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Lambeth Town Hall
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Location within Greater London
Population78,536 (2011 census) [1] [2]
OS grid reference TQ315755
  Charing Cross 3.8 mi (6.1 km)  N
London borough
Ceremonial county Greater London
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town LONDON
Postcode district SW2, SW9
Dialling code 020
Police Metropolitan
Fire London
Ambulance London
UK Parliament
London Assembly
List of places
51°27′47″N0°06′22″W / 51.463°N 0.106°W / 51.463; -0.106 Coordinates: 51°27′47″N0°06′22″W / 51.463°N 0.106°W / 51.463; -0.106

Brixton is a district of South London, England, within the London Borough of Lambeth. The area is identified in the London Plan as one of 35 major centres in Greater London. [3]


Brixton is mainly residential with a prominent street market and substantial retail sector. [4] It is a multiethnic community, with a large percentage of its population of Afro-Caribbean descent. [5] It lies within Inner South London and is bordered by Stockwell, Clapham, Streatham, Camberwell, Tulse Hill, Balham and Herne Hill. [6] The district houses the main offices of the London Borough of Lambeth. [7]

Brixton is 2.7 miles (4.3 km) south-southwest from the geographical centre of London near Brixton Underground station (Victoria Line). [8] [9]


Ashby's Mill, Brixton, also known as Brixton Windmill in 1864 Ashby's mill 1864.jpg
Ashby's Mill, Brixton, also known as Brixton Windmill in 1864
A map showing the Brixton ward of Lambeth Metropolitan Borough as it appeared in 1916. Lambeth Met. B Ward Map 1916.svg
A map showing the Brixton ward of Lambeth Metropolitan Borough as it appeared in 1916.

Until the mid-20th century

The name Brixton is thought to originate from Brixistane, meaning the stone of Brixi, a Saxon lord. Brixi is thought to have erected a boundary stone to mark the meeting place of the ancient hundred court of Surrey. The location is unknown but is thought to be at the top of Brixton Hill, at a road known at the time as Bristow or Brixton Causeway, long before any settlement in the area. Brixton marks the rise from the marshes of North Lambeth up to the hills of Upper Norwood and Streatham. At the time the River Effra flowed from its source in Upper Norwood through Herne Hill to Brixton. At Brixton the river was crossed by low bridges for Roman roads to the south coast of Britain, now Brixton Road and Clapham Road. The 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. It was only at the end of the 18th century that villages and settlements formed around Brixton, as the original woodland was gradually reduced until the area was covered in farmland and market gardens known for game and strawberries.[ citation needed ]

Historically in Surrey, the area remained undeveloped until the beginning of the 19th century, the main settlements being near Stockwell, Brixton Hill and Coldharbour Lane. With the opening of Vauxhall Bridge in 1816, improved access to Central London led to a process of suburban development. The largest single development, and one of the last in suburban character, was Angell Town, laid out in the 1850s on the east side of Brixton Road, and so named after a family that owned land in Lambeth from the late 17th century until well into the 20th. [10]

One of a few surviving windmills in London, built in 1816, is just off Brixton Hill and surrounded by houses built during Brixton's Victorian expansion. When the London sewerage system was constructed during the mid-19th century, its designer Sir Joseph Bazalgette incorporated flows from the River Effra, which used to flow through Brixton, into his 'high-level interceptor sewer', also known as the Effra sewer. [11]

Brixton was transformed into a middle class suburb between the 1860s and 1890s. Railways linked Brixton with the centre of London when the Chatham Main Line was built through the area by the London, Chatham and Dover Railway in the 1860s. In 1888, Electric Avenue was so named after it became the first street in London to be lit by electricity. In this time, large expensive houses were constructed along the main roads in Brixton, which were converted into flats and boarding houses at the start of the 20th century as the middle classes were replaced by an influx of the working classes.

By 1925, Brixton attracted thousands of new people. It housed the largest shopping centre in South London at the time, as well as a thriving market, cinemas, pubs and a theatre. In the 1920s, Brixton was the shopping capital of South London with three large department stores and some of the earliest branches of what are now Britain's major national retailers. Today, Brixton Road is the main shopping area, fusing into Brixton Market. A prominent building on Brixton High Street (at 472–488 Brixton Road) is Morleys, an independent department store established in the 1880s. [12] [13]

The Sunlight Laundry, Brixton SunlightLaundryLambeth.JPG
The Sunlight Laundry, Brixton

On the western boundary of Brixton with Clapham stands the Sunlight Laundry, an Art Deco factory building. Designed by architect F.E. Simpkins and erected in 1937, this is one of the few art deco buildings that is still owned by the firm that commissioned it and is still used for its original purpose.

