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, SW4, 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; -0.1525

Balham (/ˈbæləm/) is an area in south London, England. It has been settled since Saxon times and appears in the Domesday Book as Belgeham.

The area saw significant development after the opening of Balham railway station in 1856. During World War II, Balham Underground station suffered heavy damage from air raids, killing around 64 people. In 1974, a bomb planted by the Provisional IRA exploded near government buildings in the area.

Balham is between four south London commons. The town centre features a variety of bars, restaurants, and shops, and the area is economically and culturally diverse. The Polish, Irish, Portuguese, Somali, Pakistani, and Brazilian communities are well-represented in Balham.

Notable landmarks in the area include the Bedford, a pub venue for live music and comedy, the distinctive Art Deco-designed Du Cane Court, and the Oak Lodge School for deaf children. Balham has its own library and leisure centre and was the site of the UK's first pedestrian diagonal X-crossing. Balham station serves as an interchange between National Rail and London Underground services.


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.[2] 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

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.[3] This particular incident was featured in Atonement, a 2001 novel by Ian McEwan.[4][5] An image of the aftermath is of the bus, on route 88, which had fallen into the bomb crater.[6][7] All passengers, along with the driver and conductor, had escaped from the bus before it fell. The bus was hauled out of the crater after two weeks.[8]


On the morning of 17 July 1974 a 10-pound bomb planted by the Provisional IRA in a dustbin near Irene House (a Social Security office) and St Mary & St John The Divine Anglican Church exploded, shattering a 4-foot wall and fifty windows. No-one was hurt.[9][10]


The 19th-century Church of Saint Mary in Balham

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.[11] 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.[12] 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.[13]

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, 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.[14] There are two car parks serving the vicinity, one behind the Sainsbury's (181 spaces)[15] 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.[16]

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.[17] Opposite the White Eagle is The Polish Roman Catholic Church of Christ the King.[18]

The Irish, Portuguese, Somali, Pakistani and Brazilian communities are also well represented.[16]


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
Original "Roberts for Ekcovision" neon sign on Bedford Hill (c.1985)
Original "Roberts for Ekcovision" neon sign on Bedford Hill (c.1985)


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.[41]

Current bus routes serving the area are the 155, 249, 255, 315, 355 and N155.[42]

Notable people born in Balham

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

"Balham, Gateway to the South"

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.[54] 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.[55][56] The mockery reduced as Balham house prices soared.[57]

Balham Group

In 1932, the Balham Group, the first British Trotskyist group, was expelled from the Communist Party of Great Britain and formed the Communist League.[58]

See also


  1. ^ The Roberts store rented out the "Ekcovision" brand of television sets manufactured by the British electronics company E. K. Cole Ltd (aka EKCO).[39] The advertisement was proposed for the shop by EKCO and is positioned to be viewed by passengers on mainline trains passing through Balham station.[38][40]


