Hartington Road, SW8

In 1774 a footpath which ran along the line of the present Hartington Road divided the nine acres into a western portion, containing about five acres and planted with gooseberry and currant “trees”, and an eastern portion, part grass and part ploughed land.

Another footpath on the line of Wilcox Road bounded the close on the north side. The western portion was let on two building leases to John Roupell, lead-smelter, in 1824 and 1825. Landsdowne Place and Spring Grove – which later were consoldated into Hartington Road – were laid out in the 1820s.

The eastern portion was purchased by Thomas Allen at an auction in 1821 and was not let on building lease until after his death. The portion was developed after 1857 by John Abbot, builder, who laid out Brough Street and Kenchester Street.

Since the houses between Hartington Road and Brough Street were destroyed by a flying bomb in the war of 1939–45, their sites became covered with temporary single-storey prefabricated houses. On the rest of the land to the east the original development of two-storey terrace houses is still standing. The houses here are typical of the 1850s and 1860s, with stucco surrounds to the door and window openings and hoods over the ground-floor openings, all detailed in a debased Classical manner. Some houses have pilaster-flanked entrances.

Slum clearance started as a London-wide social movement in the 1920s with the aim of replacing unsatisfactory, overcrowded and unsanitary housing with modern accommodation. It was fuelled by government grants, and a side objective of giving employment during the depression. This led to the demolition of Victorian properties, some of low grade, particularly tenement blocks, but also to the wholesale demolition of many streets of terraced Victorian houses.

Following the 1939-45 war slum clearance was taken up again in Lambeth. The Victorian practice of having toilets at the rear of the property or in the yard was considered old-fashioned and unsanitary. Terraces were declared “unfit for human habitation” by the Lambeth Council Medical Officer, who generally did not personally inspect the houses internally.

Large areas were designated for clearance, so that properties fell in value and the only purchaser if one fell vacant was the council, who could buy at a distressed price. These properties were left to decay, or boarded up, thus exacerbating the downward spiral of the area, so that the compensation value on eventual compulsory purchase was low.

Most of the left side of Hartington Road depicted in the old photo – the area between Hartington Road and Wandsworth Road – was demolished in 1950s slum clearance.

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