The Brixton area was bombed during World War II, contributing to a severe housing crisis, which in turn led to urban decay. This was followed by slum clearances and the building of council housing. In the 1940s and 1950s, many immigrants, particularly from the West Indies and Ireland, settled in Brixton. [10] More recent immigrants include a large Portuguese community (see Little Portugal) and other European citizens. Brixton also has an increasingly ageing population, which affects housing strategies in the area. [14]

1948: The Windrush generation

The Empire Windrush which brought immigrants from the Caribbean to Tilbury in 1948. Windrush.jpg
The Empire Windrush which brought immigrants from the Caribbean to Tilbury in 1948.
Windrush Square street sign Windrush square.jpg
Windrush Square street sign

The first wave of immigrants (492 individuals) who formed the British African-Caribbean community arrived in 1948 at Tilbury Docks on the HMT Empire Windrush from Jamaica and were temporarily housed in the Clapham South deep shelter. The nearest Labour Exchange (Jobcentre) was on Coldharbour Lane, Brixton, and the new arrivals spread out into local accommodation. [16] [17] [18]

Many immigrants only intended to stay in Britain for a few years, but although a number returned to the Caribbean, the majority remained to settle permanently. [16] The arrival of the passengers has become an important landmark in the history of modern Britain, and the image of West Indians filing off its gangplank has come to symbolise the beginning of modern British multicultural society. [16] In 1998 the area in front of the Tate Library in Brixton was renamed "Windrush Square" to mark the 50th anniversary of the arrival of the Windrush. [10]

1980s: Riots after police actions and Scarman Report

Atlantic Road, August 2007 Brixton, Electric Avenue, sumer 2007.jpg
Atlantic Road, August 2007

Brixton was the scene of riots in April 1981 at a time when Brixton underwent deep social and economic problems—high unemployment, high crime, poor housing, no amenities—in a predominantly African-Caribbean community. [19] The Metropolitan Police began Operation Swamp 81 at the beginning of April, aimed at reducing street crime, largely through the repeated use of the so-called sus law, which allowed police officers to stop and search any individual on the grounds of mere "suspicion" of possible wrongdoing. Plain clothes police officers were dispatched into Brixton, and within five days almost 1,000 people were stopped and searched under this law. [20] There was intense local indignation at this, since the vast majority of those stopped by the police were young black men. The riot resulted in almost 279 injuries to police and 45 injuries to members of the public, [21] more than a hundred vehicles were burned (including 56 police vehicles), and almost 150 buildings were damaged, with 30 burned. There were 82 arrests. Reports suggested that up to 5,000 people were involved in the riot. [22]

Following the 1981 Brixton riot the Government commissioned a public inquiry into the riot headed by Lord Scarman. The subsequent Scarman report was published in November 1981 and found unquestionable evidence of the disproportionate and indiscriminate use of 'stop and search' powers by the police against black people. The report made a number of recommendations and led to a new code for police behaviour in the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 and the creation of an independent Police Complaints Authority in 1985. [23] The 1999 Macpherson Report, an investigation into the murder of Stephen Lawrence, found that recommendations of the 1981 Scarman report had been ignored and concluded that the police force was "institutionally racist". [24]

The 1985 Brixton riot followed the police shooting of a local black woman, Dorothy 'Cherry' Groce, after the police had entered her house looking for her son Michael Groce. Although the Brixton area subsequently saw pioneering community policing initiatives, the continued death of young black men in police custody (and in one case the death of a man pointing a fake gun at people) coupled with general distrust of the police led to smaller scale protests through the 1990s.


The 1995 riots were initially sparked by the death of a black man (Wayne Douglas) in police custody and occurred in an atmosphere of discontent about the gentrification of Brixton.

Former Prime Minister John Major's own childhood roots in Brixton were used in a campaign poster during the Conservative Party's 1992 election campaign: "What does the Conservative Party offer a working class kid from Brixton? They made him Prime Minister." [25]

Electric Avenue, inspiration of the Eddy Grant single, part of Brixton Market, and site of the 1999 bombing Electric Avenue Market 01.JPG
Electric Avenue, inspiration of the Eddy Grant single, part of Brixton Market, and site of the 1999 bombing

On 17 April 1999 neo-nazi bomber David Copeland planted a nail bomb in Electric Avenue, which exploded on a market day by the Iceland supermarket at the junction with Brixton Road (Brixton High Street). Copeland was sentenced to six concurrent life sentences in June 2000. The Brixton bombing is reported to have targeted the black community in Brixton. Copeland also bombed Brick Lane, the heart of East London's Bangladeshi and Asian community, and the Admiral Duncan pub in Soho, London, frequented predominantly by the gay community. The BBC reports that Copeland intended to ignite a race war across Britain with his bombing campaign. [26] A 2009 play about the events, The First Domino , was written by one victim in the Soho attack. [27]

2000s to the present day

There is debate regarding whether Brixton's recent renaissance is regeneration or gentrification. [28] [29] Some believe the area has slowly undergone a process of gentrification since the 1990s and has resulted in many wealthy middle-class people taking advantage of the area's location and the thriving Bohemian art scene. However, others argue that the area is undergoing exciting regeneration. [30] [31] [32] In recent years, Brixton has hosted a regular farmers' market on Station Road, as well as Pop-up restaurants and pop-up shops. New art galleries, delicatessens, bars, cafes and vintage clothing stores, particularly in and around Brixton Village Market have also opened, which some believe is gentrifying the area in a similar way to that in nearby Clapham. [33]

