The first shopping street in the UK to be lit by electricity is to get a makeover after the Heritage Lottery Fund allocated a £2.6 million grant to refurbish buildings along the street.

The new money will be spent on restoring buildings in the street to their former glory, and on a series of community projects, including a proposal for solar powered electricity.

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Probably more famous today for a certain 1983 pop-song, and the street market that fills the roadspace, Brixton’s Electric Avenue was originally one of the heights of Victorian splendour.

Built in the 1880s, it was lined with a glass and iron canopy, which survived in places right up to the 1980s when it was sadly pulled down.

London, Brixton, Electric Avenue 1910's - showing vintage perambulator outside Parke's Drug Store

It was the electricity after which the street was named that marked it out as such an upmarket place to shop, for the retailers could more brightly display their wares and stay open later at night.

To Victorians more used to gloomy nights with dim gas lighting, the use of electricity at the time was a marvel of the age and the street would have been lit up more like high streets today are briefly decorated for Christmas.

In Brixton, it was always Christmas, for a few years at least until other towns caught up and installed their own versions of this new-fangled electricity stuff.

Electric_Avenue_by_Baron_Corvo,_The_Sketch,_1895

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4 comments on “Brixton’s Electric Avenue to glow again
  1. LadyBracknell says:

    I was in Brixton yesterday and Electric Avenue is looking distinctly down at heel. I can’t help thinking that £1.95 million won’t go very far.

    • zak says:

      I live around the area and couldnt agree more. The whole avenue is in shambles! What s gonna happen to the market? would it have to be moved elsewhere?

  2. Annabel says:

    Oh, I hope the market won’t have to move – it is already a shadow of its former self, not a bit what it was 30 years ago. And all the foodie places in the arcades – very nice (especially Lab G, the gelateria), but very strange if you’ve lived in the area as long as I have.

  3. LadyBracknell says:

    Blame it on the arrival of Foxtons, although I think it has been many years since Brixton has been a cheap place to live.

    @zak: I don’t think that £1.95 million will see the removal of the market and it certainly doesn’t herald the wholesale destruction that the redevelopment of Shepherd’s Bush Market and parts of the Goldhawk Road will bring.

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