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Clapham Common Station (8714314415).jpg
Clapham Common Station and clock
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Location within Greater London
OS grid reference TQ296754
London borough
Ceremonial county Greater London
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town LONDON
Postcode district SW4, SW8, SW9, SW11, and SW12
Dialling code 020
Police Metropolitan
Fire London
Ambulance London
UK Parliament
London Assembly
List of places
51°28′N0°08′W / 51.46°N 0.14°W / 51.46; -0.14 Coordinates: 51°28′N0°08′W / 51.46°N 0.14°W / 51.46; -0.14
Clapham Common at 220 acres (89 ha) Clapham Common North Side.jpg
Clapham Common at 220 acres (89 ha)

Clapham ( /ˈklæp.əm/ ) is a district in south west London, England, lying mostly within the London Borough of Lambeth, but with some areas (most notably Clapham Common) extending into the neighbouring London Borough of Wandsworth.



Early history

The present day Clapham High Street is on the route of a Roman road. [1] The road is recorded on a Roman monumental stone found nearby. According to its inscription, the stone was erected by a man named Vitus Ticinius Ascanius. It is estimated to date from the 1st century CE. (The stone was discovered during building works at Clapham Common South Side in 1912. It is now placed by the entrance of the former Clapham Library, in the Old Town.) [2] [3]

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 Conquest of 1066 and, losing the land, fled to the north (where the Clapham family remained thereafter, primarily in Yorkshire).[ citation needed ]

Clapham's name derives from Old English, meaning 'homestead or enclosure near a hill', with the first recorded usage being Cloppaham circa 880. [4]

Clapham appears in Domesday Book as Clopeham. It was held by Goisfrid (Geoffrey) de Mandeville, and its domesday assets were three hides, six ploughs, and 5.0 acres (2.0 ha) of meadow. It rendered £7 10s 0d, and was located in Brixton hundred. [5]

The parish comprised 1,233 acres (499 ha). The benefice remains to this day a rectory, and in the 19th century was in the patronage of the Atkins family: the tithes were commuted for £488 14s. in the early 19th century, and so the remaining glebe comprised only 11 acres (4.5 ha) as of 1848. The church, on the site of the current St Paul's and belonging to Merton Priory was, with the exception of the north aisle which was left standing for the performance of burials, taken down under an act of parliament in 1774. [6] A new church, Holy Trinity, was erected in the following year at an expense of £11,000 (equivalent to £1,472,467in 2021), on the north side of the common. [7]

Clapham in the 17th–19th centuries

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, protected at the Admiralty and former servant William Hewer, until his death in 1703. [8]

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 include Palace of Westminster architect Sir Charles Barry, [9] Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg [10] and 20th century novelist Graham Greene. [11] John Francis Bentley, [12] 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 wealthy City merchants (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 Member of Parliament (MP), 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. The Society for Missions to Africa and the East (as the Church Mission Society was first called) was founded on 12 April 1799 at a meeting of the Eclectic Society, supported by members of the Clapham Sect, who met under the guidance of John Venn, the Rector of Clapham. [13] By contrast, an opponent of Wilberforce, merchant and slave-trader George Hibbert also lived at Clapham Common, worshipping in the same church, Holy Trinity. [14]

In 1848, Clapham was described in the Topographical Dictionary of England as a village which "has for many years, been one of the most respectable in the environs of the metropolis". [6] At this time, the patronage of Holy Trinity church belonged to the Atkins family. [6]

Clapham in the 20th and 21st centuries

After the coming of the railways, Clapham developed as a suburb for commuters into central London. Clapham High Street railway station opened in 1862 and the underground City and South London Railway was extended to the area in 1900. By 1900 Clapham 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 also includes social housing on estates dating from the 1930s and 1960s.

In the early 20th century, Clapham was seen as an ordinary commuter suburb, often cited as representing ordinary people: hence the familiar "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 relative proximity to traditionally expensive areas of central London led to an increase in the number of middle-class people living in Clapham. Today the area is generally an affluent place, although many of its professional residents live relatively close to significant pockets of social housing.

Local government

A map showing the Clapham wards of Wandsworth Metropolitan Borough as it appeared in 1916. Wandsworth Met. B Ward Map 1916.svg
A map showing the Clapham wards of Wandsworth Metropolitan Borough as it appeared in 1916.

Clapham was an ancient parish in the county of Surrey. [15] For poor law purposes the parish became part of the Wandsworth and Clapham Union in 1836. [16] The parish was added to the Registrar General London Metropolis area in 1844 and consequently it came within the area of responsibility of the Metropolitan Board of Works in 1855. The population of 16,290 in 1851 was considered too small for the Clapham vestry to be a viable sanitary authority and the parish was grouped into the Wandsworth District, electing 18 members to the Wandsworth District Board of Works. [17] In 1889 the parish was transferred to the County of London and in 1900 it became part of the new Metropolitan Borough of Wandsworth. It was abolished as a civil parish in 1904, becoming part of the single Wandsworth Borough parish for poor law. The former Metropolitan Borough of Wandsworth was divided in 1965 and the area of the historic parish of Clapham was transferred to the London Borough of Lambeth, along with Streatham. [15] Clapham gave its name to a Parliamentary constituency between 1885 and 1974.


