Lavender Hill

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Lavender Hill
Streetscape view of Lavender Hill, Battersea.jpg
View of restaurants on the central section of Lavender Hill, looking east
Former name(s) Lavender Place (eastern end)
Part of A3036
Maintained by Wandsworth Borough Council
Length 0.8 mi (1.3 km)
Location London, United Kingdom
Postal code SW11
Nearest rail station Clapham Junction Railway Station
West end Clapham Junction
East end Wandsworth Road
Known for

Lavender Hill is a hill, and a shopping and residential street, near Clapham Junction in Battersea, south London. Lavender Hill forms the section of the A3036 as it rises eastwards out of the Falconbrook valley at Clapham Junction, and retains that name for approximately 1.3 km to the corner of Queenstown Road in Battersea, beyond which it is called Wandsworth Road towards Vauxhall.

History of Lavender Hill[edit]

Origin of the name[edit]

The earliest known reference to the name 'Lavender Hill' is in 1774 when a Mr Porter, advertising a reward for the return of his lost pony, described it as having strayed or been stolen from 'a Field on Lavender-Hill', suggesting that the name was already widely known.[1]

The name refers to the commercial cultivation of lavender on the gentle north facing slopes of this part of the Thames estuary - helped by well drained soil, fresh air and several natural springs.[2]

The first building to reflect the name was Lavender Hall on the south side of the road in 1790. The road itself, which ran just below the crest of the hill, was not widely referred to as Lavender Hill until the later 1800s. Several smaller streets developed in the Victoria era including Lavender Gardens, Lavender Walk (an ancient farm lane) and Lavender Sweep also reflect the area's historic lavender industry.

Early development[edit]

Watercolour painting of a view of Battersea Fields and Chelsea from Lavender Hill in 1848
The view from Lavender Hill, painted in 1848 by Robert Westall, showing wide open fields, the then-new Battersea pumping station (built in 1840), and distant views of Westminster Abbey and Royal Hospital Chelsea. This view encouraged the early construction of several villas among the Lavender fields.

Until the 1860s Lavender Hill was mostly an area of open farmland, with small scale development at both ends. At the western end there was a crossing of the Falconbrook river with several farms. The Chestnuts, a farmhouse built in 1812, survived and has been incorporated into the modern street plan half way along Mossbury Road.[3] The earliest reference to the still-existing Falcon public house at the west end of the street is in 1767.

After the 1780s a few large villas were built on the hillside, owned by wealthy residents attracted by the expansive views over Battersea Fields and the Thames towards London. The earliest was Rush Hill House, developed in around 1770, whose fate was typical of many of these early buildings: as the area developed its grounds were sold off in 1872 and developed as a new street and terrace of houses (Rush Hill Terrace), and the house itself survived until 1887 before being redeveloped as a further terrace of houses (Crombie Mews).[1]

Street name signs for "Lavender Hill" and "Lavender Place" are still visible at 16 Lavender Hill

Lavender Place was developed in around 1826 as a row of cottages at the eastern end of what is now Lavender Hill. The clean air and supply of fresh water meant Lavender Place became home to several laundresses in the early-to-mid nineteenth century, who bleached and dried linen on the grassland behind the houses. Lavender Place extended some distance into what is now Wandsworth Road, and remained a separate street for many years (one ceramic street name for 'Lavender Place' is still visible). An acetic acid distillery, Beaufoy's Acetic Acid Works, was also located at the eastern end (for many years a public house called the Beaufoy remained at this end of Lavender Hill; the only surviving trace of the distillery is now a short street called Beaufoy Road).[4] In the 1870s the houses on Lavender Terrace were adapted to form a terrace of shops, and the houses on Lavender Place were eventually renumbered to become part of Lavender Hill.[1]

Victorian era[edit]

Battersea Arts Centre, formerly Battersea Town Hall
The Grade II listed 1920 Battersea Reference Library extension

The opening of Clapham Junction railway station in 1863 led to rapid residential and commercial development along the street, with construction of a large number of houses as well as many major civic and commercial buildings. By 1885 it was such a busy commercial district that Arding and Hobbs, the largest department store south of the River Thames, was built.

The imposing Church of the Ascension, designed by James Brooks was built in 1883 to cater to the growing population of the neighbouring Shaftesbury Estate.[5] A Welsh Methodist chapel was built on Beauchamp Road, reflecting what was once a significant Welsh population.[6]

Battersea Central Library was opened in March 1890, following an architectural competition that was won by Edward William Mountford (who also designed the Old Bailey) with a mildly Flemish Renaissance design that was described as "inexpensively devised and designed to not needlessly clash with the adjoining houses which are of the speculating builders’ type of work".[7] It quickly proved popular and saw several subsequent extensions, notably with the addition in 1924 of a reference library on Altenburg Gardens (in a part of the original plot that had originally been intended for a museum) that was designed by Henry Hyams.[8]

Battersea Town Hall was opened in 1893, as the administrative headquarters of the Metropolitan Borough of Battersea, and the large Grade II* listed building is one of Lavender Hill's most prominent features. When the Borough was abolished in 1965, the Town Hall became redundant. After being threatened with demolition for some years, plans to build a new library and swimming pool on the site were finally rejected following a campaign by residents to save the building, and then it was converted to a community arts centre in 1974.[9] The Battersea Arts Centre is now a major arts venue.

