Locals have mixed feelings about the transformation
Suzy Woods moved to the area 30 years ago
December 8, 2022
The skyline of Wandsworth town centre, once home to Britain’s oldest brewery site, is changing forever as luxury flats in shiny tower blocks take over derelict land seized by hundreds of squatters in the nineties. The area is fast becoming a trendy new destination in the capital and locals love its “villagey vibe” but worry for its future.
Victorian workers’ cottages built for the famous Young’s Ram Brewery, which shut down in 2006, now sell for more than a million pounds. While these terraced homes are snapped up by rich families, young professionals are moving into huge developments along the River Thames and around Wandsworth Town Station – just 15 minutes from Waterloo.
Some long-term residents have “cashed in” on the spike in local house prices and moved to the countryside after Covid, locals say. The average price of homes around the station was £711,676 in the last year, according to Rightmove – with terraced homes selling for a huge £1.11 million on average and flats for £560,041.
Residents and businesses told the Local Democracy Reporting Service the area has “changed massively” since they arrived decades ago. Suzy Woods bought a home locally around 30 years ago after renting in Battersea when she left university.
The 51-year-old works in Anthology on Old York Road and said the high street – now full of cafés, brunch spots and shops – used to have “hardly anything” and “wasn’t a destination at all”. She said Anthology was one of the first businesses to see the area as a “good opportunity” 13 years ago and that it’s changed hugely since Covid. Outdoor dining and semi-pedestrianisation has given it “more of a villagey vibe”.
A villagey vibe on Old York Road
Acres of derelict land south of the Thames also lay empty for years before being turned into luxury flats. Ms Woods said, “Loads of squatters used to live there. They were like real hippies, old-school hippies living on that bit of land and they were always trying to kick them off because they were squatting on the land. But there was nothing there, it was empty, there were none of these luxury flats anywhere around here at all.”
She added that the old workers’ cottages are now sought-after. She said, “You only have to look in the estate agents around here to see they’re over a million pounds”.
Pointing at new tower blocks going up around the town, Charles Benn, who moved into the Tonsleys roughly 26 years ago, said the “skyline is gone”. He loves the area’s “villagey feel” but branded the new developments a “terrible change”.
The 55-year-old, who moved to Wandsworth when he was 17, said: “On the whole it’s changed for the better but I don’t like all of this. Not in a NIMBY way, it’s just all changed and they’re not making the railway station any bigger.
“There’s going to be another 5,000 people there and they’re all going to be trying to get on this train in the morning. There’s no more doctor’s surgeries being built or anything like that.”
Mr Benn added, “Younger people are going into places like this [tower blocks], they’re not coming into these houses because they’re too expensive now – they weren’t expensive when I moved here.”
Ram Quarter and Riverside Quarter are among the area’s new developments, where flats typically sell for more than £1 million. The town is at the heart of Wandsworth Council’s revamp plans – which include new homes, shops and road changes.
The council wants to link the area around the station and the Tonsleys to the rest of the town centre. The town’s nightmare one-way system is set to be remodelled to free it up for pedestrians, bikes and buses under new plans – slashing congestion.
Pub manager Gosia Samborska, 37, thinks Old York Road will become busier in the next few years as the changes continue. Working at The Alma was Ms Samborska’s first job after moving to London from Poland 12 years ago and she’s still there because she loves it so much.
Gosia Samborska manages The Alma
The revamped Victorian pub, with its iconic green tiles, is a historic landmark in the town – but its customers, Ms Samborska said, are now generally younger rather than old regulars. The area has become “corporate”, she added, with “fancy buildings” replacing sites like the old B&Q on Smugglers Way and Homebase on Swandon Way.
Ms Samborska said, “Lots of successful young people work in the centre and after they come in here. They [also] have flats around and during the weekends they come in for a pint.” About the area’s future, she added: “It’s going to be more modern – before it was lots of small houses and now it’s just big buildings.”
Charlotte Lillywhite - Local Democracy Reporter