Clapham Junction to Earls Court (Tescos)
Thursday February 9th 2012
We had arrived at Clapham Junction by the very pleasant 295 and walked round the corner threading our way through a range of road and pavement works – it looks as though they are widening the pavements but by the time you read this all should be sorted. We had watched one C3 pass us by so were really pleased as another arrived at the bus stop at the same time as we did. The bus seemed a bit scratched and elderly inside and not really heated – I wonder if they demote the higher status buses down to the letter ones sort of like children’s hand me downs??
Anyway we headed back to the main crossroads and the first significant landmark was ‘The Falcon’ pub on the corner. I am grateful to Paul Talling (London’s Lost Rivers) and his explanation that the falcon was a crest of the St John’s, the big landowners round here, so not only did they name pubs for them/it (The Falcon) but also wished the same name (Falcon Brook) on the river that ran through here and which had started life back on Streatham Hill and Tooting Common. Like many a lost river it was turned into a sewer which joins the Thames at Battersea Creek, taking more or less the same route as the bus.
On our left as we headed down Plough Road was the splendid High View School, built 1890 when the London Board was building high and large – now well gated in. The tiger mural in the playground was most impressive if not scary. If anything more scary was the rather shabby looking Travel Lodge, which looked in need of some TLC on the outside. Just at the Junction of York Road is the building that once housed the Price’s Candle factory which has a detailed history since 1830.
Thirty or more years ago this part of London smelt very ripe – between the candles, the old Sugar Refinery across the river, the Ram Brewery in Wandsworth and Battersea Power Station, plus the polluting traffic of York Road, to walk here was to put your lungs at risk. The Refinery went in 1979, the Power Station closed in 1983 (the beginning of a long and shameful history of greed and neglect), the candles in 2001, and the Brewery in 2006. The air is undoubtedly cleaner though I would not use the word ’fresh’ and the industries have been replaced by a high density of new residential building, with more to come.
Just before Wandsworth Bridge you can see the solid and Grade II listed Wandsworth Bus Garage
out of which run the open top tour buses of the ‘Original Tour’. Given that you can get almost as good a tour from a much cheaper London Bus I shall not give them more of a plug. Today the river matched the sky for grey and probably for chill too, though the tide was out.
Once over the bridge the C3 turns right along Townmead Road towards Sands End and Imperial Wharf. The mixture is very strange along here – on one side are tightly packed streets of terrace houses which perhaps housed the potters and workers for de Morgans’ Fulham Works and on the other ruined buildings, probably the old Fulham Wharves. Several have been replaced by prestigious and gated developments
now going by the name of Chelsea Harbour. They even got their own new built Overground Station – Imperial Wharf – to which the Route C3 comes the closest.
A further sign of the older industrial heritage is of course the Lots Road Power Station, which has now been closed for nearly 10 years. Again the character of the neighbourhood has changed: smaller homes were originally for workers whose local employers would have included the power station and wharves and the smaller homes for those families but now Lots Road itself seems to be full of antique shops and auction houses, especially as the C3 nears the Kings Road.
From here in order to speed cross-London traffic there is strict one-way routing and as today we were heading north it was along Gunter Grove we drove, at a good steady pace, crossing in quick succession the King’s Road, the Fulham Road and finally the Brompton Road. On a rather grey and increasingly chilly day there was the cheering sight of several camellias in bloom… and then there we were terminating outside the huge Tesco’s, a bus stop away from Earls Court Station. The trip took under half an hour and included a river crossing the former industrial heritage of both Battersea and Fulham Thames side and the more recent developments that had taken place.