The History of London’s Housing Stock

Discover how London’s housing has evolved throughout the decades with our interactive tool

London has grown exponentially as it’s evolved into the megacity we know today. The 32 boroughs that make up this thriving metropolis are unique in their own right and from a historical perspective, each one has a notable and unique story. From the luxurious pre-1900 houses and garden squares in Knightsbridge, to the housing expansion and regeneration around Canary Wharf in recent years, London’s homes are as diverse as its inhabitants.

With this in mind, Knight Frank is pleased to launch a new, interactive report aimed at sharing unique insight into the Capital’s housing history for both residents and visitors alike. Our interactive tool uses housing data from the past 120 years, to visualise 14 unique stories connected to some of the Capital’s most notable areas. These boroughs showcase the dramatic changes in that area, while also highlighting their significance to the overall landscape of London’s housing.

To begin, click on an area or select a borough from the drop-down list.

Understand and compare complex data with our helpful infographics and read the full narrative to learn all about each London borough.

southwark area

Barking & Dagenham Brent Islington Camden Tower Hamlets Harrow City of London Westminster Southwark Lambeth Wandsworth Kensington Richmond Upon Thames Hammersmith & Fulham

Housing Stock in Southwark

Touted as one of the oldest parts of London, the borough of Southwark has a rich and diverse history.

southwark area

Age of Housing Stock in

Pre 1900

southwark area
    Pre 1900

"Southwark had the greatest proportion of social housing in England - 31.2%, at the time of the 2011 census."

Touted as one of the oldest parts of London, the borough of Southwark has a rich and diverse history.

During the 1500's, the area was home to the capital’s red light district, before giving way more reputable entertainment, housing a large of number of London’s public theatres, the most famous being Shakespeare’s Globe.

rotherhithe 1789

southwark in the 1870s

By the start of the 19th century, the area’s significance as a cultural hub began to wane. Shipping, trade and industry transformed riverside wards with ever-expanding wharves, docks, factories and warehouses.

southwark warehouse 1865

As a result of the new trade and industry, the capital’s population had rapidly increased and, in tandem with an influx of workers servicing the river, streets were soon full of row upon row densely populate tenement dwellings. Sub-divided Georgian and early Victorian houses fell into disrepair, prompting middle classes to relocate to newly emerging suburbs such as Dulwich and Clapham.

1970’s and beyond

Southwark was particularly afflicted by bombing during the Second World War, but it was the decline and eventual death of manufacturing that most deeply scarred the riverside’s urban landscape.

By the 1970’s, the age of the riverside industry was almost over; wharves were abandoned, factories closed and warehouses left empty. It is estimated that half of the manufacturing jobs in Southwark were lost in the period from 1971 to 1986.

By the mid-Eighties, all of Southwark's major manufacturing factories were gone leaving large areas of industrial wasteland and housing estates which were often isolated seemingly in the middle of nowhere.

Southwark’s regeneration and 21st century property development

The first wave of Southwark’s riverfront urban regeneration and land redevelopment took place in the 1980’s when the derelict warehouses of Shad Thames were converted into luxury residential apartments much like in New York’s Meatpacking District. Exemplary redevelopment of old warehouses include Butlers Wharf where building names attest their original warehouse storage purpose - Tea Trade Wharf, Cinnamon Wharf, Cardamom Building, Spice Quay, Vanilla and Sesame Court.

st saviours wharf

Today, regeneration in Southwark d £4 billion. Award-winning luxury apartment and state of the art new build properties include NEO Bankside, Benbow House and One Tower Bridge. Elephant and Castle – a 1960’s collection of office blocks, housing estates and a defunct shopping centre - is currently being redeveloped to include 170 acres of 2,500 new homes, including a landmark 37-storey skyscraper named One The Elephant.

One Tower Bridge’s riverside location makes it an obvious stand out development. Positioned directly across the River Thames from the Tower of London and adjacent to the iconic Tower Bridge, it enjoys stunning views of the City skyline.

Contact our Tower Bridge office to find out more about this historic borough!

Click on the links below to explore other boroughs in London

London’s historical housing stock data comes from the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) and was analysed by Knight Frank