Prima Road is a short road that runs from Clapham Road to Brixton Road and faces St Mark’s Church. Prima Road is one of the oldest streets in this area, originally called Church Row or Church Street it was renamed in 1912, quite why the name Prima Road was chosen I am unsure, if anyone knows what is behind this name then give me a shout in the comments box below.
Prima road belonged originally to a plot of land called the Wright Estate. British History Online tells us that “Prima Road was laid out about 1794, when the property belonged to John Wright of Esher, banker. Wright granted several building leases of plots fronting Clapham and Brixton Roads”.
Executions and Churches….
Back then Prima Road would have had uninterrupted views of Kennington Common, what we now know of as Kennington Park. Originally Prima Road faced the part of Kennington Common where the Surrey Gallows stood, a fairly grim view or a front row seat depending on your outlook. At least two hangings took place after the building of Prima Road. In 1795 Lewis Jeremiah Avershaw an infamous highwayman, was executed for shooting a Peace Officer and then in 1799 the last person to be hanged at the common was a fraudster from nearby Camberwell by the name Badger (1.) This makes the Surrey Gallows one of the last public hanging spots in London as the infamous Tyburn ended public execution six years earlier. St Mark’s Church was then built in 1824 on the site of the gallows and remains there to this day.
1) Source: Wikipedia
A river runs through it…
Or more accurately under it. The Effra is a river that once flowed above ground all the way from Crystal Palace down to the Thames at Vauxhall. It has an interesting history and you can read more about it here. The river flowed right across the northern part of Prima Road where the fence enclosing the church now stands, you can see the Effra indicated by a small line on the maps below. The area that Prima Road stands on was once very marshy and would have required draining before building took place. The river was then built over between 1837 and 1857, St Marks’s paid £322 towards the costs. The raised banks of Oval cricket ground were built with earth excavated during the enclosing of the Effra.
Prima Road On Maps…
The map above is “Laurie and Whittle New Map of London with its Environs, including the Recent Improvements from 1809” and although unlabelled Prima Road is clearly visible (indicated by the arrow) and had been standing for fifteen years by this point.
“Pigot & Co.’s Metropolitan Guide & Miniature Plan Of London from 1820” shows Prima Road and the surrounding area eleven years later.
“Cary’s New Plan Of London And Its Vicinity” shows the area another seventeen years later in 1837, St Mark’s Church is now clearly indicated in the top right corner of the map.
“1850. Cross’s New Plan Of London 1850” shows the area around Prima Road which is clearly then labelled as Church Street.
Prima Road when it was Church Street back in 1857, the map is called “Kelly’s Post Office Directory Map Of London”
The map above is a Lambeth Ward Map from 1876 showing the division between the Vauxhall Ward (light blue) and the North Brixton Ward (pink) Prima Road is labelled as Church Row.
Charles Booth’s Map of London Poverty research took him to Prima Road in 1895. The Map above is from 1898 and shows how Booth graded Prima Road. The key to what the colours mean can be seen to the right of the image. For more information on Charles Booth and the classification of poverty see here.
Prima Road as seen unlabelled on “A Pocket Atlas of London 1900”
Number 5 Prima Road…
Number 5 Prima Road is the oldest building on the street and is mentioned in British History Online as “Formerly Severn House. This house was erected under a building lease granted in 1801 to William Broadhurst but has probably been altered since. It is a three-storey stock brick villa raised above a semi-basement and finished with a cornice and blocking course to the parapet. It has a rusticated stuccoed ground storey and is set forward slightly at each side of the central entrance. The entrance is sheltered by a broad Ionic-columned porch which has rectangular corner piers with anthemion-ornamented heads. There are bearded male mask keystones over the windows which are identical with those on No. 57 South Lambeth Road. The villa is partially masked by later houses which about it at each side on an advanced building line.”
Many of the streets in our area were scarred and altered by the bombings in WWI and WW2 however Prima Road appears to have escaped unscathed. It must have been hit with an almighty wall of blast however as St Mark’s church was almost completely destroyed and rebuilt, the only parts to survive were the Grecian facade and pillars, topped by the small cupola and cross.