Translated to the postal system, Clapham fills most of SW4 and as defined, at least since the Norman Conquest until 1885, includes parts of SW8, SW9 and SW12, London. Clapham Common is shared with the London Borough of Wandsworth (the border between the two boroughs runs across the common), but Lambeth has responsibility for its management. According to the 2011 census, the Clapham Area has a population of 40,850 inhabitants. [18] For administrative and electoral purposes, Clapham is made up of three 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.

Much of southern Battersea is often incorrectly referred to as Clapham, because of the misnomer of Clapham Junction railway station, and to stress Battersea's proximity to Clapham Common, as well as their relative distance from Battersea's historic nucleus.[ citation needed ] The railway station now known as Clapham Junction was originally named Battersea Junction by its architect to reflect its actual geographical location.[ citation needed ]


According to the 2011 census, White British is the largest ethnic group, at 51% of the population, followed by 16% Other White. [19] Clapham is home to one of the largest Australian communities in London.

Clapham Common

Clapham High St Clapham High Street SW4 (2) - - 190145.jpg
Clapham High St

Clapham Common comprises 220 acres of green space, criss-crossed by footpaths, with three ponds, a Victorian bandstand and a large number of mature trees, including horse chestnuts and a significant avenue of London plane trees along Long Road. It is overlooked by a variety of buildings, including a number of Georgian and Victorian mansions. It also has Holy Trinity Clapham, an 18th-century Georgian church, important in the history of the evangelical Clapham Sect. Clapham Town comprises Clapham High Street and residential streets including Clapham Manor Street, home to Clapham Leisure Centre, as well as Venn Street with a cinema, restaurants, and a food market held every weekend throughout the year.

Clapham South

The neighbourhood, where used, derives its name from a tube station—it has no fixed boundary from the rest of Clapham. Taking any definition in informal use, it is predominantly mid-rise and low-rise residential land, and usually takes in major parts of the Common. Where regard to historic Clapham parish and some street signs is had, this area includes a detached part: the land bounded by Nightingale Square, Oldridge Road and Balham Hill.

Clapham North

Clapham North lies on either side of Clapham Road and borders the relatively modern creation 'Stockwell' in the historic Lambeth parish on Union Road and Stirling Road. There is a "Stockwell Town" Partnership sign north of Union Road demarcating the boundary between Clapham and Stockwell. The northern part of Clapham in the Larkhall ward includes the Sibella conservation area. The southern part is Ferndale ward and includes Landor, Ferndale and Bedford roads leading up to Brixton.


As well as an extensive bus network, which connects the area with much of south and central London, Clapham has three tube stations and two railway stations.

There are two railway stations in the district on London Overground's East London Line:

London Underground's Northern line passes through Clapham, with three stations:

In 2012, the Overground East London Line was extended to Clapham High Street and Wandsworth Road stations. [20] This links Clapham directly to stations including Shepherds Bush, Canada Water, Shoreditch and Highbury and Islington.

Clapham Junction is one of the major rail transport hubs and network of railway junctions in England. There are frequent services to London Victoria (Westminster) and London Waterloo (South Bank).


Shopping areas comprise:


Notable former and current residents

See also

References and notes

  1. "A Short History of Clapham and Stockwell". Archived from the original on 3 March 2013. Retrieved 13 March 2013.
  2. Historic England. "Roman Altar in forecourt of number 1 (public library) (1080492)". National Heritage List for England . Retrieved 9 December 2012.
  3. "Photograph of Roman stone at Clapham Library". Retrieved 13 March 2013.
  4. Mills, A. D. (1991). A dictionary of English place names. Oxford [England]. pp. 80–81. ISBN   0-19-869156-4. OCLC   22983068.
  5. Surrey Domesday Book Archived 15 July 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  6. 1 2 3 "Clackheaton - Clare | British History Online". Retrieved 5 June 2022.
  7. Samuel Lewis (publisher) (1848). "Clackheaton – Clare". A Topographical Dictionary of England. Institute of Historical Research. Retrieved 4 November 2014.
  8. Grover, John William (1892). Old Clapham, John William Grover, A. Bachhoffner, London, 1892 . Retrieved 13 March 2013.
  9. "Sir Charles Barry plaque listing on Open Plaques". Retrieved 13 March 2013.
  10. "Norway in Britain website Edvard Greig plaque listing". Retrieved 13 March 2013.
  11. "English Heritage plaque listing for Graham Greene". 1 April 2011. Retrieved 13 March 2013.
  12. "John Francis Bentley plaque listing on Open Plaques". Retrieved 13 March 2013.
  13. Mounstephen, Philip (2015). "Teapots and DNA: The Foundations of CMS". Intermission. 22.
  14. "George Hibbert (1757–1837)". George Retrieved 28 July 2015.
  15. 1 2 H.E. Malden, ed. (1912). "Parishes: Clapham". A History of the County of Surrey: Volume 4. Institute of Historical Research. Retrieved 4 November 2014.
  16. "Clapham Holy Trinity AP/CP through time – Census tables with data for the Parish-level Unit".
  17. "Victoriae Reginae" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 17 December 2010. Retrieved 24 June 2017.
  18. "State of the Borough 2014" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 12 April 2015. Retrieved 24 June 2017.
  19. Services, Good Stuff IT. "Clapham Town – UK Census Data 2011". UK Census Data. Retrieved 21 June 2017.
  20. "Surrey Quays to Clapham Junction extension | Transport for London". 9 December 2012. Retrieved 13 March 2013.

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