Pop Brixton exemplies the ongoing discussion about regeneration. Originally created as a community project, opinion is divided over whether Pop fulfils its intentions of being part of the local community, with some arguing that Pop is seen as just another tourist and retail attraction, and that the council did not meaningfully engage with Brixton people. Others have welcomed its arrival for its entrepreneurial approach and benefiting start-ups, and that it brings people into the area which has benefited trade and its popularity. [34] [35]

Brixton was awarded The Great Neighbourhood Award 2013 (covering the UK and Ireland) by The Academy of Urbanism. [36]

In April 2015, a Reclaim Brixton protest was held by local residents and activists.

Transition Town

Brixton was one of the first inner-city based 'Transition Town' projects in the UK. [37] Brockwell Park hosts the now annual Urban Green Fair, first held in summer 2007. [38]

Brixton Pound

The Brixton Pound was first trialled at Transition Town Brixton's "Local Economy Day" on 19 June 2008. It was then launched on 17 September 2009 by Transition Town Brixton. [39] The Brixton Pound is a local currency that is available as an alternative to the pound sterling. [40] The first trading day of the Brixton Pound was on 18 September 2009 with 80 local businesses accepting the currency. [41] Other towns in the UK that use their own currency include Bristol, Totnes in Devon, Stroud in Gloucestershire and Lewes in Sussex.

The Brixton Pound aims to boost the local economy and build a mutual support system amongst independent businesses by tying local shoppers to local shops and by encouraging local shops to source goods and services locally. [41] The notes are available in B£1, B£5, B£10, and B£20 denominations and depict local celebrities such as the community activist Olive Morris and the environmentalist James Lovelock. Lambeth Council has endorsed the project, [41] which the New Economics Foundation helped to develop. [42]

On 29 September 2011, the Brixton Pound launched an electronic version of the currency where users can pay by text message.

Reverse of the BPS10 note BPS10 reverse.png
Reverse of the B£10 note

A second issue of the paper currency was launched, featuring a new set of well-known people with Brixton connections: On the B£1, the Black Cultural Archives founder Len Garrison, on the B£5, NBA basketball player Luol Deng (the reverse was inspired by the Evelyn Grace Academy), David Bowie on the B£10 and World War II secret agent Violette Szabo on the B£20. [43]

The reverse of the notes, designed by a Brixton creative agency This Ain't Rock'n'Roll, feature notable local landmarks such as the Stockwell Skatepark, public art on Electric Avenue, Nuclear Dawn (one of the Brixton murals), and the Stirling Prize-winning Evelyn Grace Academy. All four notes feature a design motif inspired by Coldharbour Lane's Southwyck House (or "Barrier Block").

In 2015, to celebrate the Brixton Pound's fifth anniversary, the Turner Prize-winning artist Jeremy Deller was commissioned to design a limited-edition B£5 note. [44] It was described as "psychedelic and political", with the front featuring bright colors and the back with a quotation from Karl Marx’s Das Kapital ("Capital is money, capital is commodities...By virtue of it being value, it has acquired the occult ability to add value to itself. It brings forth living offspring, or, at the least, lays golden eggs.") [45]


Housing estates

The Loughborough Estate in the east of the area Loughborough Estate 1.jpg
The Loughborough Estate in the east of the area

Brixton is home to seven large housing estates: Stockwell Park Estate off Stockwell and Brixton Roads respectively; Myatt's Fields South and North off Vassall Road; Angell Town off Brixton Road on the boundary with Camberwell; Loughborough in the centre of Brixton; Moorlands Estate, situated off Coldharbour Lane; St Matthew's, located in the fork between Brixton Hill and Effra Road; Tulse Hill Estate a little further south of St. Matthews., Tilson Gardens, situated on New Park Road. The seven estates account for a large part of the Brixton residence. [4]

Estates like the Stockwell Park Estate and the Angell Town Estate were originally designed to accommodate high-level walkways which were envisaged to link the whole of Brixton. The ground-floor garages of these estates have proved to be a major security problem. [14] The Somerleyton Estate is dominated by Southwyck House (known locally as "Barrier Block"), a large horseshoe-shaped brick and concrete 1970s structure that backs onto Coldharbour Lane. The 176-apartment block was originally constructed in this shape to provide a noise barrier against Ringway 1, a proposed inner-London motorway that was planned to pass through Brixton and Camberwell, later abandoned. [46]

Map of Brixton in 1889, showing Coldharbour Lane, Angell Town and Loughborough Road. Published in Life and Labour of the People in London by Charles Booth. The red areas are "middle-class, well-to-do" and the yellow areas are "upper-middle and upper classes, wealthy". Brixton 1889.jpg
Map of Brixton in 1889, showing Coldharbour Lane, Angell Town and Loughborough Road. Published in Life and Labour of the People in London by Charles Booth. The red areas are "middle-class, well-to-do" and the yellow areas are "upper-middle and upper classes, wealthy".

