Tooting in South London has developed into an uber-cool neighbourhood in recent years and lost none of its gritty charm in the process. Rubbing shoulders with perfectly pleasant yet slightly square Wimbledon, Earlsfield and Balham, Tooting is a more captivating affair, revelling in multiculturalism and originality. Its high street, which stretches between two Tube stations, is one of the best ‘curry corridors’ in the country, and contains some superb South Asian restaurants, like Dosa n Chutny and Apollo Banana Leaf.
The best shopping can be found inside eclectic Tooting Market, and quirky bars and pubs include The Castle, The Antelope and The Little Bar. The Tooting Commons create over 200 acres of green space between them, and are home to Tooting Bec Lido – the largest swimming pool in the United Kingdom.
We love Tooting and there is so much more to come from this area – the influx of young professionals into the area is gradually altering the fabric of the area. It is a hectic type of place but varied – it offers so much in one place.
The housing stock in this area comprises purpose built maisonettes in Tooting Graveney, former workers cottages off Tooting High Street, a small number of conversions, three bed family homes, and very few council blocks. Furzedown is an underrated area which lies close to Tooting Common and has a village feel. There is a strong community here and families tend to stay here for many years – the Graveney School is a big attraction. This is supplemented by local parks including Figges Marsh and Tooting Common with its famous lido for those hot summer days. Tooting Bec Lido is the largest freshwater pool in England; it has a 90m pool, children’s paddling pool and a cafe. Property close to Tooting mainline station slips out of Wandsworth borough and although the council tax is more expensive the properties are available at considerably lower prices – the ABC roads offer good value houses and flats.
Transport is provided by Tooting Mainline station (to London Bridge), Tooting Broadway and Bec (Northern Line). Great bus lines direct to Clapham, Battersea, Wandsworth, Wimbledon and Vauxhall.
What’s more is that the people who are moving here absolutely love it. The best curry houses in London – most notably Lahore Kahari on Upper Tooting Road. Chicken Tikka roll is a must with meat samosa and a few popadoms – you will still get change from £10.
The bingo hall which when first built was the largest cinema in the UK and once hosted the Rolling Stones and The Beatles is now a gala bingo hall but is well worth a visit for the architecture. We once sold a maisonette on Bickley Street backing onto the former concert hall and were reminded by the seller of how the Rolling Stones stood on the rear balcony having a break waving at the fans.
Balham has grown up very quickly and is a more refined alternative to the bustle of Clapham with a bit of a village feel to it. It has a great selection of pubs, bars and restaurants as well as being in short distance to no fewer than 3 commons.
The housing is mainly Victorian and Edwardian terraces – many of which have been converted and the most interesting housing is in the Heaver Estate. Built by Alfred Heaver, it was built in the grounds of the old Bedford Hill House, and became one of Balham’s first conservation areas. Hyde Farm another conservation area, on which the Hyde Farm Estate was built, had been a prominent farm since the middle ages, and had been particularly known for its pigs. Nightingale Triangle which lies between Balham Station and Wandsworth Common is a quiet oasis popular with families and has large semi-detached houses.
Balham has excellent links to London being on the Northern Line as well as a mainline rail station with a 5 minute connection to Clapham Junction.
Sandwiched between Clapham South, Wandsworth Common and Tooting – Balham has many options on the doorstep. Clapham Common, Tooting Bec Common and Wandsworth Common are all within walking distance.
Clapham’s popularity has gone up and up, with many trendy young professionals flooding the area that has been traditionally represented by the well to do middle class family. This is a well-established residential area, but the greater mix of people is bringing a good mix of diversity to the population of Clapham.
The properties you can expect to find around here are large Victorian terraced houses towards the South side of Clapham Common and equally large Georgian and Victorian properties (some could almost be called villas) ranged towards Clapham Old Town (the Pavement). In between all this grandness are many little attractive mews and cottages, which makes this area a very sought after place indeed. Clapham North has many Victorian terraces interspersed with council properties, which makes it a more affordable first rung on the property ladder for many people.
There are many attractive qualities about living in Clapham – especially now. Abbeville Road is proving to be a boon to the area, giving the South side of Clapham a unique village atmosphere with its mix of bars, restaurants and individual boutiques. Old Town is very picturesque and also has its fair share of bars and restaurants, as well as specialist shops. Clapham High Street can look a bit on the scruffy side, but has an ever growing collection of bars and restaurants along here that cater for all tastes. Clapham Common is a huge draw to the area, providing a beautiful open space and keeping alive the strong community spirit by hosting a varied programme of events throughout the year.
