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Balham tube 080120.jpg
Balham High Road
Balham is located in Greater London
Location within Greater London
Population14,751 (2011 Census.Ward)[1]
OS grid referenceTQ285735
• Charing Cross4.5 mi (7.2 km) NNE
London borough
Ceremonial countyGreater London
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Post townLONDON
Postcode districtSW12 and SW17
Dialling code020
UK Parliament
London Assembly
List of places
51°26′36″N 0°09′09″W / 51.4434°N 0.1525°W / 51.4434; -0.1525Coordinates: 51°26′36″N 0°09′09″W / 51.4434°N 0.1525°W / 51.4434; -0.1525

Balham (/ˈbæləm/) is an area in south London, England, mostly within the London Borough of Wandsworth with small parts within the neighbouring London Borough of Lambeth.[2] The area has been settled since Saxon times and appears in the Domesday Book as Belgeham.


A map showing the Balham ward of Wandsworth Metropolitan Borough as it appeared in 1916.

The settlement appears in the Domesday Book as Belgeham. Bal refers to 'rounded enclosure' and ham to a homestead, village or river enclosure. It was held by Geoffrey Orlateile. Its Domesday Assets were: 1½ ploughs, 8 acres (32,000 m2) of meadow. It rendered (in total): £2.[3] The Balham area has been settled since Saxon times. Balham Hill and Balham High Road follow the line of the Roman road Stane Street to Chichester – (now the A24 road). Balham is recorded in several maps in the 1600s as Ballam or Balham Hill or Balham Manor. The village was within the parish of Streatham. Large country retreats for the affluent classes were built there in the 18th century; however, most development occurred after the opening of Balham railway station on the line to Crystal Palace in 1856.

Second World War air raid[edit]

Air raid damage in Balham

On 14 October 1940 Balham Underground station was badly damaged by air raids on London during World War II. People took shelter in the tube station during the raids. A bomb fell in the High Road and through the roof of the Underground station below, bursting water and gas mains and killing around 64 people.[4] This particular incident was featured in Atonement, a 2001 novel by Ian McEwan.[5][6] An image of the aftermath is of the No. 88 bus which had fallen into the bomb crater.[7][8]


On the morning of 17 July 1974 a bomb planted by the Provisional IRA exploded near government buildings in Balham, causing substantial damage to buildings.[9] Later that day the group detonated a fatal attack on the Tower of London.[10][11]


Balham is overwhelmingly in Wandsworth, with only small parts in the neighbouring Borough of Lambeth and encompasses the A24 north of Tooting Bec and the roads radiating off it.[2] The Balham SW12 postcode includes the southern part of Clapham Park otherwise known as Clapham South and the Hyde Farm area, both east of Cavendish Road and within Lambeth (historically Clapham, except for Weir Road) as well as a small detached part of Clapham south of Nightingale Lane, and part of Battersea (the roads north of Nightingale Lane). The southern part of Balham, towards Tooting Bec, near the 1930s block of Art Deco flats called Du Cane Court and the area to the south of Wandsworth Common, comes under the SW17 postcode. The Heaver Estate lies to the south of Balham in Tooting. The Estate mainly comprises substantial houses, was built in the grounds of the old Bedford Hill House and was the work of local Victorian builder, Alfred Heaver.

Balham is situated between four south London commons: Clapham Common to the north, Wandsworth Common to the west, Tooting Graveney Common to the south, and the adjoining Tooting Bec Common to the east – the latter two historically distinct areas are referred to by both Wandsworth Council and some local people as Tooting Common.

Neighbouring areas are: Battersea, Brixton, Clapham Park, Clapham South, Earlsfield, Streatham and Tooting.


Balham's town centre has a variety of bars, restaurants and shops including major chains. There are also local services, including independent stores, coffee houses and brasseries.[12] There are two car parks serving the vicinity, one behind the Sainsbury's (181 spaces)[13] and one in front of Waitrose.


The Polish Roman Catholic Church of Christ the King

Balham is diverse both in terms of economic and cultural demographics with an increasingly professional middle class population.[14]

The Polish population in Balham has hugely increased since 2006, though Balham has been one of the centres of the community in London since World War II. The White Eagle Club is a thriving Polish community centre, and its traditional Saturday night dance draws people from across London. Opposite the White Eagle is The Polish Roman Catholic Church of Christ the King.