  1. ^ "Wandsworth Ward population 2011". Neighbourhood Statistics. Office for National Statistics. Archived from the original on 21 October 2016. Retrieved 12 October 2016.
  2. ^ "The Domesday Book Online - Surrey".
  3. ^ "14th October 1940: Disaster at Balham Tube station".
  4. ^ "Atonement by Ian McEwan". The Guardian. 29 September 2001.
  5. ^ John Mullan (29 March 2003). "Atonement: metanarrative". The Guardian.
  6. ^ "London Blitz: Bomb Sight interactive map created". BBC News. 7 December 2012.
  7. ^ Halley Docherty (20 May 2014). "Second world war in Google Street View". The Guardian.
  8. ^ Marshall, Prince (1972) (1972). Wheels of London. The Sunday Times Magazine. ISBN 0-7230-0068-9.((cite book)): CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  9. ^ "Bomb blasts London Ministry office block". Belfast Telegraph. 17 July 1974. p. 10.
  10. ^ "Balham, St Mary & St John the Divine".
  11. ^ "Henry Cavendish School Balham Lambeth".
  12. ^ Statement of Common Ground
  13. ^ Heaver Estate
  14. ^ "Listings -". Archived from the original on 3 May 2013.
  15. ^ "Store Overview, Balham". Sainsbury's. Archived from the original on 1 October 2011. Retrieved 25 July 2011.
  16. ^ a b "Balham Demographics (Wandsworth, England)".
  17. ^ "White Eagle Club - Lambeth and Southwark Mind". 13 September 2016.
  18. ^ "Polska Parafia Chrystusa Króla w Londynie Balham". (in Polish).
  19. ^ "About". Archived from the original on 3 July 2018.
  20. ^ "About Us". Archived from the original on 8 May 2009.
  21. ^ "And the winners are". Archived from the original on 6 April 2013.
  22. ^ "Comedians, khachapuri and chippies: it's Balham's best bits". Time Out. Archived from the original on 2 September 2014.
  23. ^ "The Bedford Public House, Balham". 29 May 2011.
  24. ^ Stephens, Philip (4 July 2014). "London's Balham: from murder mystery to haven for high-flyers". Financial Times. Archived from the original on 10 December 2022. Retrieved 1 September 2014.
  25. ^ "Prostitution clampdown hailed a success". Your Local Guardian. 6 August 2010.
  26. ^ "Du Cane Court » Balham High Road » London » SW17".
  27. ^ "Du Cane Court » Balham High Road » London » SW17". Archived from the original on 14 September 2014.
  28. ^ "On Location with Poirot - The Plymouth Express".
  29. ^ "Impressions of Balham". Art UK.
  30. ^ "Impressions of Balham".
  31. ^ "Balham Leisure Centre".
  32. ^ "Balham Library - Wandsworth - Better Libraries".
  33. ^ Wandsworth Borough Council "Regeneration and Transport Overview and Scrutiny Committee" Report 2002 Archived 7 September 2014 at the Wayback Machine
  34. ^ Wandsworth Borough Council "Regeneration and Transport Overview and Scrutiny Committee" Report 2005 Archived 7 September 2014 at the Wayback Machine
  35. ^ "'Intelligent' pedestrian crossings trialled in London". BBC News. 7 March 2014.
  36. ^ Transport for London. "TfL to launch world-leading trials of intelligent pedestrian technology to make crossing the road easier and safer".
  37. ^ "Restored and brightly lit 'Roberts for Ekcovision' neon sign shines light on a piece of Balham history". Wandsworth Borough Council.
  38. ^ a b "Roberts for Ekcovision Sign". Heritage of London Trust.
  39. ^ "'Ekcovision' TMB272 mains/battery portable television, 1956 | Science Museum Group Collection".
  40. ^ "Balham, Roberts Ekcovision advertisement, from the station - - Wikimedia Commons".
  41. ^ "Clapham South Station (Including above ground station building and sub surface platforms and passages) Non Civil Parish - 1266140".
  42. ^ "Balham Station Travel Information" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 22 October 2012.
  43. ^ Larkin, Colin (27 May 2011). The Encyclopedia of Popular Music. Omnibus Press. ISBN 9780857125958. Retrieved 9 June 2016 – via Google Books.
  44. ^ "Lovely jubbly, John". The Independent. 12 January 1997.
  45. ^ "Grammy Winner Adele inspires Chesnut Grove students". Local Guardian. 21 February 2012. Retrieved 28 January 2014.
  46. ^ a b "Booming Balham". 12 January 2004.
  47. ^ "Help! Sarah Beeny wants to dig a 'mega basement' near us".
  48. ^ Rees, Caroline (20 May 2022). "Marcus Brigstocke: 'I've found my chameleon dangling off the curtains a few times'". The Times.
  49. ^ Craig, Jon (27 November 2014). "Learned at & after Spectator awards that lobby chums Michael Crick & Andrew Rawnsley are Balham neighbours. What a media enclave we are!". Twitter.
  50. ^ "Jack on Jack: When Dee met Whitehall". The Evening Standard. 6 December 2013.
  51. ^ "149 High Road, Balham". The Official Gracie Fields.
  52. ^ O'Hagan, Sean (21 August 2010). "DBC Pierre: 'I'm not a satirist. Reality has surpassed satire'". The Guardian.
  53. ^ "Westwood opposes plan to build flats on roof of her old home". The Evening Standard. 13 April 2012.
  54. ^ "Gateway - Southern Posters".
  55. ^ "Balham: Gateway to the South (1979)". BFI. Archived from the original on 10 August 2012.
  56. ^ "Balham - Gateway to the South". 6 May 2009. Retrieved 9 June 2016.
  57. ^ Mount, Harry (21 June 2014). "Neighbourhood Watch". Spectator Life. Spectator (1828) Ltd.
  58. ^ "Martin Upham: History of British Trotskyism (Chap.3)".