Clapham Common is a triangular area of grassland of about 220 acres (0.8 km²) in size, situated between Clapham, Battersea and Balham in south London, England. It was historically common land for the parishes of Battersea and Clapham, but was converted to parkland under the terms of the Metropolitan Commons Act 1878.
Some 108 acres (43 hectares) of the common (the area historically known as Battersea Common) are within the London Borough of Wandsworth. Although the Common is wholly managed and maintained by the London Borough of Lambeth, the policing of the open space is divided between the Wandsworth and Lambeth borough "commands" of the Metropolitan Police, which follow the local government boundaries.
NB: Clapham Common is also the name of an electoral ward in the London Borough of Lambeth covering the area of housing to the southeast of Clapham Common Southside better known as "Abbeville Village".
Features of the Common
The common contains three ponds which are historical features and a more modern paddling pool.
Eagle Pond and Mount Pond are predominantly used for angling and contain a variety of species including Carp to 20lb, Roach, Tench and Bream. Eagle Pond was extensively refurbished in 2002 where it was completely drained, landscaped and replanted to provide a better habitat for the fish it contained. Long Pond has a century old tradition of use for model boating.
The common is surrounded by many fine houses which began to be built in the 1790s and became fashionable dwellings in (what was then) this village south of London, many being home to wealthy business people. Some of these were members of the Clapham Sect of evangelical reformers, including Lord Teignmouth and Henry Thornton, the banker and abolitionist. As London expanded in the 19th century this became part of a built-up area, and Clapham was eventually absorbed into the capital.
There are Two mounds to the Battersea Rise side to the common that are covered in the earliest forms of tarmac. The mounds were formed with left over scraps by the local Victorians and covered in Tarmac to form roller skating rinks.
Holy Trinity Church (1776) is close to the North Side of the common. An Anglican church, it hosts its fete on the common every summer.
A memorial tree to actor Jeremy Brett - who had lived locally for many years prior to his death in 1995 - was planted on 30 March 2007.
In the centre of the common is the Clapham bandstand constructed in 1890. It is the largest bandstand in London and a Grade II Listed Building. For many years it was also erroneously thought to be one of the bandstands first erected in 1861 in the Royal Horticultural Society's gardens in South Kensington, which would have made it the oldest surviving cast iron bandstand in Europe. However, recent research has shown that these bandstands went to Southwark Park and Peckham Rye, and it appears that the Clapham bandstand was fabricated to a very similar design almost thirty years later. The bandstand's maintenance had been neglected by Lambeth Council for thirty years, and by 2001 it was thought to be in danger of collapse and had to be shored up with scaffolding for five years. In 2005-2006, a full restoration of the bandstand and surrounding landscape took place, partly funded by an £895,000 lottery grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund matched by £300,000 from Lambeth Council and a further £100,000 from local fundraising efforts and the proceeds of the Ben and Jerry's Summer Sundae event held on the Common.
In the news
Former Welsh Secretary in the UK government Ron Davies had a "moment of madness in 1998 in an incident that revolved around the Common. He was robbed at knife point on the Common and met some strangers to whom he gave a lift; those same people took his car, wallet and phone. Davies resigned; repeatedly denying the incident had anything to do with drugs or sex. Newspapers have since reported that Mr Davies admits being bisexual and has "been successfully treated for a compulsion to seek out gay partners.
Some parts of the common are used by men seeking anonymous sex with other men in public places ("cottaging"). On 14 October 2005 there was an attack in the vicinity of the common. The judge extended the custodial sentence of those responsible in order to take account for their motivation, the direct attack of a gay man.
Sport and other events
Events held on the Common include:
- British Australian Rules Football League Grand Final, for which it is the traditional venue
- Colourscape Music Festival (one venue) since 1995.
- Gay Pride festivals.
- Large scale music events, including the popular 'Picnic Rocks' held by Action Against Hunger.
References in popular culture
It is mentioned in the 1970s television program Are You Being Served? by the character Mrs Slocombe: "I haven't forgotten being flung flat on me back on Clapham Common by a land mine--and the German Air Force was responsible." to which Mr Lucas ripostes: "All the other times she was flat on her back the American Air Force was responsible."
It is cited in Morrissey's song "Mute Witness":
- And her silent words
- Describing the sight of last night
- 4 A.M. Northside, Clapham Common
- Oh, god, what was she doing there ?
On the second season of the television comedy Peep Show, the character of Mark Corrigan makes a reference to Ron Davies, stating "This is my moment of madness, my Clapham Common."
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