About Lower Marsh
Lower Marsh, South Bank's Market, is a great place to shop, eat and drink.
"So named because it lies on the site of the ancient Lambeth Marsh which first appeared in historical records in 1377.
This historic street has operated as a street market and centre for local shopping since the mid-nineteenth century.
In 1984 Lambeth council designated Lower Marsh and it's immediate surroundings a conservation area in recognition of it's special character." (from a plate at the beginning of Lower Marsh)
Lower Marsh has a technical definition in planning terms as a District Shopping Centre.
This is identified in the current Unitary Development Plan of the London Borough of Lambeth as a series of shopping frontages spread over Lower Marsh itself, The Cut, Waterloo Road, Baylis Road, Westminster Bridge Road, and Kennington Road.
"The Lower Marsh Conservation Area lies to the South East of Waterloo Station, and includes the Lower Marsh market, shopping area, adjacent buildings, and shopping frontages on Westminster Bridge Road, Waterloo Road, other important buildings and spaces.
Lower Marsh Street pre-dates all the buildings now present. It is shown in the de la Feuille survey of 1690 as a lane lined with cottages and small holdings crossing Lambeth Marsh, on an almost identical alignment. It formed, with The Cut, a link between Westminster Bridge (1750) and Blackfriars Bridge (1769). The leisure activities like pleasure gardens, circuses, theatres etc. which characterised the south bank in the late 18th and early 19th centuries were present in and around Lower Marsh (Old Vic 1816). The opening of Waterloo Bridge in 1817 brought cheap development land into easy reach of the expanding centre of London. The Marsh was drained, and soon covered with rows of small houses, wharves and workshops.
Lower Marsh and The Cut formed the commercial heart of the area from the early 19th century. The street market then established has operated almost continuously since this time. At its peak, the market stretched from Blackfriars to Vauxhall.
The building of Waterloo Station in 1848 and its subsequent expansion cut the street off from the riverside, and created a number of yards and cul de sacs from former streets. These fragments exist alongside surviving courts and alleyways characteristic of urban development in the 18th and early 19th century.
In the twentieth century war damage, and subsequent housing redevelopment has significantly changed the historic street patterns and urban scale to the south. Widening of Baylis Road and the growth of The Cut as a main traffic route in the 1960s led to the confinement of the street market to Lower Marsh, and a break down of the urban grain between Lower Marsh and The Cut.
The buildings on Lower Marsh Street represent many phases of development and many different styles. Amongst the diverse buildings are some interesting examples of early 19th century vernacular architecture, continuing the Georgian vernacular patterns and layouts of the 18th century, for example some buildings retain lateral front entrances with side passages and corner winding stairs, others retain noteworthy façade details, butterfly and M shaped roof patterns, slate or clay tile coverings, etc. Internally, some 19th century buildings retain panelling, wider floorboards, old timber wall plates, bressumers and other oversized structural timbers. Good examples of shopfronts from different eras are present on the street and are worthy of enhancement. Courts and alleyways and streets off to the sides still retain some original sett or yorkstone pavings.
Within the diverse scene, the unifying features are the early 19th century simple parapet fronted classically styled buildings without visible mansards. These define the building line which is continuous at the back of the footway, creating a close relationship with the street itself. These older buildings have a common three floor roof height (This rises on some later 19th c buildings to four floors), and the narrow c 5m. plot width dictating narrow fronted buildings. The variety in which these narrow plots are developed gives the area great character, further enhanced by the market."
(from the local history section at Brixton Library)
For more information or old photo's on Lower Marsh please contact Lambeth Archives and Minet Library, 52 Knatchbull Road, London, SE5 9QY. Telephone: 020 7926 6076 (booking recommended). Fax: 020 7926 6080. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.