Some housing estates have been linked with urban decay and crime. New gates and iron bars have been constructed for the Loughborough Estate around Loughborough Road and Minet Road in response to a number of murders around the estate. The Loughborough Estate is home to more than 3,000 families and a mix of 1940s low-rise buildings and 1960s/1970s tower blocks and houses. [5] Problems of urban decay have been reported around Loughborough Junction, the catchment area for Loughborough Estate, the Angell Town Estate and the Moorlands Estate. [47]

Victorian buildings

Brixton still features some grand Victorian housing. [5] As bridges were built across the Thames in the early 19th century those working in the City of London and the London West End moved to south London. The earliest built development was in Washway, now Brixton Road. With the enclosing of the Manor of Lambeth, owned by the Archbishop of Canterbury, in 1806 and the opening of Vauxhall Bridge in 1816 development of terraced houses and detached villas started to line the main roads. St Matthew's Church in the centre of Brixton was consecrated in 1824, indicating a sizeable population by this time. The Rush Common enclosure stipulations dictated that the large terraced and detached houses that were built along the main roads were set back from the road, allowing for generous gardens. The windmill was erected in 1816 by John Ashby on Brixton Hill and the Surrey House of Correction, later Brixton prison, was established in 1819. [48]

Brixton Market

Scotch bonnet peppers imported from the Caribbean on sale at Brixton Market. The peppers are a key ingredient of "Jerk" dishes (Caribbean cuisine). HotPeppersinMarket.jpg
Scotch bonnet peppers imported from the Caribbean on sale at Brixton Market. The peppers are a key ingredient of "Jerk" dishes (Caribbean cuisine).

With the arrival of the railway in Brixton in the 1860s a building boom set in and Brixton developed into a major shopping centre. The first purpose-built department store, Bon Marché, was opened on Brixton Road in 1877 and Electric Avenue was one of the first shopping arcades to have electric lighting. The now famous Brixton Market began in Atlantic Road and was moved to Station Road in the 1920s to ease traffic congestion. [48] Brixton Market is open every day, selling a range of Afro-Caribbean products and reflects other communities in the local area with Indian and Vietnamese supermarkets and South American butchers amongst the shops and stalls.[ citation needed ]. London Farmers' Markets opened a farmers market on Brixton Station Road in September 2009. It is open every Sunday from 10 am to 2 pm.


Brixton murals

After the riots in 1981 a series of murals were funded by the council. The murals portray nature, politics, community and ideas. The surviving murals include the Brixton Academy Mural (Stockwell Park Walk) by Stephen Pusey (1982) showing a mixed group of young people, intended to portray the natural harmony that could be found between children of mixed backgrounds in the local schools.

Recent contributions towards Brixton's mural tradition include the portrait of Michael Johns on Popes Road by Dreph, created as part of Brixton Design Trail in September 2017 and the temporary installation of "Remain, Thriving" by Njideka Akunyili Crosby at Brixton tube station, a commission by Art on the Underground. [49] [50] In 2018 Dreph completed a large mural depicting Michele Obama in Dorrell Place. [51]


The Ritzy Cinema RitzyCinemaBrixton.jpg
The Ritzy Cinema
Brixton Academy BrixtonAcademy.jpg
Brixton Academy

The Ritzy Cinema, Coldharbour Lane, is a formerly independent cinema now owned by Picturehouse Cinemas. The building was designed as the Electric Pavilion in 1910 by E. C. Homer and Lucas, one of England's first purpose-built cinemas. [52]

Brixton has a significant clubbing and live music scene. Large venues include Brixton Academy and Electric Brixton. A range of smaller venues such as The Windmill, Jamm, and Phonox are a major part of London's live music scene. [53] The Brixton Splash is an annual one-day street party held since 2006. The event is community run, showcasing local talent and celebrating the cultural diversity and history of Brixton. [54]

Brixton is also home to a 1970s purpose-built skatepark, named Stockwell Skatepark.[ citation needed ]


Brixton is served by two local news blogs - Brixton Blog running since 2010 which also prints a monthly newspaper, [55] and Brixton Buzz formed in 2011 [56]


Choice FM was an independent local radio station broadcasting from studios in Trinity Gardens from 1990 to 2004. It is now replaced by Capital XTRA. [57] Reprezent Radio is a community radio station that broadcasts from Pop Brixton to the local area on 107.3FM. Brixton has always been served by a number of long-running community pirate radio stations including Lightning and Vibes FM.

Religious sites

Brixton Synagogue

Brixton Synagogue at 49 Effra Road opened in 1913 and closed in 1986, with the congregation then amalgamating with the nearby Streatham Synagogue. The front of the building still exists. [58]

Christian churches

St Matthew's Brixton Mass in Brixton sept 07.jpg
St Matthew's Brixton

Brixton lies within the Anglican Diocese of Southwark. [59] The grade II*listed St Matthew's Church, located on Brixton Green, was built in 1822 by the architect C. F. Porden in the Greek Revival style. [60] It is one of the "Waterloo churches" built to celebrate Britain's victory at the Battle of Waterloo. St. Saviour's Church was a location filming site of Alfred Hitchcock's The Man Who Knew Too Much in 1955, identified in the film as Ambrose Chapel.

