In the early 19th century, there were hamlets at Brixton Hill and Coldharbour Lane, but otherwise it was mainly uninhabited moor land.
After Vauxhall Bridge was constructed in 1816, it became an attractive area for suburban development. Mainly large houses were built for rich city business men. Most of the large houses and gardens were redeveloped after the Second World War.
After about 1816, when railway lines arrived, the area was extensively developed with much cheaper housing for the working classes. After the Second World War there was extensive building of council estates. Many of the larger houses were converted into multiple uses. Brixton Prison in Jebb Avenue was built in 1820 to house 175 prisoners (now over 1,000). It was a hard-labour prison and the treadmill was first introduced here. Apart from shortening prisoner’s lives it had the side benefit of grinding corn for the kitchens.
Brixton is the centre of London’s Caribbean community, although they actually make up only a third of the residents of the area. But the result is that Brixton is a vibrant place with its own village atmosphere – something of a contrast with the tameness of some other parts of south London. It has good transport links, with the Victoria line starting in Brixton.
Between Acre Lane and the railway line to the north is a group of streets running up to Ferndale Road which contain Victorian terraced houses of various sizes. The most attractive properties are the cottages in Trinity Gardens, which is a Regency square, but there are more run-of-the-mill Victorian houses in “Philosopher’s Corner” – Solon Road (not strictly a philosopher) and Plato Road, and surrounding streets. On the south side of Acre Lane, between Kings Avenue and Brixton Hill, there are Victorian houses of various sizes in the streets such as Branksome Road and Bonham Road leading down to Brixton Prison.
South of the prison the streets contain more modern houses and Dumbarton Court, a mansion block. Between Brixton Hill and Tulse Hill is the Brixton Water Lane conservation area, with tree-lined streets such as Josephine Avenue and Leander Road all containing attractive Victorian terraced houses. On the other side of Tulse Hill, nestling against Brockwell Park, are the equally attractive Brailsford and Arlingford Roads. On the other side of Brockwell Park are tree-lined roads streets off Railton Road named after various poets – the area is called Poets Corner by estate agents – such as Chaucer, Shakespeare and Milton Road. Railton Road is famous as the centre of the Brixton riots, but is now considerably regenerated.
Mansion blocks such as Christchurch House, Effra Court and Brixton Hill Court run down Brixton Hill. Brixton town centre contains more mansion blocks and a scattering of Victorian houses, mainly converted into flats. Coldharbour Lane, further east, contains large council blocks, such as Clarewood Walk, but also stucco faced Victorian villas. The area north of the railway line was originally called Angel Town, and some Victorian houses still remain, although council blocks from the 1960s dominate. There is also College Green, a flat conversion of an 1880s orphanage.