A Spiritual and Historic Tour of Streatham and Norwood

An area’s religious buildings often hold most of its history and Streatham is no exception with some of its spiritual edifices embracing a wealth of fascinating stories.

St Leonard’s (St Leonard is the patron saint of prisoners) is the oldest building in the area. The earliest documentary record dates from AD 675 when lands at ‘Totinge cum Stretham’ were granted to the Abbey of Chertsey. Much of the old church has been replaced but the flint tower is the oldest remaining part dating back to the 14th century. The Streatham Window, the leftmost of three windows at the end of the church, tells the history of the area. It contains the arms of the three dioceses to which the church has belonged over the centuries – Winchester, Rochester and now Southwark. The church suffered a devastating fire in 1975 and re-opened within two years.

The closest Anglican church to The Vale is St Peter’s Church located on Leigham Court Road. Similar to The Vale, it is situated between Streatham Hill, Tulse Hill, and West Norwood. Built in 1865 when St Leonards became overwhelmed with Victorian worshippers.  It is Grade II listed, and has beautiful vaulted ceilings and stained glass windows.

Nearby, is the Grade 1 listed Catholic English Martyrs Church built in 1892 by Alfred Edward Purdie. He was a pupil of Augustus Pugin, who designed the interior of the Palace of Westminster. The interior of English Martyrs is very ornate including beautiful ceiling scrolls containing the names of the martyrs that the church is named after.

The United Reform Church on the High Road was built by James Cubitt in 1900. It was largely funded by the Derry family of the Derry & Toms department store fame and Frank Bentall, also the owner of a famous department store chain.

From its root in a wooden hut in Streatham, in 1866 Streatham Baptist Church, on Lewin Road became an official Baptist congregation. The extended church as we know it today was opened in 1902. There are three surviving articles a pulpit Bible, communion items and an oak chair. Today it is (affectionately known as ‘Lewin’).

Streatham’s Jewish community is served by two synagogues. South London Synagogue on Leigham Court Road was formerly known as Streatham Synagogue. It has been on this site since 1986. It previously occupied what is now the Hyderi Islamic Centre in Estreham Road and before that, a building at 15a Mitcham Lane which went on to serve the All Nations Christian Fellowship but has also been a meeting place for the Plymouth Brethren and Jehovah’s Witnesses. The Jewish Liberal community is served by South London Liberal Synagogue.  Established in 1929, it is the third oldest liberal Jewish community in the UK. It has occupied an old girls’ school hall (built in 1908) on Prentis Road since 1938. During the late 1970s and most of the 1980s, it was led by Julia Neuberger (now Baroness Neuberger), the first woman Rabbi in the UK. Interestingly, Streatham Park cemetery on Rowan Road has an area which has served as Jewish burial ground since 1915. Most of the graves are Eastern European Jewish refugees who set up as tailors, cabinet makers and shop keepers around the Soho area. 

There has been a Muslim community in Streatham for around 50 years and in the early days, worship was held in private houses. In 1977, the South London Islamic Centre moved into the old fire station on Mitcham Lane. Plans are now underway for a new building on the site.

Established 1971 is the Sikh Gurdwara which is found on Merton Road SW18, a short drive away (25 mins) from The Vale.

72 Colmer Road is home to the Shree Swaminarayan Temple where many of the area’s Hindu community worship.

The closest Buddhist/meditation centres are the Shambala Centre in Clapham or Brixton Tristna Buddhist Centre.