Getting the location right is key to any bar business. At Bar magazine, we often come across bars, restaurants and clubs saying they are located in a cool, glamorous part of town when they are out on the fringes or even further away. One of the most confusing places in London is Clapham. Over the past couple of months, Bar magazine has received details of new bars and events in Clapham in south London. Except, it turned out they were not in Clapham at all, but in neighbouring Battersea.
It is not the fault of the owners or the marketers. This is a point of confusion that dates back over a century and comes down to the snobbery of the Victorians. When a station opened in Battersea in 1863, it was in an area that had been just fields, on a country crossroads where the only business was an inn called the Falcon. On one side were the riverside slums, factories and housing estates of Battersea while a mile or so in the other direction were the affluent homes around leafy Clapham Common. The decision was taken to name it after Clapham to appeal to people who would not want to travel through the rough district of Battersea.
Clapham Junction grew to become the busiest station in the world, with over 2,500 trains passing through a day at one point. New homes were built and the old centre of Battersea village shifted south to the old crossroads, next to the Falcon. Shops grew up around the station in an area that has since been rebranded by retailers under the banner of “Clapham Junction” rather than Battersea town centre. However, the local authority Wandsworth Council and local historian Gillian Clegg confirm that Clapham Junction and the surrounding streets of St John’s Hill, Battersea Rise and Lavender Hill unequivocally continue to be in Battersea.
For more than a century, campaigners have been trying to get the name of Clapham Junction station changed to Battersea Junction to end the confusion. In more recent years, local people have been running a campaign called “SW11tch Back to Battersea”, pointing out that residents should be proud to say they live in Battersea. The campaign is growing stronger, backed by Wandsworth Borough Council, Battersea MP Jane Ellison and business and residents groups in the area.
During the riots in August, news media such as the BBC and Sky were reporting people rampaging through the streets of Clapham, looting the shops, starting fires and turning the area into a warzone. But this was a surprise to anyone actually in Clapham which was largely untouched by the riots. The trouble was nearly two miles away around Clapham Junction station in Battersea.
This may seem pointless pedantry but it has an impact on people and businesses on a day-to-day basis. While the head office of Bar magazine’s publishers is in Faversham in Kent, its London base is in Clapham. It is quite common for people to emerge from Clapham Common or Clapham North underground stations and ask for directions to the Slug and Lettuce bar or The Clapham Grand nightclub – both located a mile or two away and linked to Clapham only by bus. The latest arrival in St John’s Hill – the road that Clapham Junction stands on – is the bar, Powder Keg Diplomacy, developed by the team behind The Lost Society and The Lost Angel. The bar is fantastic and deserves to be visited but they risk having potential customers wandering the streets in confusion as they describe it in publicity and on their website as being “nestled on St John’s Hill, Clapham”.
Battersea has now got some of the best bars in London, and local people and businesses should not need to deny that they live in such a vibrant area. Along St John’s Hill and nearby Battersea Rise and Northcote Road, you have great bars, pubs and restaurants such as Dime, The Establishment, the Northcote, The Banana Leaf Canteen, The Bank and the ever-popular Babel. One of the most popular bars is The Underdog which also has a site next to Clapham Common tube station – either adding to the confusion or benefiting from it.
Many of these businesses do “confess” to being in Battersea but, in marketing, PKD is not alone in feeling they have to keep referring to “Clapham Junction” or even “Clapham” as if Battersea did not exist. The error is even on Google Maps although, in September, the mapping company promised to “correct our maps to show SW11 as Battersea and give accuracy, clarity and identity back to the area”. Whether the train company ever chooses to rename the station or not, the battle continues to persuade local people and businesses to promote Battersea as a destination and not fall back on the old habit of hiding in the shadow of Clapham.
Up-to-date informaton on the campaign can be found at www.lovebattersea.org.uk who have also produced this useful little map, below.