The campaign against Battersea's "Claphamisation"

Some trademark sass from Love Battersea in 2013 - TSB later corrected the billboard. Image: Love Battersea.

We've all had the conversation, at one time or another. At a dinner party, or over coffee, person A will ask person B where in London they live. Person B will name an up-and-coming, hip-yet-well-off area; then, when pressed, will be forced to describe the location just a little more specifically.

Cue a subtle rolling of eyes, a muttered "that's Balham, not Clapham", or "that's miles from Crouch End". Because in the end, our conception of where we live is all in the mind, and our area loyalty often has little to do with geography.  

On this basis, Clapham, an area of southwest London, is inhabited by residents from as far north as the river and as far south as deepest, darkest Streatham. Its attractiveness as a location stretches from its yuppie present as far back as to the 17th and 18th centuries, when, as a local estate agency puts it, "many large and gracious houses were built" there for London's emerging merchant classes.

But to the west, an accident of geography complicates things even further. When Clapham Junction train station was planned in the mid-19th century, the NIMBYs of Clapham prevented its construction in Clapham proper. Instead, it was built a few miles west, next to the river and bang in the middle of Battersea. Clapham's satellite station has long given hoity-toity (or just plain ignorant) residents and businesses throughout Battersea apparent license to claim they actually live in desirable Clapham. 

If Love Battersea has anything to do with it, however, all that is going to change. Love Battersea is a group which campaigns against the "Claphamisation" of Battersea, and, somewhat unusually among neighbourhood pressure groups, its focus is resolutely on the language of signs and billboards. The campaign was first launched in 2005, re-launched in 2007 and has the support of Wandsworth Borough council, the local paper, and Jane Ellison, MP for Battersea.

The campaign lists a number of triumphs on its website: tales of banks and cafes "SW11tching back to Battersea after thinking they were in Clapham" (Battersea's in the SW11 postal district, in case you were wondering); others being renamed after "falling into the Clapham-trap".

In one "major victory", the group wrote a letter to Google co-Founder Larry Page asking him to move the "Clapham" marker on Google Maps from just west of Clapham Common to Clapham Common Underground station, much further east:

Click for a larger image. Source: Love Battersea.

In December 2011, they succeeded:

Click for a larger image. Source: Love Battersea.

To prevent future confusion, the group also provides this map, politely yet firmly showing the correct division between the two areas:

Click for a larger image. Source: Love Battersea.

These boundaries are based on those of boroughs which became obsolete when the local government map was redrawn in 1965. So why is all this still so important to residents? Love Battersea explains: 

Confusion over where a business or person is located chips away at the creation of a sense of community and identity with place... After all, how can one love a place if one does not know where it is?

Londoners tend not to live where they work, or where they grew up, and as such it's far harder to generate community feeling than it is in smaller towns. Place names on signs, stations, shops and so on thus become the main way of stoking such community spirt.

Still not convinced? We'll end with another extract from Love Battersea's endlessly entertaining site:

Hard to argue with that.



CityMetric is now City Monitor! Come see us at our new home

City Monitor is now live in beta at

CityMetric is now City Monitor, a name that reflects both a ramping up of our ambitions as well as our membership in a network of like-minded publications from New Statesman Media Group. Our new site is now live in beta, so please visit us there going forward. Here’s what CityMetric readers should know about this exciting transition.  

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Sommer Mathis is editor-in-chief of City Monitor.