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Clapham is a district of South West London within the London Boroughs of Lambeth and Wandsworth.


The Clapham postal district is SW4 but historic Clapham includes parts of SW2, SW8, SW9 and SW12. Clapham Common is shared with the London Borough of Wandsworth, although Lambeth has responsibility for running the common as a whole. According to the 2001 census Clapham and Stockwell town centre had a joint population of 65,513 inhabitants. For administrative and electoral purposes - Clapham is made up of 3 Lambeth wards - Clapham Common, Clapham Town and Thornton ward. Parts of Clapham North lie within the Brixton electoral ward of Ferndale and the Stockwell electoral ward of Larkhall. The portion of the SW4 postcode north of Union Road and Stockwell Station falls within the area of Stockwell. Large parts of South Battersea are often referred to as Clapham due to the location of Clapham Junction railway station and their proximity to Clapham Common as well as their relative distance from Battersea's historic village.

Clapham Common and Clapham Town

Clapham Common is 220 acres of green space, with three ponds and an old bandstand. It is overlooked by large Georgian and Victorian mansions, and nearby Clapham Old Town. It also has Holy Trinity Clapham, an 18th-century Georgian church, important in the history of the evangelical Clapham Sect. The Old Town is a mix of Georgian, Victorian and Queen Anne architecture. Clapham Town comprises Clapham High Street and residential streets including Clapham Manor Street, home to Clapham Leisure Centre, as well as Venn Street with an independent cinema, restaurants, and a food market held every weekend throughout the year.

Clapham South

Clapham South is a largely residential area encompassing the southern parts of the Common including the streets radiating off Clapham Common Southside and Cavendish Road and the southern section of Kings Avenue leading up to Hyde Farm. It also includes a detached part of Clapham to the south of Nightingale Lane and bordered by Nightingale Square, Oldridge Road and Balham Hill. The Balham Hill area is also commonly considered to be Clapham South due to its proximity to the tube station, although technically in Balham. Clapham Common Westside comes under the SW4 Clapham postal district although technically in Battersea. Abbeville Village is a district within Clapham lying between Clapham Common South Side and Clarence Avenue and is synonymous with the Clapham Common electoral Ward. The area is centred on a short stretch of mainly independent shops and restaurants within a longer, otherwise residential road.

Clapham North

Clapham North lies on either side of Clapham Road and borders Stockwell on Union Road and Stirling Road. There is a Stockwell Town Partnership sign north of Union Road demarcating the boundary between Clapham North and Stockwell. The northern part of Clapham North lying within the Larkhall Ward includes the architecturally significant Sibella conservation area, whilst the southern part lies within Ferndale ward and includes Landor, Ferndale and Bedford roads leading up to Brixton.


Early history

The present day Clapham High Street is an ancient "diversion" of the Roman military road Stane Street, which ran from London to Chichester. This followed the line of Clapham Road and then onward along the line of Abbeville Road. The ancient status of that military road is recorded on a Roman stone now placed by the entrance of Clapham Library in the Old Town, which was discovered during building operations at Clapham Common South Side in 1912. Erected by vitus Ticinius Ascanius according to its inscription, it is estimated to date from the 1st century.

According to the history of the Clapham family maintained by the College of Heralds, in 965 King Edgar of England gave a grant of land at Clapham to Jonas, son of the Duke of Lorraine, and Jonas was thenceforth known as Jonas "de [of] Clapham". The family remained in possession of the land until Jonas's great-great grandson Arthur sided against William the Conqueror during the Norman invasion of 1066 and, losing the land, fled to the north (where the Clapham family remained thereafter, primarily in Yorkshire).

Clapham appears in Domesday Book as Clopeham. It was held by Goisfrid (Geoffrey) de Mandeville and its domesday assets were 3 hides; 6 ploughs, Template:Convert of meadow. It rendered £7 10s 0d, and was located in Brixton hundred.

Clapham in the 17th-19th century

In the late 17th century, large country houses began to be built there, and throughout the 18th and early 19th century it was favoured by the wealthier merchant classes of the City of London, who built many large and gracious houses and villas around Clapham Common and in the Old Town. Samuel Pepys spent the last two years of his life in Clapham, living with his friend, protégé at the Admiralty and former servant William Hewer, until his death in 1703.

Clapham Common was also home to Elizabeth Cook, the widow of Captain James Cook the explorer. She lived in a house on the common for many years following the death of her husband. Other notable residents of Clapham Common were Palace of Westminster architect Sir Charles Barry, Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg and 20th century novelist Graham Greene. John Francis Bentley, architect of Westminster Cathedral, lived in the adjacent Old Town.