Clapham has many transport options – the Northern Line at Clapham South, Clapham Common and Clapham North. There is the main line station at Clapham High Street (London Bridge and Victoria) and numerous bus routes (and night buses) which sweep you to your destination.
Wandsworth encompasses a large area from Garratt Lane to Wandsworth Bridge and up to Wandsworth Common. Wandsworth is a well-established residential area which really came into its own in the eighties when middle-class families moved south across the river in flight from the rising prices of Fulham. The attractions were obvious enough: well-regarded schools, lots of green space, quick and easy access to the City, and a good supply of well-maintained period properties.
The centre of Wandsworth (near Wandsworth Town station) has small Victorian terraces in a popular area (mostly young professionals) known locally as the Tonsleys. To the north is the riverside, now undergoing major changes as new developments spring up on a former industrial hinterland.
The areas bordering Wandsworth Common to the south and east are particularly popular with families seeking larger detached and semi-detached properties. Here you can choose between the grandeur of the exclusive Spencer Park (Wandsworth Common Northside), the sought-after neighbourhood known locally as the ‘Toast Rack’ (Dorlcote Road, Baskerville Road, Patten Road and environs), or the attractive Victorian cottages to the south which cluster around the shops, galleries, restaurants and wine bars of the burgeoning Bellevue Road.
South of East Hill and west of the common -the streets leading off St Ann’s Hill – has mostly good-sized Victorian and Edwardian houses. St Ann’s Crescent and the streets which approach the West Side of the common are especially sought-after. Earlsfield begins south of here.
Wandsworth has a good choice of pubs and restaurants, especially around The Tonsleys and on Bellevue Road. Shoppers are unlikely to be inspired by Wandsworth Town Centre; although the redeveloped Arndale Centre now called Southside is a positive improvement.
With Wandsworth Common close by, Clapham Common to the east and Battersea Park to the north, Wandsworth is well provided with green space. King Georges Park to the west has a health club, squash and tennis courts, playing fields and a sports ground.
Transport facilities include trains to Waterloo from Wandsworth Town, Earlsfield, Clapham Junction and Wandsworth Common.
The first thing to say about Battersea is that Clapham Junction is in Battersea but when the station was built Battersea was seen as a poor area and the developers felt by calling it Clapham Junction would improve its prospects. Now Battersea has arguably overtaken Clapham there are plans to rename the station back to Battersea Junction.
The parish grew from several distinct areas, surrounded by open land, which gradually grew during the late 19th century into one urban sprawl. These consisted of the original village around Battersea Square, the crossroads that would become known as Clapham Junction, the upmarket area between Clapham and Wandsworth Commons and the industrial district of Nine Elms. The riverside windmills and wharves gave way to new industries, such as Prices Candles, Morgan’s Crucible works, Carton’s Glucose factory, flour mills, breweries and the Nine Elms Gas Works. These have now all been developed into Bridges Wharf, Falcon Wharf, Lombard Wharf, Candlemakers, Battersea Reach, Plantation Wharf, Oyster Wharf, Albion Riverside (Norman Foster designed) and Montevetro (Richard Rogers designed).
With the opening of Clapham Junction Station in 1863, the focus of Battersea changed from the riverside to St. John’s Hill and St. John’s Road, which became the main shopping centre. At the main centre was the department store Arding and Hobbs (Debenhams), while the cheaper products were available from the street market in Northcote Road. Lavender Hill became the location of the public buildings, such as the Town Hall, police station and magistrate’s court and the post office. Entertainment was also provided in the shape of a theatre (Battersea Arts Centre) and a cinema. As well as trains there were also horse buses and horse trams, which were later replaced by the electric tram and the motor omnibus. The urban sprawl was relieved by the open spaces of Clapham and Wandsworth Commons but the major attraction near the river was Battersea Park, in which all sorts of sports facilities and other attractions were available.
For fifty years Battersea stayed relatively unchanged, until the bombing of the Second World War destroyed or damaged much of the property in the area. After the War a large area of north Battersea was swept away in a vast re-building plan of the borough and the county councils, changing the old face of Battersea.
Battersea Square is the heart of the original village lying on the bank of the River Thames and is absolutely superb on a warm summer’s day dining al fresco on the cobbles – a stone’s throw from the oldest church in the area St Mary’s which summarises Battersea well – old to new as it is overlooked by the stunning Montevetro building.