The 1868 parish church of St Jude, located on Dulwich Road, was designed by the architect John Kirk of Woolwich. It closed in 1975, and the parish merged with St Matthew's. The church building is today used as business premises by a publishing company. [61]

Christ Church on Brixton Road is an Art Nouveau and Byzantine-style Grade II*listed building built in 1902 by Beresford Pite, [62] and St Paul's church on Ferndale Road was originally built in 1958 as a Seventh-day Adventist church by John Soper.

Corpus Christi Church in Brixton comes under the remit of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Southwark. [63]

Brixton Mosque

The Masjid ibn Taymeeyah, or Brixton Mosque and Islamic Cultural Centre, is located in Gresham Road, close to Brixton Police Station. The mosque has facilities for both men and women and space for 400 worshippers during prayer. [64] Opened in 1990 it is one of the oldest mosques in South London. The mosque provides religious, social and financial support to its members. [65]

The mosque made international headlines when it was reported that Richard Reid, the so-called "shoe bomber", had attended the mosque. Abdul Haqq Baker, chairman of Brixton Mosque, told the BBC that Reid came to the mosque to learn about Islam but soon fell in with what he called "more extreme elements". [66] Zacarias Moussaoui, who was convicted of conspiring to kill citizens of the US as part of 11 September 2001, terrorist attacks, made his initial steps into radical indoctrination in Brixton Mosque, where he met Reid, though he was expelled from the mosque after he turned up wearing combat fatigues and a backpack, and pressured the cleric to give him information on joining the jihad . Abdullah el-Faisal, a radical Muslim cleric who preached in the UK until imprisoned for stirring up hatred and later deported to Jamaica in 2007, was associated with the Brixton Mosque and began preaching to crowds of up to 500 people, but was ousted by its Salafi administration in 1993. [67] [67] Afterward, he gave a lecture he called The Devil's Deception of the Saudi Salafis, scorning the Salafi Muslims (especially the members of the Brixton Mosque), calling them hypocrites and apostates ( takfir ). [68]

Lambeth Council elections

Brixton town centre is divided between four wards of Lambeth Council.

The area south of Brixton Water Lane and including Brockwell Park is in Herne Hill ward

Policing, drugs and crime

Operation Swamp

Before the 1981 riot was the centre of "Operation Swamp 81" aimed at reducing street crime mainly through the heavy use of the so-called sus law, which allowed police to stop and search individuals on the basis of a mere "suspicion" of wrongdoing. Plainclothes police officers were dispatched into Brixton, and in five days almost 1,000 people were stopped and searched. The local community was not consulted about the operation and tensions between the black community and the police on the streets of Brixton reached breaking point. Local residents complained about young, inexperienced police officers being sent on the streets, provoking confrontation. [69]

Gang culture

In 2003 The Independent reported that around 200 "hardcore Yardies" are based in Lambeth, some operating as members of "Firehouse Posse" or Brixton's "Kartel Crew". [70] Yardies were historically associated with Jamaican immigrants and had a recognised stronghold in Brixton. Parts of Brixton were referred to as "Little Tivoli" after "Tivoli Gardens", a notorious "garrison community" in Jamaica ruled by gunmen. [71] [72] In 1999 a scandal broke over Metropolitan Police detectives allowing two known Jamaican Yardies to stay in Britain as an intelligence tool. Eaton Green, one of the Yardies, escaped bail in Jamaica in 1991 and settled in Brixton, dealing in crack cocaine. Three months later Green was arrested by a Brixton constable, Steve Barker, and became a paid informer. Green provided intelligence about Yardie activity for two years, continuing the use of firearms and the dealing of crack throughout this time. [73]

Several gangs are headquartered in the Brixton area. The "Murderzone" (MZ) gang, which is involved in illegal drug dealing, hail from the Somerleyton Estate. [74] The "Poverty Driven Children"/"Peel Dem Crew" (PDC) are located in the Angell Town and Loughborough Junction area. [75] [76] "Organised Crime" (OC), a gang linked with various shootings and an ongoing rivalry with the Peckham Boys, are based in the Myatts Field Estate. [77] [78] GAS Gang, which stands for "Guns and Shanks", "Grind and Stack", "Grip and Shoot", or "Gangsters Always Shoot", was located mainly in Angell Town. [79]

In 2011, five of the most prominent members of the GAS Gang—Ricardo Giddings, Helder Demorais, Jamal Moore, Shaquille Haughton and Kyle Kinghorn—were sentenced to a total of 76 years in prison for the murder of rival gang member, fifteen-year-old Zac Olumegbon. [80]

