Balham is an area of London that straddles the Boroughs of Wandsworth and Lambeth. The Bal bit means rounded enclosure, and with ham meaning homestead – we’d like to think that’s describing a well-rounded place to live.
Since its first recording in the Doomesday Book – and up until some 200 years ago – Balham consisted of a handful of country farms and dwellings. It’s hard to imagine such a typically English scene in Balham in 2016 – especially since the march of London’s victorian development through the 19th Century. Balham is now a thriving inner London suburb – so how did it get from quiet farm to bustling urban centre? Read on for our quick history of Balham…
The Doomesday book records Balham’s assets as 1 1/2 ploughs and 8 Acres of meadows. 1 1/2 ploughs – I think it is safe to assume they shared a plough with a neighbouring farm. During the 18th Century, like much of London’s surrounding countryside, Balham was developed into large country estates for London’s affluent classes.
But it was the arrival of the Railway – and building of Balham Hill Station which opened in 1856 on the Crystal Palace Line – that gave Balham its transport breakthrough. Like many a London suburb the train station presented the opportunity for commerce and commuting. The large country estates moved further out of town and the land was developed into Victorian townhouses and terraces that are such a familiar part of London’s cityscape today.
Balham hasn’t entirely lost its links with its rural past – a Farmers’ Market takes place at Chestnut Grove School every Saturday. So if you fancy shopping for some wholesome farm produce keep an eye on the Balham Farmers’ market Facebook Page.
Balham’s most famous modern son is John Sullivan, writer of sitcoms (most famously Only Fools & Horses for etc BBC) who was born in Balham in 1946. Other high profile folk who have lived, studied or worked in Balham include Adele, Vivienne Westwood, Malcolm McLaren, Sarah Beeny, along with comedians Jack Dee and Arthur Smith – the ‘Bard of Balham’.