South London: Letting itself go

‘Without motorways, seas or parish councils there to act as a brake on the city’s relentless growth, the south is where London has been left free to let it all hang out, flopping about like a binbag full of yoghurt.’

With an embarrassing middle age spread already developing with the fatty deposits of Brixton and Tooting, the end of rationing combined with the early days of cheap housing triggered a post-war burst of obesity, with London’s limitless appetite swallowing all many pretty villages in its path. Acre after acre of plump, sweaty overhang sprawls beneath the Thames, with appalled visitors to the capital’s nether reaches left only with pity at how the once-lean city has been left to fall in to such a sad, corpulent state.

Doctors have declared that they are increasingly concerned by the harmful path south London has taken. Some say that if it fails to reduce in size soon the region faces the serious risk of becoming entirely housebound, with few friends, little culture and no sport.

Occasionally, south London will steel itself enough to go on a crash diet to fight off the flab, knocking down sink estates, cleaning itself up, and regenerating the attractive original features it once had as a teenager. Sadly, these frenzies of activity are invariably short-lived. Just one tough day at the office is enough to send the area slumping back on to the sofa, loosening its green belt one more notch.


1538 – Henry VIII seizes control of Dulwich and orders goldsmith Thomas Calton to set up a wife training school for him.

1599Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre is erected on the Bankside and becomes the first place to hold a full production of Hamlet. Sadly, the building burns down fourteen years later, just before the third act is finished.

1767 – William Blake visits Peckham and claims to have a vision of an angel in a tree, though on closer inspection this turns out to be an abandoned Tesco’s bag.

1944 – Dulwich is hit by many V-1 and V-2 rocket bombs after the British military deliberately gives map co-ordinates four miles north of the truth in an attempt to protect their favourite central London pub.

1987 – For the third time in six years, riots erupt in Brixton after a policeman tells an elderly black woman the wrong time of day.

1989 – In a hilarious moment talked about in his local pub for years to come, Peckham market trader Daniel Potter falls through the open bar hatch, badly breaking his arm.

1993 – After years of decline, Peckham embarks on a £290 million regeneration programme in an effort to rejuvenate its ailing crime industry.

Did You Know?

London cab drivers are famously unwilling to take people south of the Thames. This is partly because of the risk of violence, and partly because the rate of southern expansion makes ‘the Knowledge’ obsolete within four days.

Southwark was once a favourite area for entertainments including bulls and bears, but during hard times, has been forced to fall back on flea baiting.

The popular Wombles characters were committed to “Making Good Use of Bad Rubbish,” something achieved after reaching number 1 with the lyrical talent of Mike Batt.

From 2001 to 2004 Brockwell Park hosted an annual Cannabis Festival with the police reportedly maintaining a low profile, tolerating the smoking of cannabis. However, in 2005 the festival was cancelled after Council officers took exception to the application form not arriving on time, and being filled in by ‘Rasta Mouse’.

Electric Avenue in Brixton was so named after it became the first street in London to be lit by electricity. Riots were held as the new technology was introduced across London with opponents calling it the “The invisible Killer”, urging the Government to go back to the proven safety record of open flames.

54 Parkside, Wimbledon is home of the Pope’s ambassador to Great Britain, where he offers spiritual, theological and family planning guidance, as well as direct fax line to God.

Former Prime Minister John Major’s Brixton roots were used in a campaign poster during the Conservative Party’s 1992 election campaign: “What does the Conservative Party offer a working class kid from Brixton? They made him Prime Minister.’ Which is pretty much exactly the same as saying ‘What did the Lottery offer a thug from Norfolk? They gave him nine million quid.’


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