A history of Windrush Square
9th June 2014
9th June 2014
Brixton is famous for its large multi-ethnic community, vibrant street markets and culturally enriching atmosphere. A large percentage of the population are of African and Caribbean descent. Lying within Inner South London, it’s bordered by Stockwell, Clapham, Streatham, Camberwell, Tulse Hill and Herne Hill and is located in the London borough of Lambeth.
Windrush Square is in the heart of Brixton and boasts a rather famous history. The site was once part of Rush/Rushey Common. Houses that were originally built here in 1839 were demolished after the new library was built in1893 which was paid for by Henry Tate. After his death in 1899, his widow bought Brixton Oval which she presented to the council in the interests of it being a public garden in 1905, to be named the Tate Library Garden. A bust of Sir Henry was put up and the garden was surrounded with raised flower beds and railings. A new pubic space was created on adjacent land in 1998 – and finally Windrush Square was so named! This was in order to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first wave of immigrants, 492 individuals, whom formed the British African-Caribbean community. They arrived in 1948 at Tilbury Docks on the Empire Windrush from Jamaica and were temporarily housed in the Clapham South deep shelter. The closest ‘job centre’ was on Coldharbour Lane in Brixton and those who’d just landed moved into local accommodation.
Interestingly, as with many new arrivals, the majority just wanted to stay in Britain for a few years. However, although a number did return to the Caribbean, most of them settled for good.
A new-look Windrush Square was officially opened by the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, in 2010. Brixton residents, organisations and businesses were asked if they wanted to change the name; but the popular choice was to keep it the same. Work on the square was carried out by Transport for London with Lambeth Council, Design for London and the London Development Agency. The area has been transformed into a community-focused area in the centre of Brixton. The improved square includes new water features, lighting and open spaces, sculptured gardens and additional CCTV coverage to improve public safety.
In a nutshell, if anything happens in Brixton it happens in the square! Over the summer it becomes a meeting spot for locals and a great place to hang out and observe the world go by. You can have a drink at the Ritzy Bar while doing so – the tables are put out on the square in summer! As well as this, the new Brixton Night Market launched last year, aims to bring stalls from established local restaurants, as well as a host of special guests for a street festival in Windrush Square. The idea of the night market is to support local and street traders, especially those with food stalls who are finding it tough to get pitches in the markets in Lambeth. The aim for the future is for the market to operate in an ‘integrated’ community market which will offer the local growers in Lambeth a place to regularly sell with farmers who sell at Sunday Farmers Markets.
Why not get yourself down to Windrush Square at some stage to check out the atmosphere? There’s lots to do and see – particularly over summer.