Battersea Park takes you way out of London in one of the most popular films sites in London – it is so diverse. The property around the park includes the elegant mansion blocks on Prince of Wales Drive and property of good stock. The contrast of Battersea raises its head here as there are these stunning buildings over looking the park but interspersed with Council housing built in the 60’s filling in the gaps left by bombs during the war.
The most popular and the most expensive area of Battersea is Between-The-Commons which is either side of the valley of Northcote Road which has fast evolved into a ‘yummy mummies’ haven with many bars, café’s, baby shops and plenty of restaurants. The recent rent reviews are however killing off the smaller boutiques that made the area as high street names start to sweep through the area. The charm is the valley arrangement and the street market all on a quiet road.
Lavender Hill runs from Clapham Junction towards Clapham parallel to the North side of Clapham Common. Battersea Arts Centre lies on Lavender Hill and offers many independent theatre productions and there are some good places to go out.
The Shaftesbury Estate lies on what used to be a pig farming area but was built on in the 1870’s to provide housing for the working to middle class workers. It is now a conservation area and provides cottage like houses which are very popular with professionals who seek a house rather than a flat. Beyond the Shaftesbury Estate lies the Diamond Conservation Area another area which was wholly owned by the Peabody Trust and provides well built houses and maisonettes on tree lined streets.
The name Brixton is thought to originate from Brixistan, meaning the stone of Brixi, a Saxon lord. Brixi is thought to have erected a boundary stone to mark the meeting place of the ancient hundred court of Surrey. The location is unknown but is thought to be at the top of Brixton Hill, at a road known at the time as Bristow or Brixton Causeway, long before any settlement in the area.
The area remained undeveloped until the beginning of the 19th century, the main settlements being near Stockwell, Brixton Hill and Coldharbour Lane. With the opening of Vauxhall Bridge in 1816 improved access to Central London led to a process of suburban development. The largest single development, and one of the last in suburban character, was Angell Town, laid out in the 1850s on the east side of Brixton Road, and so named after a family that owned land in Lambeth from the late 17th century until well into the 20th.
Brixton was transformed into a middle class suburb between the 1860s and 1890s. Railways linked Brixton with the centre of London when the Chatham Main Line was built through the area by the London, Chatham and Dover Railway in the 1860s. In 1880, Electric Avenue was so named after it became the first street in London to be lit by electricity. In this time, large expensive houses were constructed along the main roads in Brixton, which were converted into flats and boarding houses at the start of the 20th century as the middle classes were replaced by an influx of the working classes. By 1925, Brixton attracted thousands, amongst others housing the largest shopping centre in South London at the time, as well as a thriving market, cinemas, pubs and a theatre. In the 1920s, Brixton was the shopping capital of South London with three large department stores and some of the earliest branches of what are now Britain’s major national retailers.
Today, Brixton Road is the main shopping area, fusing into Brixton Market. The dominant building on Brixton High Street (472–488 Brixton Road), “Morleys Of Brixton” is an independent department store that survives from the 1920s.
Streatham means “the hamlet on the street”. The street in question, the London to Brighton Way, was the Roman road from the capital Londinium to the coast near Portslade. It is likely that the destination was a Roman port now lost to coastal erosion, which has been tentatively identified with the ‘Novus Portus’ mentioned in Ptolemy’s Geographia. The road is confusingly referred to as Stane Street in some sources, although it diverges from the main London-Chichester road at Kennington.
After the departure of the Romans, the main road through Streatham remained an important trackway. From the 17th century it was adopted as the main coach road to Croydon and East Grinstead, and then on to Newhaven and Lewes. In 1780 it then became the route of the turnpike road from London to Brighton, and subsequently became the basis for the modern A23. This road (and its traffic) have shaped Streatham’s development.
Streatham’s first parish church, St Leonard’s, dates back to Saxon times, although only the mediaeval tower remains in the present church. The mediaeval parish covered an extensive area, including Balham and Tooting Bec. The location of Streatham Cemetery on Garratt Lane is one of the few remaining indications of how far west Streatham once extended.Streatham appears in Domesday Book of 1086 as Estreham. It was held by Bec-Hellouin Abbey (in Normandy) from Richard de Tonbrige. Its domesday assets were: 2 hides and 1 virgates; 6½ ploughs, 4 acres (16,000 m2) of meadow, and herbage. It rendered £4 5s 0d.