Love it or hate it, almost every Londoner has had to pass through Clapham Junction at some point in their life.
Whether it’s entering the capital, catching a train and retreating completely into the English countryside – or simply passing through the Overground – Clapham Junction sees around 430,000 passengers pass by per day.
And with connections representing 40% of journeys made, it is the busiest station in the country.
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Yet despite its popularity, South Londoners will be the first to tell you that Clapham Junction station is not near Clapham at all.
In fact, it is a good mile from the South London area, a twenty minute walk away.
It’s actually located in Battersea, facing the Thames, a low-level controversial subject, perfect for breakfast fodder.
Unsurprisingly, the big brains behind the scenes at the London and South Western Railway – the company that first opened the station centuries ago in 1838 – didn’t name the station after an entirely different area for conversation starters in the 21st century.
Still, the reason they did it is just as bizarre.
Wandsworth Council, the local borough in which Battersea and Clapham Junction are located, says it is “very likely” that the name was chosen to appeal to the middle and upper classes of London during the Victorian period.
In the 19th century, Clapham was home to many of the capital’s burgeoning middle class, including novelist Graham Greene and composer Edvard Greig.
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It was a fashionable village, perfectly positioned next to Clapham Common, in which many of the Victorian features of the park – including a bandstand and tennis courts – exist today.
Battersea, on the other hand, was more a group of factories than a suburb; in 1840, two years after the founding of Clapham Junction, only 9,000 people lived there, and they were mostly factory workers.
The region experienced a dramatic increase in population at the end of the decade.
By 1910 the population had grown to 168,000, ironically due to the resort’s success.
While the 20th century saw efforts to change the name to Battersea Junction, these fizzled out.
But a recent campaign under the group name Love Battersea succeeded in persuading Network Rail to put up a sign at the station saying “Welcome to the heart of Battersea”.
With “Clapham Junction” in considerably smaller letters below.
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