Wander into Brixton history – view the mural, try the tacos

Simone Richardson visits Slade Gardens and the Crown & Anchor – both landmarks with a history worth telling

treess in blossom in urban park
Blossom time in Slade Gardens

Now that we’re freer to enjoy Brixton’s enormous range of opportunities to sip, nibble and mingle, don’t overlook a great combination – the Crown & Anchor on Brixton Road and its unofficial back yard, Slade Gardens park.

They’re just a wander from the town centre and, if we ever get a sunny day, the park is a great place to sit and relax in some green open space.

And both park and pub have lots of history.

urban park
Slade Gardens

Slade Gardens is named for the Slade family. Robert Slade lived in Kennington Road and in 1804 he and Randle Jackson bought 9.3 hectares of undeveloped farmland between Brixton Road, Stockwell Park Road, Lorn Road and Robsart Street.

Most of the land was not built on until 1840, although some houses were built along Brixton Road soon after 1804.

Finished by the 1870s, the estate passed to Robert Slade’s sons William and Felix.

On 22 June 1944, a bomb destroyed several houses in the area, killing 11 people. The bomb site would become part of Slade Gardens after being used for “prefab” houses in the early 50s.

urban sunset
Sunset over Slade Gardens and the Crown & Anchore

When the Second World War was over, the London County Council began to buy land to create a public open spaces, one, known as Ingleton Street Open Space, became The Slade Garden in 1958. Ingleton Street, severely damaged by bombing, was demolished and almost all that remains of it is the Crown and Anchor.

The gardens have since been re-landscaped with a circular paved area and a ring of ornamental trees and low shrubs near the pub, but they remain mainly an open grassy space.

In 2019, Slade Gardens was one of a handful of local city greening projects to get significant funding from the London mayor’s Greener City Fund.

This helped to develop the popular adventure playground site with an “edible playground” and wildlife ponds to host workshops for local children and the community.

outdoor mural
Slade Gardens Adventure Playground, mural by Gordon Wilkinson. Picture: Brixton Society

Slade Gardens is also home to the mural Slade Gardens Adventure Playground which was designed and painted on a Lorn Road house by Gordon Wilkinson in 1983. His wife, Sarah Faulkner, and local residents helped with the process.

The mural shows local children and residents, along with the adventure playground. Local landmarks such as St Michael’s Church and residential tower blocks, some now demolished, are visible

A vicar, police officer and dinner lady are among prominent neighbourhood figures included.

The mural has faded over the years, partly due to a leaking water pipe that damaged it in 2010.

But the park now has more brilliant “graffiti” art creations – one on the back of the Crown and Anchor and another opposite.

grafitti art on park wall
Grafitti art in Slade gardens

This former local – credited with being the UK’s first “rock and roll” pub – re-opened in 2012 as a craft beer and cider pub courtesy of Martin Harley and the team behind The Jolly Butchers in Stoke Newington.

As well as a huge range of drinks – when conditions and customer numbers allow, great food is served by manager Justine White who has worked there for just over four years.

She left Johannesburg in South Africa at seven to grow up in Devon and then moved to London in her early 20s.

Justine came to London looking for work in the media after a degree in photo media and design communication – “all about photography and moving images”.

But no-one was employing. “So I went to my local pub and asked for a job. Haven’t stopped working since”.

A daily bus from East Dulwich brings Justine to the Crown and Anchor. “It’s busy,” she says. “Opening, setting up, getting people drinks throughout the shift is fun.’’

woman Coid mask outside pub
Justine White

She coped with lockdown despite the pub being shut. “I had a blast,” she says. “I had not had time off work since I was 16 so, for once, I got to relax.

“I did go for walks and runs regularly to catch up with a few friends, so never felt isolated and I live with a great housemate. So we had a good bubble.”

Now back at work, her fondness for Brixton is reinforced.

“I love the eclectic atmosphere all over Brixton. It is fun and never dull along Brixton Road.

“It has a really good community spirit in this area and all the businesses know each other along the stretch and help each other out whenever needed.”

Make sure you book to go to the Crown & Anchor. Tables to eat and drink sell out. And take a card – cash is not accepted.

Justine recommends the baja tacos –containing beer-battered haddock. “They’re great.”

mural
Hot stuff: modern mural on the wall of Booma opposite the Crown & Anchor

Crown & Anchor, 246 Brixton Road, SW9 6AQ
020 7737 0060

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