towards Westminster Bridge, with Lambeth Palace again in the distance. The hill in the distance is our very own Brixton Hill, on the horizon. [Credit: Ideal Homes]


By the 1800s, new villages and settlements had formed around Brixton - as the original woodland was gradually reduced. The area became covered in farmland and market gardens - known especially for its strawberries.

Terraced houses and detached villas started to line the main roads. The Rush Common enclosure stipulations dictated that houses had to be set back from the main roads, allowing for generous gardens.

In 1816, Ashby’s Mill (now known as Brixton Windmill) was built just off Brixton Hill (at the end of what is now Blenheim Gardens). The mill was located in what still came under Surrey when it was builtThe painting on the right depicts the mill dueing in the 1920s.

[The mill worked by wind until 1862.  The sails were removed in 1864 and the windmill was relegated to use as a store. In 1902, the lease on the watermill expired and a steam engine was installed in the windmill, later being replaced by a gas engine. The windmill was worked by engine until 1934, and supplied wholemeal flour to West End hotels and restaurants.  This Mill remains as one of the few surviving windmills in London. ]

In 1819, the 'Surrey House of Correction', later renamed as HMP Brixton Prison, was established.


By 1820, the sole parish church on the northern-most tip of Lambeth (St Mary) could no longer cope with demand from the increasing parish population size. As a result, four new churches were built during the 1820s - one of which was St Matthew's Church in Brixton.

In 1824, St Matthew's Church was consecrated, with the imposing facade having been designed by the architect C. F. Porden. The adjacent road to (the future) Baytree Road is clearly named in his honour - as Porden Road.
[The photograph of St Matthew's Church on the left was taken in 1898. See Credit.]


The coming of the railways in the mid-19th century was a major catalyst to development of Lambeth. Suburban expansion continued rapidly in the south of Lambeth. With Brixton, Herne Hill, Clapham, Streatham and Norwood all having railway stations all these locations became attractive propositions for the lower middle classes who worked in the City and the West End.

To give an example of the degree of population explosion at the time - Norwood saw its population grow from just 600 people to 6000 people in .

In 1862, Brixton train station was opened as 'Brixton and South Stockwell station' - by the London, Chatham and Dover Railway.


Maps from 1876 show Brixton's landscape filled with railway lines. The London, Chatham & Dover Railway running north to south - from Farringdon Street. Several areas are however still undeveloped.

Large houses lined the main streets in Central Brixton. Herne Hill is still very undeveloped.

In the map below, I have marked the (future) location of Baytree Road with the yellow arrow.

I have zoomed the map further (on left) to clearly show that Baytree Road is soon to be created in what is essentially a single household's back garden.  See yellow highlighted area. [Photo Credit.]

In 1888, Electric Avenue became the first street in London to be lit by electricity.


The images on the left show Central Brixton, as it looked three decades Baytree Road's creation.

The two photographs on the left are examples of very early photography, and both show Coldharbour Lane in 1889.

1. The junction of Coldharbour Lane and Brixton Road, looking towards Elphick's, the butcher's shop on the left and Brixton Theatre on the right. Staging worthy and serious drama, the theatre was later bombed (in World War II) and subsequently demolished.

The corner site was filled around 1910 by the "Electric Cinema", now the Ritzy.

2. A similar view. Coldharbour Lane is shown as a thriving shopping centre, before the commercialisation of Brixton Road.



(28 Aug)

The creation of BAYTREE ROAD is documented in deeds to many of the houses of Baytree Road. The following is an abridged extract from the deeds of the house, number 20, Baytree Road:

LONDON CITY COUNCIL (hereinafter called The Council) on the application of Messrs E. Evans and Sons of No 253 Lavender Hill, Clapham Junction, Battersea, issued a Sealed Order (dated 28 August 1912) sanctioning the formation of a street on the said land [having frontages in Brixton Hill, Acre Lane and Sudboune Road, Lambeth], subject to the following conditions:-

That before any commencement be made to erect buildings fronting upon the portion of the street shown by brown colour on the said plan the parties necessarily interested do enter into an undertaking to define form and throw open the said street as a public highway throughout its entire length from Acre Lane to Brixton Hill within a period of 18 months from the 28th August 1912 (and that the conditions contained in the Sealed Order dated 18th August 1912 sanctioning the formation of the said street be otherwise complied with).