In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the Clapham Sect were a group of upper class (mostly evangelical Anglican) social reformers who lived around the Common. They included William Wilberforce, Henry Thornton and Zachary Macaulay, father of the historian Thomas Macaulay, as well as William Smith, M.P., the Dissenter and Unitarian. They were very prominent in campaigns for the abolition of slavery and child labour, and for prison reform. They also promoted missionary activities in Britain's colonies.

After the coming of the railways, Clapham developed as a suburb for commuters into central London, and by 1900 it had fallen from favour with the upper classes. Many of their grand houses had been demolished by the middle of the 20th century, though a number remain around the Common and in the Old Town, as do a substantial number of fine late 18th- and early 19th-century houses. Today's Clapham is an area of varied housing from the large Queen Anne, Regency and Georgian era homes of the Old Town and Clapham Common to the grids of Victorian housing in the Abbeville area. As in much of London, the area has its fair share of council-owned properties on estates dating from the 1930s and 1960s.

Clapham was located in the county of Surrey until the creation of the County of London in 1889. It became part of the new Metropolitan Borough of Wandsworth in 1900. In 1965, the old Metropolitan Borough of Wandsworth was divided and almost all of the historic parish of Clapham was transferred to the London Borough of Lambeth.

Clapham in the 20th and 21st centuries

In the early 20th century, Clapham was seen as an ordinary commuter suburb, often cited as representing ordinary people: hence the so-called "Man on the Clapham omnibus". By the 1980s the area had undergone a further transformation, becoming the centre for the gentrification of most of the surrounding area. Clapham's proximity to the traditionally upper-class areas of Sloane Square and Belgravia, which became increasingly unaffordable to all but the very wealthy in the boom years of the 1980s and 1990s, led to a colonisation of the area by the middle classes. Today Clapham is an affluent multi-cultural neighbourhood, home to middle-class British professionals, overseas (Irish, African, Caribbean, South-American, European, Australian and North-American) residents, middle-class people of BME origin and a vibrant Gay community choosing to live there. Many young university graduates and students also choose to live in the Clapham area, a tradition carried over from the days when some University of London halls of residence were situated there. Most recently, there has been a surge in the numbers of young, highly educated Irish settling in the area.

Clapham has a number of restaurants, bars, cafes, boutiques, wine bars and leisure facilities.

Notable former and current residents

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Clapham has excellent transport links to the rest of London and the UK. Three tube stations - Clapham North, Clapham Common and Clapham South - serve the area, in addition to the Victoria Line stations in nearby Stockwell and Brixton. There are railway stations at Clapham High Street and Wandsworth Road which link Clapham to Victoria, London Bridge and Clapham Junction. In 2012, the Overground East London tube line was extended to Clapham High Street and Wandsworth Road in the Old Tow. The links Clapham to places like Shepherds Bush, the Docklands, Shoreditch, Highbury and Islington.

There are three railway stations in the area all served by London Overground's East London Line:

  • Clapham High Street
  • Wandsworth Road
  • Clapham Junction (also served by London Overground's West London Line)

Clapham Junction, in neighbouring Battersea is Clapham's nearest major rail station.

London Underground's Northern Line runs through the neighbourhood, with three stations. From north to south these are:

  • Clapham North (opened as Clapham Road in 1900, changed to its current name in 1926).
  • Clapham Common
  • Clapham South


There are a number of shopping areas in or near Clapham, including:

  • Clapham High Street
  • Clapham Old Town, home to the 30 year old North Street Potters, The Sun, a welcoming Free House and Trinity, a critically acclaimed restaurant.
  • Abbeville Road (and Clapham South)
  • Nightingale Lane (near Clapham South)
  • Clapham Junction (Battersea)
  • Northcote Road (Battersea)
  • Brixton High St/Brixton Market (Brixton)
  • Balham High Road/Bedford Hill (Balham)
  • Kings Road (Chelsea)

Nearest places

  • Balham
  • Battersea
  • Brixton
  • Chelsea
  • Clapham Junction
  • Stockwell
  • Streatham
  • Tooting
  • Vauxhall
  • Wandsworth


  • Football club Clapham Rovers F.C., winners of the FA Cup in 1880, were based in Clapham.

See also

  • Clapham Park
  • Clapham Sect
  • London Riot 2011
  • The man on the Clapham omnibus

References and notes


Further reading

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