Lambeth Marsh, London in 1670

Lower Marsh

The text for this topic is taken from the excellent www.lower-marsh.co.uk website with their kind permission.


Lambeth Marsh c 1670
Lambeth Marsh c 1670

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 that 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 breakdown of the urban grain between Lower Marsh and The Cut.

The New Cut, showing the Old Vic to the right
The New Cut, showing the Old Vic to the right

The buildings on Lower Marsh Street represent many phases of development and many different styles. Among 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-century buildings to four floors), and the narrow circa 5-metre 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.

Hardware dealer, New Cut Market
Hardware dealer, New Cut Market

Related links
All Saints Church
Bishop Bonner’s House
Cottingham’s house and museum
Dr Robert James
William James
Lambeth Marsh
Lambeth North Station
James Sowerby