Members of local gangs are mostly in their late teens or early 20s, with gang leaders usually being childhood friends. Brought up in some of London's poorest areas some gang members reportedly move from house to house on an almost nightly basis, making it hard to track them. According to the Metropolitan Police, these youth gangs are far from organised criminal masterminds; however, they continue to evade the police and have been responsible for numerous offences of homicide. Operation Trident officers stated that it is a "struggle" to persuade local people to testify, because of fear of reprisals. Trident officers stated that some gang members were "inept at handling powerful guns", and that gangs have machine guns, in 9 mm. According to the detective many of the deactivated guns are shipped in from the Balkans and then reactivated. [81]


Some media commentators persistently call Brixton "the drugs capital of London". [82] Val Shawcross, Labour representative on the London Assembly for Lambeth and Southwark, runs a "Brixton Drug Crime" campaign and she states on her website:

I have been raising the disgraceful state of Brixton and the existence of an open drugs market in the centre – with the Council, Mayor and the Metropolitan police... The police, the Drugs and Firearms Unit and Transport Operational Unit officers have been undertaking long-term surveillance of the area (Brixton Town Centre) culminating in a three-day operation at the end of June to arrest those dealing Class A drugs... The police will be carrying out continuing covert operations in Brixton and patrolling with drug detection dogs. This is a long-term crackdown with the aim on cleaning the dealers out of Brixton.(retrieved July 2008) [83]

For many decades, Brixton has had a reputation for cannabis use and the BBC has quoted a local resident as saying "People have always smoked cannabis in Brixton – everyone knows that, people have walked down the street smoking spliffs for years." This reputation was amplified by the "softly softly" police approach to cannabis that was piloted in Brixton in 2001 to 2005. Concerns were raised about "drug tourism" to the area. [47] The "softly-softly" pilot occurred in the context of a wider debate in Britain about the classification of cannabis. Despite the pilot being stopped and replaced by a "no deal" policy, the Metropolitan Police was in favour of a reclassification of cannabis from class B to class C. Cannabis was officially reclassified in Britain from a class B down to a class C drug in early 2004. In January 2009 the UK government reclassified cannabis back to a class B drug. [84] [85] [86]

JayDay Cannabis Festival

From 2001 to 2004, Brockwell Park hosted the annual Cannabis Festival, or JayDay, organised by the Cannabis Coalition. The police reportedly maintained a low profile, tolerating the smoking of cannabis. [87] [88] In 2005 the London Borough of Lambeth rejected the application for a further Cannabis Festival on the following grounds:

"While Lambeth Council supports freedom of speech and the right to take part in a legitimate campaign, the council cannot condone illegal activities such as cannabis use and drug pushing – both of which have taken place at a previous festival held by the Cannabis Coalition. Indeed council officers monitoring the event in the past were approached by drug dealers who offered them drugs." [89]

Brian Paddick

In 2001, Brian Paddick (then Police Commander for the London Borough of Lambeth) became subject of newspaper headlines due to the implementation of a pilot cannabis programme in Brixton, also known as the "softly softly" approach, as well as his posts made on the Brixton-based Urban75 internet forum. Police officers were instructed not to arrest or charge people who were found to be in possession of cannabis. They were instead to issue on-the-spot warnings and confiscate the drugs. Although Paddick is credited with the idea, the pilot programme was sanctioned by the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis, Sir John Stevens. Paddick asserts that he implemented the policy because he wanted his officers to deal with cannabis quickly and informally so that they could concentrate on heroin and crack cocaine offences, and street robbery and burglary, which were affecting the quality of life in Lambeth to a greater extent. [90] The pilot was ended December 2005 and was replaced by a so-called "no deal" policy on cannabis in Brixton following complaints about increasing numbers of dealers openly selling the drug. [91]

Paddick had been a sergeant on the front line during the 1981 Brixton riot, [92] an experience which shaped his attitudes about confrontational police action and strengthened his belief in community policing. [93] In December 2000 he was appointed Police Commander for the London Borough of Lambeth where he worked until December 2002, [94] fulfilling his ambition of becoming head of policing in Brixton. [95] Paddick gained much support from the local community for his approach to policing and addressed a rally in his support in March 2002, leading Dominic Casciani from the BBC to comment:

If someone had said just five years ago that black, white, young and old, straight and gay, liberal and anarchist would all be standing together giving a standing ovation to a police commander in Brixton, people might have said they had smoked one spliff too many. [96]

Gun crime

In June 1998, gun crime in Brixton was reported on widely in connection with the linked murders of Avril Johnson and Michelle Carby, in Brixton and Stratford respectively. Both women were shot in their homes in separate, but connected, attacks; in addition, both victims were shot in the head. [97] In 2008 Tony Thompson, a former Time Out news editor, reported that "Gun crime began to escalate following a series of South London gang executions in the late 1990s." Thompson states that "Previous Met operations were seen as putting down the black community. Trident, from the start, was intelligence-led and had strong links with the black community." [98]

