The current area of Lambeth was part of the large ancient parish of Lambeth St Mary in the Brixton hundred of Surrey. It was an elongated north-south parish with a two mile River Thames frontage to the west. In the north it lay opposite the cities of London and Westminster and extended southwards to cover the contemporary districts of Brixton, West Dulwich and West Norwood, almost reaching Crystal Palace. Lambeth became part of the Metropolitan Police District in 1829. It continued as a single parish for Poor Law purposes after the Poor Law Amendment Act 1834 and a single parish governed by a vestry after the introduction of the Metropolitan Board of Works in 1855. In 1889 it became part of the County of London and the parish and vestry were reformed in 1900 to become the Metropolitan Borough of Lambeth, governed by Lambeth Borough Council.
In the reform of local government in 1965 the Streatham and Clapham areas that had formed part of the Metropolitan Borough of Wandsworth were combined with Lambeth to form the London Borough of Lambeth.