The Irish, Portuguese, Somali, Pakistani and Brazilian communities are also well represented.


Du Cane Court is a distinctive local landmark with its Art Deco design
Impressions of Balham - one of four bronze reliefs on Balham Station Road
  • The Bedford is a pub venue for live music and comedy on Bedford Hill. Performers at the Banana Cabaret have included Stephen K Amos, Omid Djalili, Harry Hill, Eddie Izzard, Al Murray and Catherine Tate.[15] The pub has won various awards including the Publican Music Pub of the Year 2002; the Morning Advertiser Pub of the Year 2004; and the Evening Standard Pub of the Year 2002.[16][17][18] In 1876, the pub building (then named the Bedford Hotel) housed the coroner's inquest into the notorious unsolved murder of Charles Bravo, a resident and lawyer who was poisoned, possibly by his wife.[19] The Priory, where the alleged murder took place, is also a landmark noted for the specific architectural style.[20]
  • The Bedford Hill area of Balham was associated with street prostitution throughout the 1970s and '80s. A project was organised for the matter in the late 2000s and since then has no longer been an issue for residents.[21]
  • Du Cane Court was the largest block of flats in Europe built for private occupation rather than as social housing at the time.[22] Its 676 flats range from studios up to 4-bedroom penthouses. The block has had a number of notable residents, including comedian Tommy Trinder and actress Dame Margaret Rutherford. Scenes from Agatha Christie's Poirot were filmed in the building.[23][24]
  • Oak Lodge School is a secondary school for deaf children aged 11 to 19. It accepts pupils from all over London.
  • Impressions of Balham are four cold cast bronze reliefs mounted on a high brick wall on Balham Station Road. These depict local residents and everyday scenes. They were conceived and constructed by Christine Thomas and Julia Barton and installed in 1991.[25][26]
  • Balham has its own library and leisure centre.[27][28]
  • The UK's first pedestrian diagonal X-crossing was installed at the intersection of Balham High Road, with Balham Station Road and Chestnut Grove in 2005. This was later adopted at Oxford Circus in 2009 which was the second X-crossing in the UK.[29][30]
  • The world's first "intelligent" pedestrian crossings have also been trialled at Balham station (including Tooting Bec).[31][32]


National Rail
London Underground

Balham station is an interchange between National Rail and London Underground services, in London fare zone 3. The stations connect Balham to both the City of London and the West End. Balham Underground station is on the Northern Line.

Clapham South Underground station is also technically in Balham, lying exactly at the meeting point of Clapham, Battersea and Balham.

Current bus routes serving the area are the 155, 249, 255, 315, 355 and N155.[33]

Notable people born in Balham[edit]

Notable people who used to work, study or live in Balham[edit]

"Balham, Gateway to the South"[edit]

For many years Balham was held up to mockery because of the comedy sketch "Balham, Gateway to the South". Written by Frank Muir and Denis Norden, with Peter Sellers as the narrator, it satirised the travelogues of the day, with their faraway exotic locations, by highlighting the supposed tourist attractions of Balham in postwar austerity Britain. The title's origin most probably alludes to a Southern Railway poster "Gateway to the Continent" dating from 1928 by T D Kerr.[44] In 1979 Micky Dolenz of the Monkees directed a short film based on the sketch with Robbie Coltrane playing multiple roles. It was released for broadcast in 1981.[45][46] The mockery ceased as Balham house prices soared.[47]

Balham Group[edit]

