Another in the occasional series on historical sites on the “Capital Ring” walk …
Streatham was first founded in the Saxon period, possibly on the site of an earlier, Roman settlement. It was first recorded in 675 as (Totinge cum) Stretham, and later recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 as Estreham, from the Old English straet, in this context probably the Roman road that ran from London to Portslade (near Brighton), and ham, meaning homestead or village. In the Saxon period it, together with nearby Tooting, was owned by the Abbey of Chertsey. In the Norman period, both estates were given by William I to his cousin Richard of Tonbridge, who when he died bequeathed them to the Abbey of Saint Mary of Bec in Normandy (whence Tooting Bec). In the later Medieval to post-Medieval/early modern period, the area came to be owned in turn by Eton College, Edward VI, the Howland family, the Russell family (the Dukes of Bedford), and the Du Cane family, and remained sparsely populated. Many wealthy City families evidently established country retreats here after the Great Fire of London in 1666. The area remained at least semi-rural, and fashionable among the bourgeois elite, into Georgian and Regency times. It began to become much more built-up and densely populated from the latter half of the nineteenth century onwards, after the arrival of the railway. The number of inhabitants increased over ten-fold during the period of Victoria’s reign, to around 100000. A significant amount of new or replacement housing had to be built in the area after the bombing of the Second World War.
Church of St Leonard
The church of St Leonard was probably originally built in the Saxon period; rebuilt in the fourteenth century, in c. 1350; rebuilt again in the nineteenth century, in 1830-1; and restored in the twentieth, after sustaining serious damage in a fire, in 1975. The tower survives from the Medieval church. A number of seventeenth- to eighteenth- century memorials also survive, in the interior, including one to John Howland (d. 1686), and one to the sometime brewery business proprietor, Alderman and Sheriff of the City of London, and Member of Parliament Henry Thrale of Streatham Place (d. 1781), featuring an epitaph by his close friend Dr Samuel Johnson.
Later stained-glass windows commemorate Sir John Ward, a knight who fought alongside the Black Prince at the Battle of Crecy in 1346, and who commissioned the rebuilding of the church in c. 1350; Edmund Tilney or Tylney, the Master of the Revels under Elizabeth I and James I, who lived locally and died in 1610; and the aforementioned Henry Thrale and his wife Hester (shown with Johnson and Boswell).