Streets of London: Josephine Avenue, SW2
An elegant Victorian avenue in south-west London has firmly resisted gentrification. Time Out takes a look around a lively neighbourhood
Close to what, in the bad old days of stop-and-search laws and Margaret Thatcher, used to be known as 'Frontline Brixton', lies a tree-lined avenue so enchanting, so other-timely that walking along it you almost expect Mary Poppins to come floating out of the sky with her umbrella.
Until – as I did – you bump into a prostitute servicing a client in your neighbour’s garden.
Josephine Avenue hasn’t quite managed to shake off some of the more unsavoury elements for which it was renowned in the ’80s, but that doesn’t stop it from being one of the most sought-after places to live in south London. It’s a quiet, stately road that’s Brixton without being Coldharbour Lane. Rows of magnificent, late Victorian three-storey houses with long gardens sit round the corner from Brockwell Park and within walking distance of Brixton town centre. Properties are a mixture of private and housing association, where retired transport workers, lawyers, architects and mechanics live in harmony with the mothers of rock stars.
There is a real sense of community surrounding Josephine Avenue. People know their neighbours, children still ride bikes on the pavements of the back streets and the indefatigable Josephine Avenue Group residents’ association organises everything from bi-annual street cleans to book clubs. It’s also the proud home of Urban Art – London’s only alfresco art fair (www.urbanart.co.uk). Run by local artist Tim Sutton, a Josephine Avenue resident since 1986, it takes place over a weekend every July, exhibiting the work of nearly 100 artists on the street’s cast-iron railings. Works from under £10 to over £1,000 are sold by the artists themselves, raising money for the Merlin Charity, alongside stalls selling juice, cakes and jerk chicken.
A Corpus Christi Catholic Primary School B Brockwell Park C Pempamsie Art Shop D Mango Landing E Hootananny
The area also has a strong sense of history. Unlike nearby Clapham and Balham, where gentrification has resulted in a dreary socio-economic cleansing – with lower-income residents shipped out to places like Luton to make way for estate agents and Fairtrade pet jewellery shops – Brixton’s character and sense of past remains. On Brixton Hill, the domed roof of bar South Beach (frequented by the R&B and bashment set) harks back to its former life as a camping shop and, many years before that, a picturehouse. And back on Josephine Avenue, rumour has it that the ancient oak tree outside No 40 overlooked a liaison – somewhat more romantic than the one I witnessed – between Sir Walter Raleigh and Elizabeth I, as they were punted past on the River Effra.
Going outMango Landing (40 St Matthew’s Rd ; 020 7737 3044) is an unpretentious Caribbean-inspired bar with a mixed clientele, lovely cocktails and a garden perfect for summer drinking. Since taking over from the Hobgoblin, Hootananny (95 Effra Lane; 020 7737 7273) is building a reputation as one of the best nights out south of the river, with eclectic live music every evening of the week (including everything from ska to candlelit Celtic folk), tasty Thai food and a great beer garden. The ever-popular White Horse (94 Brixton Hill; 020 8678 6666) is rammed nightly and great for a Sunday roast.
Local shopsPempamsie (102 Brixton Hill; 020 8671 0800) is a popular art shop where you can buy everything from books and clothes to jewellery and Africa-inspired art. Workshops and talks are also held in-shop.
SchoolsCorpus Christi Catholic Primary School on Trent Road scored the highest grade (1) in its last Ofsted report, while the similarly high-ranking Livity School on Mandrell Road is a multicultural and multifaith community special-needs school.
TransportThe area has excellent transport links. Brixton tube station, on the Victoria Line, is in Zone 2, while Brixton railway station on Atlantic Road is on the London Victoria to Orpington line, with trains both ways every 15 mins. Buses, such as the 59, 109, 118, 133, 159, 250 and 333, are very frequent.
Estate agentsEden Harper, 3 Arlington Parade, Brixton Hill, SW2 (020 7274 3111/www.edenharper.com).Bairstow Eves, 518 Brixton Road, SW9 (020 7737 3330/www.bairstoweves.com).Lloyd & Co, 112c Brixton Hill, SW2 (020 7771 8177/www.lloydandcoproperties.com).
- Add your comment to this feature