The Department Store, Brixton, London

London is seeing constant regeneration, and the latest borough to be catapulted into hipster territory is SW9. Just a moments walk from Brixton tube station, The Department Store on Ferndale Road opened at the end of this summer.

The building which has remained covered from sight for years, has been renovated into an evolving and expanding hub of creative, retail and community use. Architects Squire and Partners purchased the dilapidated Edwardian department store in 2015, and have entirely reimagined the space allowing the existing fabric and layers of history to inform the new design.  


Collaborating with craftspeople and furniture makers, the restored and extended building is now housing an exciting array of creative workspaces.

Incorporating the family of buildings along Ferndale Road, Squire and Partners’ redevelopment includes the former Brixton Fire Station, and establishes a variety of creative and retail units including a roastery for the onsite coffee shop Volcano Coffee, a cafe, Kaboola Kitchen, Pure Vinyl record store, Brixton Post Office, Canova Hall (below) and an independent restaurant on the top floor, Upstairs Brixton, which Nicky discovered this week (images at the end of this story).

Canova Hall above opened at The Department Store as an all-day local hangout to eat, drink and hot desk. Offering a menu inspired by Italian street food, as well as a gin distillery, the space is split over two floors with additional outside seating. 

During the day, Canova Hall provides a relaxed workspace environment with free wi-fi and bottomless coffee, serving pizza and sharing dishes, and in the evening transforms its offer with cocktails and late night DJ’s.  At weekends, locals can enjoy Brunch from 9.00am.

Upstairs Brixton above and their their members only terrace below


Now for a little history on the building. The Bon Marche department store (as it was called back in the day) was built in 1876 by James Smith, a local businessman from Tooting who won £80,000 in prize money when his racehorse Roseberry won an unconceivable double at Newmarket. Inspired by the opulence of the original Bon Marche in Paris, James Smith embarked on creating an unrivalled shopping destination in Brixton, which would also be the first steel framed building in the UK. 

Following the success of the main store on Brixton Road, a Ferndale Road annex named Toplin House was added in 1906 to provide two additional floors of retail, and staff accommodation on the upper levels. Underground tunnels linked Toplin House to the main store. 

After almost 50 years as a retail destination, with a brief stint as a bomb shelter during World War II, Toplin House was sold in 1955 and converted into offices.  The Bon Marche consolidated all departments into the main store on Brixton Road, where it continued trading until 1975.

Toplin House and a collection of adjacent buildings, which include the original horse and cart Brixton Fire Station, were used by a variety of occupiers including the British Refugee Council until 2012 when the site fell vacant and subject to squatters. The only part of the site which remained in use was the Post Office on the corner with Stockwell Avenue.


The images above and below show the offices of the creative design studio Mammal


Above, inside the glass dome tower where Nicky had dinner earlier this week


Upstairs at The Department Store

Upstairs at The Department Store is their new rooftop guest restaurant and bar. At present they are limited to operating as a guest restaurant by invitation only as they’re currently applying for a license which will allow them to open up the space and make it more widely available in the future.

Click on this link to register with The Department Store, and in turn have the opportunity to dine at their top floor restaurant which is currently reservations only.