In 2001 the Metropolitan Police raised concerns over rapidly increasing gun crime in London. At the time Lambeth had the highest rate of robberies in London. In July 2001 two armed police officers shot dead black 29-year-old Derek Bennett in Brixton, Angell Town Estate, after Bennett brandished a gun-shaped cigarette lighter. The verdict of the subsequent inquest ruled that Bennett had been "lawfully killed", the verdict was upheld in a subsequent appeal. [99] [100] [101]

In December 2004 Operation Trident officers and armed officers were assisting Lambeth police in a number of stop and search operations targeting "suspected gunmen or vehicles that have been associated with firearms" and called "Operation Trident Swoop" by the police. The Metropolitan Police hoped that "the searches will deter suspects from carrying weapons and prevent shootings taking place, as well as possibly recovering weapons and leading to arrests." [102] Superintendent Jerry Savill, Lambeth Police has responsibility for policing in the Brixton area, stated:

This operation is aimed very specifically at people we have information to suggest may be involved in gun crime or other offences. We want to send out a very clear message to those who carry guns in Lambeth, don't. It is time to stop the vast majority of people in this borough feeling afraid to be on the street and make it the gunmen who are fearful of their community helping the police to arrest them. [102]

In September 2006 Brixton was the scene of a widely reported shooting, involving two boys being shot in the packed McDonald's on Brixton Road/Acre Lane. [103]

In 2007 firearm offences rose by 4 per cent in London, totalling 3,459 "gun-enabled" crimes, including 30 gun murders of which nine victims were aged 18 or under. A series of gun crimes in the Brixton, Clapham and Streatham, including the Murders of three boys in one week, led some media commentators to call the area "gun capital". [104]


Electric Avenue, the street that gave its name to Eddy Grant's 1982 single Electric Avenue Street Sign.jpg
Electric Avenue, the street that gave its name to Eddy Grant's 1982 single

References to Brixton in song started with the release of "Whoppi King" by Laurel Aitken in 1968 and "Brixton Cat" by Dice the Boss in 1969. This was later followed in August 1975 by a popular novelty song written and sung by Geraint Hughes and Jeff Calvert (who billed themselves as "Typically Tropical"): two white men who told the story of a Brixton bus-driver "going to Barbados" with "Coconut Airways" to escape the rain of London.

Film and television


Video games



Brixton is served by London Buses routes 2, 3, 35, 37, 45, 59, 109, 118, 133, 159, 196, 250, 322, 333, 345, 355, 415, 432, P4, P5, N2, N3, N35, N109, N133

London Underground

Brixton tube station entrance Brixton tube station entrance.JPG
Brixton tube station entrance

The nearest station is Brixton on the Victoria line.

National Rail

Brixton rail lines.png
Map of rail & tube lines passing through Brixton

The nearest station is Brixton for Southeastern services towards London Victoria and Orpington.

Road Network

Brixton is located on several main roads. The A203, A204 and A2217 links the area to Vauxhall Bridge and the A23 London to Brighton road runs through the area from the north to the south. Brixton was due to be a major interchange of the South Cross Route, part of the London Ringways plan, which was cancelled in the 1970s.

Notable people

Former Prime Minister John Major John Major, October 2007.jpg
Former Prime Minister John Major
Poet Linton Kwesi Johnson LKgrey.jpg
Poet Linton Kwesi Johnson

Three people who have lived in Brixton have blue plaques marking their former homes:

Other notable people with Brixton connections include:

Related Research Articles

London Borough of Lambeth Borough in United Kingdom

Lambeth is a London borough in south London, England, which forms part of Inner London. Its name was recorded in 1062 as Lambehitha and in 1255 as Lambeth. The geographical centre of London is at Frazier Street near Lambeth North tube station, though nearby Charing Cross on the other side of the Thames in the City of Westminster is traditionally considered the centre of London.

Brian Paddick, Baron Paddick British Liberal Democrat Politician

Brian Leonard Paddick, Baron Paddick, is a British politician and retired police officer, currently sitting in the House of Lords as a life peer. He was the Liberal Democrat candidate for the London mayoral elections of 2008 and 2012. He was, until his retirement in May 2007, Deputy Assistant Commissioner in London's Metropolitan Police Service and the United Kingdom's most senior openly gay police officer.

Metropolitan Borough of Lambeth metropolitan borough of England

Lambeth was a civil parish and metropolitan borough in south London, England. It was an ancient parish in the county of Surrey. The parish was included in the area of responsibility of the Metropolitan Board of Works in 1855 and became part of the County of London in 1889. The parish of Lambeth became a metropolitan borough in 1900, following the London Government Act 1899, with the parish vestry replaced by a borough council. In 1965 the borough was abolished and became part of the larger London Borough of Lambeth in Greater London.

Brockwell Park park in south London

Brockwell Park is a 50.8 hectare park located south of Brixton, in Herne Hill and Tulse Hill in south London. It is bordered by the roads Brixton Water Lane, Norwood Road, Tulse Hill and Dulwich Road.

