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Guide to South West London
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South West London History

South West London History The vast area of South West London has a long and varied history that dates back to several entries in the Doomsday Book. History buffs should be sure to visit the following places for an exciting glimpse into the past.

Shoreditch and Hoxton [map]
With a long and dark history, Shoreditch and Hoxton had a mostly unrecorded history for the first several years of their existence and it wasn’t until their Doomsday book appearance as “Hogesdon” that these two areas were established on the map.

In the Middle Ages Spitalfields and Brick Lane were both prominent, with Spitalfields being a monastic area and Brick Lane being a centre of industry and home to a hugely successful brick production area. Neighbouring Mile End was common land and the scene of a meeting between unhappy peasants and the King in 1381 which resulted in much blood shed.

By the latter part of the 17th century many of the wealthy local had moved away from the area, which in turn became a focus for Huguenot refugees who flocked there in huge numbers.

They established a major weaving industry in and around Spitalfields. The Truman Brewery appeared in 1724, although it was known as the Black Eagle Brewery back then.

By the end of the 19th century poverty reigned in Hoxton and Shoreditch. The whole area was a slum, with crime and prostitution prominent.

The World War II saw the destruction of many of the old landmarks during the Blitz. Poverty was still a problem and crime was on the up. The Krays and the Richardson gang entered the scene and began a turf war across Shoreditch.

Battersea [map]
The name Battersea is derived from the Saxon settlement Badric’s Isle. With the arrival of the railways, factories sprang up all over the area and, in 1937, the famous power station was built.

The industrial side of Battersea has all but diminished in the past 50 years but its position as a good social area has risen - nowadays it’s crammed with bars and restaurants.

Brixton [map]
Brixton was once a Saxon settlement known as Brixistane. It was situated alongside the River Effra, which ran from Norwood in the south to join the Thames at Lambeth.

During the Industrial Revolution, railways were laid near Brixton and the place started to grow. Vauxhall Bridge also brought traffic through the area, and Acre Lane was one of the first roads to be developed.

Railways and trams appeared in the late 1800s, and Electric Avenue was so named because, in 1880, it was the first street in Britain lit by electric lights.

The 1940s and 50s saw the arrival of a large West Indian immigrant population, whose influence has subsequently shaped Brixton into the colourful and vibrant area it is today.

Chelsea [map]
Chelsea took a while to establish itself on the map and it wasn’t until the 1960s when it became the epicentre of all things cool and swinging.
Moving into the 70s the King’s Road kept Chelsea in the spotlight with the punk explosion, while yuppies moved the area onwardly upward in the eighties. Today Chelsea is still a top choice for the coolest people.

Belgravia [map]
Those looking for a taste of the London featured in many 1940s and 1950s films should head to Belgravia. This is probably the only place in England where you’ll spot a bowler hat and pinstripe suit if you’re lucky.
Wander through the incredibly expensive grand town houses and head to Belgravia Square where all the embassies are located. With a touch of national pride about it, Belgravia is a haven of architecturally stunning buildings.


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