-Rob's abridged (and re-punctuated) summary, taken from House Deed for 20 Baytree Road.



Photo of Central Brixton, as the local environment appeared, during the year that Baytree Road was being built. This was taken as Baytree Road was created to "throw open as a public highway throughout its entire length from Acre Lane to Brixton Hill":

The above is a view of Brixton Road, looking towards the railway bridge and Bon Marche, the first purpose built department store in England.  The store was built in 1877 and closed in the 1970s. The Bon Marche building is today occupied by a variety shops, the largest being TK Maxx. The 'Bon Marche' signage can still be clearly seen on the building today.

Zooming into the detail of the photograph reveals tram transportation, the then "modern way to commute".  [Photo credit.]


(23 Sep)

World War I air-raid damage to houses in Baytree Road caused by a Zeppelin L31 airship.

The nine airships that reached England on the 23rd and 24th September 1916 dropped a total of 371 bombs, causing many casualties and extensive damage to properties in South London. Zeppelins were cumbersome and slow moving, and carried a very light payload of bombs that were relatively easy targets for Allied defences.

The damage was very minor when compared with the highly organised bombing raids that fell on London during the World War II. Although the house in the centre has been completely demolished, the walls and floors of the adjoining properties are still partly intact and the terrace was successfully rebuilt after the war.

[Credit.] [I believe that this might be a different property to that shown below.]

On the left is damage shown to 39 Baytree Road from World War I from the 1916 bomb - using with photos taken at the time - superimposed onto a photo taken in 2014.

[Credit: Daily Mail.]


Baytree Road, as shown highlighted in yellow on this official map from 1918.

This map was drawn shortly after Baytree Road's creation in 1912-14. [Cropped and annotated from information here.]


The 'Night Time Bomb Census' records for World War II record a "High Explosive Bomb" falling on Baytree Road as one night between 7th October 1940 and 6 June 1941.

This information is recorded in the Bombsight.org website. However, the location provided for the bomb on the road in that website, is in my opinon definitely not accurate. It did not fall as marked.

It is possible that the bomb at 39 Baytree Road, attributed to World War II, has been misrecorded (with it actually showing the damage inflicted during World War I). However, It's also alternatively possible the information on this website is entirely inaccurate - and records an event that did not actually fall on Baytree Road at all.

Should anyone has further details on this, or other notable events during the life of the street, please get in touch and I'll update the website accordingly.


Brixton underground station opened to the public on the 23 July 1971. The entrance was next to Dorothy Perkins, the popular women's fashion retailer. [Credit: LTMuseum.]

Note the pedestrian footbridge over the A23 on the right of this image.


Advances in technology following the invention of computers (spearheaded with the World War II drive to crack German Enigma codes), now means its possible to take a virtual walkthrough along Baytree Road.

The following screenshot is taken from the Google Streetmap virtual walkthrough in 2014. Click the link to see the most up to date view of our street, and note the "history" function which enables access to all walkthroughs of Baytree Road since 2008).

Just 250 years ago, our area of Lambeth was a tiny settlement with a few houses - barely even a village.

With London's rapid expansion, it has seen the former separate villages of Lambeth completely swallowed up by a ballooning London (which now comprises nearly 9 million people and covering well over 1500 km2).

Baytree Road today is a friendly and relatively quiet street - sitting within the beating heart of London.

Sources for the information abridged by Rob Blakemore include theundergroundmap, Maps.nls.uk, londontopia.net, Wikipedia and more (see also individual photo credits). 

Note: An interactive map showing several maps from yesteryear (starting from 1885) can be found here - where you can set the transparency to show a map from today aligned underneath the map of the past.