Brixton Market comprises a street market in the centre of Brixton, south London, and the adjacent covered market areas in nearby arcades

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1981 Brixton riot confrontation between Police and protesters in London in 1981

The 1981 Brixton riot, or Brixton uprising, was a confrontation between the Metropolitan Police and protesters in Brixton, South London, England, between 10 and 12 April 1981. The main riot on 11 April, dubbed "Bloody Saturday" by Time magazine, resulted in 279 injuries to police and 45 injuries to members of the public; over a hundred vehicles were burned, including 56 police vehicles; almost 150 buildings were damaged, with thirty burned. There were 82 arrests. Reports suggested that up to 5,000 people were involved.

The Brixton riot of 1985 started on 28 September in Lambeth in South London. It was the second major riot that the area had witnessed in the space of four years, the last in 1981. It was sparked by the shooting of Dorothy "Cherry" Groce by the Metropolitan Police, while they sought her 21-year-old son Michael Groce in relation to a suspected firearms offence; they believed Michael Groce was hiding in his mother's home.

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Coldharbour, Cold Harbour, Cold Harbor, or variation, may refer to:

Brixton Road street in Lambeth, London, England

Brixton Road is a road in the London Borough of Lambeth, leading from the Oval at Kennington to Brixton, where it forms the high street and then forks into Effra Road and Brixton Hill at St Matthew's church at the junction with Acre Lane and Coldharbour Lane. Brixton Market is located in Electric Avenue near Brixton Underground station and in a network of covered arcades adjacent to the two railway viaducts. The market arcades were declared listed buildings in 2009 following controversial proposals by Lambeth Council to replace them with a large US-style mall. The former "Brixton Oval" is at the southern end with Lambeth Town Hall, the Ritzy Cinema, the Brixton Tate Library and St Matthew's church. The space was renamed Windrush Square in 2010, in honour of the area's early Caribbean migrants and the HMT Empire Windrush, which in 1948 brought 492 passengers from Jamaica to London.

Brixton (UK Parliament constituency) Parliamentary constituency in the United Kingdom, 1885-1974

Brixton was a parliamentary constituency centred on the Brixton district of South London. It returned one Member of Parliament (MP) to the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, elected by the first-past-the-post system.

Michael Groce is a poet, community worker and former criminal. His mother, Cherry Groce, was shot by police during a dawn raid on her home, starting the 1985 Brixton riot in London, England. He is now a published poet, having won the Cheltenham Poetry Prize, and actively engages with young people to inform them of his own experiences.

Loughborough Junction human settlement in United Kingdom

Loughborough Junction is an area of South London, in the London Borough of Lambeth, which is located between Brixton, Camberwell and Herne Hill. It is centred on a rail junction consisting of seven railway bridges, six of which can be seen at once from the centre of the junction. The source of this area's name is Loughborough Junction railway station; 'Loughborough' because the area was once the location of Loughborough House, the residence of Henry Hastings, 1st Baron Loughborough, which was previously the Manor House of Lambeth Wick.

Coldharbour Lane road in London

Coldharbour Lane is a road in south London that leads south-westwards from Camberwell to Brixton. The road is over 1 mile (1.6 km) long with a mixture of residential, business and retail buildings - the stretch of Coldharbour Lane near Brixton Market contains shops, bars and restaurants. Between the junctions of Coldharbour Lane and Denmark Hill in Camberwell SE5 and Coldharbour Lane and Denmark Road lies part of the boundary between Lambeth and Southwark boroughs. The other end of Coldharbour Lane meets Acre Lane in central Brixton to form the A2217.

Brixton murals series of murals by local artists in the Brixton area, in London

The Brixton murals are a series of murals by local artists in the Brixton area, in London. Most of the murals were funded by Lambeth London Borough Council and the Greater London Council after the Brixton riots in 1981.

Lambeth London Borough Council

Lambeth London Borough Council is the local authority for the London Borough of Lambeth in Greater London, England. It is a London borough council, and one of the 32 in the United Kingdom capital of London. The council meets at Lambeth Town Hall in Brixton. Lambeth is divided into 21 wards, each electing three councillors. The council was first elected in 1964.

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Coldharbour ward is an administrative division of the London Borough of Lambeth. It is located in Brixton.

The PDC was a street gang based in Brixton, mainly the Angell Town Estate. During the 1990s, they were the largest and most prominent gang in the SW9 postcode. Members were known to be involved in the drugs trade, robberies, shootings, stabbings, and general violence. The gang associated with the colours red and purple.

GAS Gang, also known more simply as GG or GAS, was a British gang based in Brixton, South London that formed sometime in the late 2000s. The name carries various different meanings, such as Guns And Shanks, Gangsters Always Shoot, Grip And Shoot, and Grind And Stack. By 2012, they were considered one of the most dangerous gangs in South London, with at least 3 murders being committed by alleged gang members since 2010. The local council and police in 2012 believed the gang was responsible for three quarters of violent incidents involving young people in Brixton, with up to eight suspect members of the gang going to jail for attempted murder or murder.


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