Streets of London: Northcote Road, SW11
Time Out takes in the thriving hub of Battersea, from middle-class mums to young urban professionals
Nestled between Wandsworth and Clapham Commons, Northcote Road is half a mile long and runs in a near-straight line south from the busy crossroads with Battersea Rise to Broomwood Road. Visit during the day in the middle of the week, and you’ll find the street bustling with young mums on their way to baby yoga or one of the local organic grocery shops. So numerous are young families that the area was dubbed ‘Nappy Valley’ a few years back.
However, pop by in the evening and it’s a different picture: bars and restaurants burst with young professionals, many of them residents who are either renting or have bought their first flats. At weekends market stalls selling artisan breads, cheeses, fruit and veg, flowers, clothes and other crafts attract people from further afield in the borough. In short, Northcote Road is the thriving hub of Battersea, and although living on its doorstep comes at a price, it’s still possible to buy or rent in the area if you are prepared to spend time looking, buy ex-council or venture slightly further away to one of the streets leading off Northcote Road or even nearby Lavender Hill. And another plus: Wandsworth has one of the lowest council tax rates in the capital.
The area has exceptionally good transport links despite having no tube station (Clapham Common, Clapham South and Balham on the Northern Line are 30-40 minutes’ walk away) with numerous bus routes and trains throughout the day to Victoria and Waterloo. However, Clapham Junction railway station is misnamed as technically it is in mid-Battersea – Clapham Common starts half a mile away (it’s a mile-and-a-half to Clapham Old Town). When the station opened in 1863 (incidentally the same year the Metropolitan Railway first opened to the public) it was given the more fashionable name of ‘Clapham’ and the name has stuck. Until the mid-1800s the area was largely agricultural – nearby Lavender Hill was, literally, lavender fields until the 1830s. In the 1880s the area was built up into a busy suburb by enterprising developers; construction of Northcote Road and adjoining St John’s Road began in 1865, following the course of the old Falcon Brook that had been covered over and diverted to enable construction of roads, houses and shops. You can see the shallow valley if you look down one of the perpendicular roads from Bolingbroke Grove or Webb’s Road.
Battersea suffered heavily during WWII due to its railway yards, power station and bridges, and the area fell into decline, with Clapham and nearby Wandsworth regarded as smarter places to live. As a result, Clapham Junction and its surrounds became very working-class and in the 1960s gangs of skinheads would come to look for trouble. The current middle-class revival began in the 1980s when young, urban professionals with disposable incomes started to move in.
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