Stockwell

Stockwell, Lambeth

An ethnically and socially diverse neighbourhood often regarded as the northernmost part of Brixton


Bronze Woman,* with Stock­well deep lev­el shel­ter and the war memo­r­i­al clock tow­er

Stock­well’s name, which referred to a well-spring by a tree stump, was first record­ed in 1197. Stock­well Green formed the focus of the set­tle­ment, with the manor house on its north side and a pub­lic well in the south-west cor­ner. The Swan, the Plough and the Old Queen’s Head were the ear­li­est pub­lic hous­es.

The manor house was demol­ished around 1755 and a new man­sion was built, which sur­vived for less than a cen­tu­ry – a peri­od in which Stock­well changed from a col­lec­tion of nurs­eries with the usu­al scat­ter­ing of grand hous­es into a nascent ‘vil­la land’. William Cox of Ken­ning­ton began to devel­op Stock­well Park as a high class estate after 1838, where­upon sev­er­al oth­er builders pitched in with vari­a­tions on his theme. Many of the vil­las were ter­raced or oth­er­wise tight­ly packed – the secret of their sur­vival to the present day.

Sev­er­al pub­lic and phil­an­thropic insti­tu­tions arrived here dur­ing the 1860s, includ­ing an orphan­age and a col­lege. Com­modi­ous church­es replaced cramped chapels. Stock­well Green was built over in the 1870s despite attempt­ed resis­tance via the courts.

Stock­well became the south­ern ter­mi­nus of London’s first deep tube line in 1890 but it was not until after the Sec­ond World War that the land­scape was again trans­formed – this time by the con­struc­tion of sev­er­al large munic­i­pal estates, notably the LCC’s Stock­well Gar­dens (on the site of Stock­well Col­lege), the GLC’s Spring­field, and Lam­beth council’s Stock­well Park.

Stock­well gained trag­ic noto­ri­ety on 22 July 2005 when police wrong­ly iden­ti­fied Jean Charles de Menezes, a Brazil­ian elec­tri­cian, as a sus­pect in the pre­vi­ous day’s failed attempts to set off bombs on three tube trains and a bus. When Menezes board­ed a tube train at Stock­well, offi­cers shot him sev­en times at close range with­out warn­ing. In Decem­ber 2008 an inquest jury returned an open ver­dict, after the coro­ner had ruled out unlaw­ful killing as an option.

Accord­ing to the 2011 cen­sus, 28.5 per cent of Stockwell’s res­i­dents are black or black British – down from a third in 2011. A quar­ter of the pop­u­la­tion is non-British white (up from 15 per cent in 2001), includ­ing a thriv­ing Por­tuguese com­mu­ni­ty.

The Stockwell ghost was a supposed poltergeist that created a great sensation in 1772. The author of the strange noises turned out to be Anne Robinson, a maidservant.

Postal district: SW9
Population: 14,777 (2011 census)
Station: Victoria and Northern lines (zone 2)
Further reading: Ken Dixon, Alan Piper et al, Brixton Heritage Trails: Six Walks Around Brixton and Stockwell, Brixton Society, 2001
and Edward Walford, John W Brown (editor), Walford’s History of Stockwell and Kennington, Local History Reprints, 1996
* The picture of the Bronze Woman at the top of this page is slightly modified from an original photograph at Flickr, copyright Subherwal, made available under the Attribution 2.0 Generic licence. Any subsequent reuse is hereby freely permitted under the terms of that licence. Click here to read more about the statue.