Ah, Clapham Junction. That legendary south London train station (and its surrounding area), made famous in books, songs and films. For locals, CJ (as we know it) will always have a place in our hearts… Here are things you only know if you go up the junction...
1. Urban meaning
Up The Junction – Up s**t creek, in a bad situation. Obviously, this doesn’t really apply to the area we know and love!
Up the Junction – 1963 book by Nell Dunn
Up the Junction – 1968 British film, starring Dennis Waterman, Suzy Kendall, Adrienne Posta, Maureen Lipman and Liz Fraser. Soundtrack by Manfred Mann.
Up the Junction – 80s song by Squeeze.
‘I never thought it would happen
With me and the girl from Clapham…’
sang Glenn Tilbrook in the band’s song.
‘…And so it’s my assumption
I’m really up the junction.’
Despite the name, Clapham Junction is actually in Battersea. It’s ‘Britain’s busiest railway station’. And it darn well feels like it, if you use it to commute! Each day about 2,000 trains, over half of them stopping, pass through the station, more than through any other station in Europe. There had been a Battersea station on the site for many years but, in 1863, a junction was added to cope with increasing rail lines and it was named after the village of Clapham – seen to be more upmarket – about a mile away. There’s a petition to change the name back to Battersea, though.
6. Celeb residents
Clapham has been home to many celebs– some of the best-known include Vivienne Westwood, Ainsley Harriott, Piers Morgan, Heather Mills, JK Rowling, Dennis Waterman, Vanessa Redgrave and Samuel Pepys. Captain Cook’s widow Elizabeth lived in Clapham from 1788 to 1835.
It’s hugely popular with trainspotters but – following September 11 – security seems to have become more of an issue, with reports of spotters being asked to leave CJ station and not to take photos. But you can still see some great trains passing through – the Orient Express for one! We hope spotters will be a feature for many years to come.
8. Ghostly goings-on
Between 1994 and 1995, The Old Station Master’s House at Clapham Junction (now a ticket office) was the scene of ghostly activities. A former worker at the building said a priest was called to banish a poltergeist, dubbed The Ghostly Smoker, that had become troublesome after the house was plagued by bangs, vanishing items, and the smell of ironing and pipe tobacco.
9. Dead on the tracks?
And could I have spotted another CJ spook..?
10. Clapham rail disaster
The morning of 12 December 1988 was bright and bitterly cold. Then, just after 8am, two commuter trains carrying an estimated 1,300 passengers between them collided just outside Clapham Junction station – five carriages were involved. A train travelling from Poole, Dorset, had passed a ‘clear’ signal and hit the back of a train from Basingstoke, ripping open carriages. Some derailed carriages were pushed into the path of a third train travelling away from London. Fifteen fire engines rushed to the crash site, along with specialist rescue firefighters and police, ambulance and hospital surgical teams. Thirty-five people died and 500 were injured.
11. Mysterious murder
Her last chocolate at CJ… At 10.55pm, on Sunday 24 September 1905, a railway inspector was walking through a tunnel on the Brighton line, when he found the badly mutilated body of a young woman. It was determined she’d died after a violent struggle. The woman was identified as Mary Money, who lived and worked locally to Clapham Junction. A Miss Golding, who kept a sweet shop in the station approach at Clapham Junction, told police that, just after 7pm Mary, a regular customer of Miss Golding, visited the shop and bought some chocolate. Mary mentioned she was going to Victoria and a ticket collector identified Mary from a photograph as a young woman he’d seen at 7.20pm. Mary told him she was going to Victoria. From that moment, there was nobody who could say positively that they saw Miss Money until her body was found in the tunnel.
Her killer was never caught.
12. Also know as…
Clapham Junction is the name of a prehistoric site on Malta. The name is said to have been was given to it by an English explorer, who said the marks on the rocks reminded him of the busy London station. The rocks of Clapham Junction Malta are covered with puzzling and mysterious grooves. They appear to be ancient roadways of some sort or ruts made by ancient cart wheels.
13. Gone, but not forgotten…
If you know CJ, you’ll know Arding and Hobbs department store (now Debenhams). It’s a Grade II Listed building, built in the early 1900s in an Edwardian Baroque style by architect James Gibson. The firm of Arding and Hobbs started as a drapery shop in Wandsworth High Street in 1867, before moving to the present site. The buildings were ‘the largest and grandest department store built south of the Thames’. After a fire in 1909, it was rebuilt to include the landmark cupola, which is illuminated at night. You can still enjoy some of the original features – grab yourself a cuppa in the top-floor café and marvel at the stained-glass dome!
14. Just wow!
Things you may see on Platform 15…