In 1932, the Balham Group, the first British Trotskyist group, was expelled from the Communist Party of Great Britain and formed the Communist League.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Wandsworth Ward population 2011". Neighbourhood Statistics. Office for National Statistics. Archived from the original on 21 October 2016. Retrieved 12 October 2016.
  2. ^ a b "Henry Cavendish School Balham Lambeth".
  3. ^ "The Domesday Book Online - Surrey".
  4. ^ "14th October 1940: Disaster at Balham Tube station".
  5. ^ "Atonement by Ian McEwan". The Guardian. 29 September 2001.
  6. ^ John Mullan (29 March 2003). "Atonement: metanarrative". The Guardian.
  7. ^ "London Blitz: Bomb Sight interactive map created". BBC News. 7 December 2012.
  8. ^ Halley Docherty (20 May 2014). "Second world war in Google Street View". The Guardian.
  9. ^ "The Provisional IRA's mainland campaign". 23 January 2014.
  10. ^ "1974: Bomb blast at the Tower of London". BBC On This Day. 2008. Retrieved 11 November 2017.
  11. ^ Times, Special To the New York (18 July 1974). "Tower of London Bomb Kills1, Hurts 41". The New York Times.
  12. ^ "Listings -". Archived from the original on 3 May 2013.
  13. ^ "Store Overview, Balham". Sainsbury's. Archived from the original on 1 October 2011. Retrieved 25 July 2011.
  14. ^ "Balham Demographics (Wandsworth, England)".
  15. ^ "About".
  16. ^ "About Us". Archived from the original on 8 May 2009.
  17. ^ "And the winners are".
  18. ^ "Comedians, khachapuri and chippies: it's Balham's best bits". Time Out Blog.
  19. ^ "The Bedford Public House, Balham".
  20. ^ Stephens, Philip (4 July 2014). "London's Balham: from murder mystery to haven for high-flyers". Financial Times.
  21. ^ "Prostitution clampdown hailed a success". Your Local Guardian.
  22. ^ "Du Cane Court » Balham High Road » London » SW17".
  23. ^ "Du Cane Court » Balham High Road » London » SW17". Archived from the original on 14 September 2014.
  24. ^ "On Location with Poirot - The Plymouth Express".
  25. ^ "Impressions of Balham". Art UK.
  26. ^ "Impressions of Balham".
  27. ^ "Balham Leisure Centre".
  28. ^ "Better -Balham Library - Wandsworth - Better Libraries". Archived from the original on 5 December 2015. Retrieved 9 June 2016.
  29. ^ Wandsworth Borough Council "Regeneration and Transport Overview and Scrutiny Committee" Report 2002 Archived 7 September 2014 at the Wayback Machine
  30. ^ Wandsworth Borough Council "Regeneration and Transport Overview and Scrutiny Committee" Report 2005 Archived 7 September 2014 at the Wayback Machine
  31. ^ "'Intelligent' pedestrian crossings trialled in London". BBC News. 7 March 2014.
  32. ^ Transport for London. "TfL to launch world-leading trials of intelligent pedestrian technology to make crossing the road easier and safer".
  33. ^ "Balham Station Travel Information" (PDF).
  34. ^ Larkin, Colin (27 May 2011). The Encyclopedia of Popular Music. Omnibus Press. ISBN 9780857125958. Retrieved 9 June 2016 – via Google Books.
  35. ^ "Lovely jubbly, John". The Independent. 12 January 1997.
  36. ^ "Grammy Winner Adele inspires Chesnut Grove students". Local Guardian. Retrieved 28 January 2014.
  37. ^ a b "Booming Balham". 12 January 2004.
  38. ^ "Help! Sarah Beeny wants to dig a 'mega basement' near us".
  39. ^ "Jack on Jack: When Dee met Whitehall". The Evening Standard. 6 December 2013.
  40. ^ "149 High Road, Balham". The Official Gracie Fields.
  41. ^ "Westwood opposes plan to build flats on roof of her old home". The Evening Standard. 13 April 2012.
  42. ^ O'Hagan, Sean (21 August 2010). "DBC Pierre: 'I'm not a satirist. Reality has surpassed satire'". The Guardian.
  43. ^ Jon Craig
  44. ^ "Gateway - Southern Posters".
  45. ^ "Balham: Gateway to the South (1979)". BFI. Archived from the original on 10 August 2012.
  46. ^ "Balham - Gateway to the South". 6 May 2009. Retrieved 9 June 2016.
  47. ^ Mount, Harry (21 June 2014). "Neighbourhood Watch". Spectator Life. Spectator (1828) Ltd.

External links[edit]