Our

STORY

Brixton Pillars are a collection of independently minded shops, cafés, restaurants and bars in the famous arches – 2 minutes from Brixton Tube and footsteps away from the mainline station, take a short journey to experience the real community of Brixton.

34

shops

150

years

10

minutes to Victoria

Brixton is diverse

& CREATIVE

Brixton’s population has been a diverse mixture of tradespeople for over 150 years. Attracted by the launch of the railway in 1862, innovative, entrepreneurial and community focussed businesses have been popping up ever since, enticing a wide variety of people to enjoy the busy streets and diversity that makes Brixton so special.

A long dynamic

HISTORY

In the late 1800s, Brixton was South London’s favourite place for shopping, eating out and meeting friends. Everyone loved Morley’s, Bon Marche, the Arches and Electric Avenue. The markets were busy – to the point of danger – with people, horses and cars. Brixton has always had its hustle and the dynamic history of entrepreneurship and enterprise runs deep – Brixton Arches was the first home of the original kings of the British High Street: Marks and Spencer’s.

In 1903 M&S opened their first penny bazaar. Like today’s homewares traders on Atlantic Road, M&S’s shelves were stacked deep and high with affordable items that offered choice and value for cleaning your (or your mistress’s) home. M&S moved to their current 448-450 Brixton Road shop in 1931, having outgrown the Arches – and making way for another trader to make their fortune.

What about entertainment? A huge total of 9 cinemas used to keep Brixtonians entertained, and the Pleasure Cinema at 26 Brixton Station Road with around 150 seats in its railway arch must have been … cosy. The Pleasure Cinema was closed sometime after 1919, like many of the other so called ‘flea pits’. With these closures, another cycle of businesses came around Brixton and into the Arches.

Trade continued to thrive throughout the Twentieth Century and during the wars, but Brixton suffered huge bomb damage during World War Two. Many of the middle class population started to leave Brixton in great numbers. This lead to vacant homes and shops that were brought to new life by the incoming Windrush generation.

Businesses changed within the Arches to reflect its new patrons, selling yams, gari, sweet potatoes and more for the West Indian and African diaspora. Portuguese and South American communities set up shop, selling salted meats and cod, and fresh produce and groceries. Fabric shops with beautiful bright bold prints opened. The newer communities created opportunities and businesses to make Brixton their new home.

Owing to these communities, Brixton is well known as a proud centre for the African and Caribbean diaspora. During a state visit in 1996 Nelson Mandela requested a visit to Brixton; Brixtonians climbed onto market stalls outside the Arches to get a quick glimpse of the icon as he walked into the Rec for a celebration of his leadership and freedom.

In 1933 Brixton was described as having “the most tremendous vitality”. Some things don’t change. Brixton is starting a new chapter with the re-development of its iconic arches. Building on its roots of entrepreneurship, immigration, and hard work, the Arches will soon again be home to a community of much-loved, independently-minded businesses called Brixton Pillars.

Atlantic Road 1904
Atlantic Road 1904

Market flower stalls under the railway viaduct in Atlantic Road, Brixton.

Atlantic Road c.1905
Atlantic Road c.1905

Looking east towards Brixton Railway Station, Atlantic Road was a busy hub in the Victorian years – as it is now.

M&S Penny Bazaar, c. 1910.
M&S Penny Bazaar, c. 1910.

Marks and Spencer’s very first shop – now pride of the UK High Street, with its origins in the heart of Brixton.

View looking west over market stalls in Station Road 1972.
View looking west over market stalls in Station Road 1972.

Seen from Pope’s Road carpark (now Pop Brixton), the Brixton Arches have always served the changing community.

The market along Brixton Station Road 1959.
The market along Brixton Station Road 1959.

View looking east towards Brixton Road. A variety of shops and traders serve the community of Brixton in 1959, around a decade into the Windrush generation’s settling in the area.

Nelson Mandela, 1996.
Nelson Mandela, 1996.

Nelson Mandela specifically requested a visit to Brixton when visiting the UK. Here he is outside our amazing Arches.

This image was reproduced by kind permission of London Borough of Lambeth, Archives Department

A long dynamic

HISTORY

In the late 1800s, Brixton was South London’s favourite place for shopping, eating out and meeting friends. Everyone loved Morley’s, Bon Marche, the Arches and Electric Avenue. The markets were busy – to the point of danger – with people, horses and cars. Brixton has always had its hustle and the dynamic history of entrepreneurship and enterprise runs deep – Brixton Arches was the first home of the original kings of the British High Street: Marks and Spencer’s.

In 1903 M&S opened their first penny bazaar. Like today’s homewares traders on Atlantic Road, M&S’s shelves were stacked deep and high with affordable items that offered choice and value for cleaning your (or your mistress’s) home. M&S moved to their current 448-450 Brixton Road shop in 1931, having outgrown the Arches – and making way for another trader to make their fortune.

What about entertainment? A huge total of 9 cinemas used to keep Brixtonians entertained, and the Pleasure Cinema at 26 Brixton Station Road with around 150 seats in its railway arch must have been … cosy. The Pleasure Cinema was closed sometime after 1919, like many of the other so called ‘flea pits’. With these closures, another cycle of businesses came around Brixton and into the Arches.

Trade continued to thrive throughout the Twentieth Century and during the wars, but Brixton suffered huge bomb damage during World War Two. Many of the middle class population started to leave Brixton in great numbers. This lead to vacant homes and shops that were brought to new life by the incoming Windrush generation.

Businesses changed within the Arches to reflect its new patrons, selling yams, gari, sweet potatoes and more for the West Indian and African diaspora. Portuguese and South American communities set up shop, selling salted meats and cod, and fresh produce and groceries. Fabric shops with beautiful bright bold prints opened. The newer communities created opportunities and businesses to make Brixton their new home.

Owing to these communities, Brixton is well known as a proud centre for the African and Caribbean diaspora. During a state visit in 1996 Nelson Mandela requested a visit to Brixton; Brixtonians climbed onto market stalls outside the Arches to get a quick glimpse of the icon as he walked into the Rec for a celebration of his leadership and freedom.

In 1933 Brixton was described as having “the most tremendous vitality”. Some things don’t change. Brixton is starting a new chapter with the re-development of its iconic arches. Building on its roots of entrepreneurship, immigration, and hard work, the Arches will soon again be home to a community of much-loved, independently-minded businesses called Brixton Pillars.

Atlantic Road 1904
Atlantic Road 1904

Market flower stalls under the railway viaduct in Atlantic Road, Brixton.

Atlantic Road c.1905
Atlantic Road c.1905

Looking east towards Brixton Railway Station, Atlantic Road was a busy hub in the Victorian years – as it is now.

M&S Penny Bazaar, c. 1910.
M&S Penny Bazaar, c. 1910.

Marks and Spencer’s very first shop – now pride of the UK High Street, with its origins in the heart of Brixton.

View looking west over market stalls in Station Road 1972.
View looking west over market stalls in Station Road 1972.

Seen from Pope’s Road carpark (now Pop Brixton), the Brixton Arches have always served the changing community.

The market along Brixton Station Road 1959.
The market along Brixton Station Road 1959.

View looking east towards Brixton Road. A variety of shops and traders serve the community of Brixton in 1959, around a decade into the Windrush generation’s settling in the area.

Nelson Mandela, 1996.
Nelson Mandela, 1996.

Nelson Mandela specifically requested a visit to Brixton when visiting the UK. Here he is outside our amazing Arches.