The Shakespeare Theatre was built in 1896, next to the Town Hall. It was severely damaged in the Second World War, before being demolished in 1957 and replaced by an office building called Shakespeare House).[10]

A large Central Post Office, designed by Jasper Wager, was built in 1898, and extended with a sorting office designed by John Rutherford in around 1913[11] (although the original buildings were replaced by a modern structure designed by an unknown architect at the Ministry of Works in 1961).[12]

Lavender Hill in popular culture[edit]

Film poster for the Lavender Hill Mob

The street is known in popular culture thanks to the BAFTA Award-winning 1951 Ealing comedy The Lavender Hill Mob. The film was so-named because the lead character, Henry Holland, lived in a seedy boarding house on the street, the 'Balmoral Private Hotel' where he and fellow resident (and foundry owner) Alfred Pendlebury meet and hatch the 'perfect' plot to steal a load of gold bullion.[13]

Lavender Hill is featured with a chapter of its own in the historical novel London by Edward Rutherfurd, with descriptions of it in the 18th century from the pre-industrial era.

Lavender Hill has featured as a site location for many British TV shows, including On The Buses and The Sweeney, in the 1970s.

In 1967 English group The Kinks made a song entitled Lavender Hill, which appeared on several collections of material not from albums including The Great Lost Kinks Album, and has been described as "a southerner's counterpoint to the Beatles' Penny Lane".[14]

Notable former inhabitant include Sarah, Duchess of York, who lived in a flat in Lavender Gardens before her marriage.[15] The first black Mayor in London, John Archer, was elected at Battersea Town Hall in 1913 after serving as a councillor for the Battersea Latchmere ward, north of Lavender Hill.[9]

Contemporary Lavender Hill[edit]

Grand commercial architecture at Arding and Hobbs department store (now Debenhams)
More modestly designed shops in the central section, many of which have since been converted to restaurants and cafes


Lavender Hill is now principally a shopping and restaurant street along much of its length, with around 200 retail units in total. The Lavender Hill Traders' Association runs the annual Lavender Festival,[16] to raise the profile of the street as a shopping and entertainment destination.

The western end of the street has the highest footfall, due to large commuter flows towards Clapham Junction station. Its architecture is dominated by the landmark Arding and Hobbs building (which is still a department store, and now part of Debenhams), a number of restaurants and cafes (including a branch of Pizza Express with decoration loosely themed on The Lavender Hill Mob). There is a large Asda supermarket with an underground car park, and a branch of Whole Foods Market. This section also includes the Battersea central Post Office and telephone exchange, and the Grade II listed Battersea Reference Library.[17]

The flatter central section of the road, at the top the hill, includes approximately 15 estate agents (including Courtenay, Winkworth and Foxtons), as well as Lavender Hill police station (the main police station for the Battersea area) and the Battersea Arts Centre. There is a concentration of restaurants and bars along the central section.

The eastern end of the street is anchored by smaller branches of Sainsbury's and Tesco at the crossroads with Queenstown Road. It includes a wide variety of restaurants and bars, helped by wide pavements that provide outdoor seating. There are also clusters of shops from sectors including cycling, music equipment, interior design, decorators merchants, and contemporary furniture. This section of the road is dominated by independent businesses with relatively few national operators (with the exception of a few cafes such as Caffè Nero).

In 2011, Wandsworth Borough Council completed the first phase of the Clapham Junction Exemplar project, which extensively de-cluttered and upgraded the streetscape of the western part of Lavender Hill to make it a more attractive and welcoming retail environment. This included widening of pavements, new street lighting, safer pedestrian crossings, and extensive use of granite paving.[18]


Although primarily residential, Lavender Hill includes significant office space, notably at the Battersea Business Centre, which provides workspace for around 140 businesses in a converted Victorian paper mill at 99-109 Lavender Hill.[19][20][21]

The area around Lavender Hill included a small proportion of industrial land use (including the area now occupied by the Asda supermarket which was originally a rail yard). Some small sites continued into the early 2000s (with manufacturers such as Rotoplas precision engineering on Stormont Road) however almost all industrial land has been converted to residential development as the area has gentrified.


Lavender Hill's more residential past is still visible: here, a house is sandwiched between a bar and an estate agent

Lavender Hill is in the centre of a high density middle class residential neighbourhood, of predominantly Victorian architecture, including the large Shaftesbury Park Estate.

There is a Travelodge hotel on Falcon Lane close to the western end of Lavender Hill, and a new Premier Inn is due to be constructed near the eastern end of Lavender Hill (in a former Temperance Hall at the junction with Wandsworth Road).[22]

Transport on Lavender Hill[edit]

One of Lavender Hill's cycle hire docking points, in front of the Church of the Ascension

Lavender Hill has a Public transport accessibility level of 5 along most of its length, rising to the highest level of 6b at its westen end, indicating a high density of public transport.[23]

Transport at the western end of Lavender Hill is dominated by Clapham Junction railway station, one of the busiest in Europe. The eastern end is an approximately ten minute walk from several smaller stations, notably Wandsworth Road railway station, Clapham Common tube station and Queenstown Road railway station.

In the 1890s Lavender Hill was developed as a major tram route, with tram route 26 running along Lavender Hill on the way from Kew Bridge to London Bridge, and route 28 running from Harrow Road to Victoria. The tram lines were removed in the early 1950s and replaced by several bus services (currently including the 77, 87 and 156 buses). These services still follow the same route between Wandsworth and Vauxhall, and Lavender Hill has an eastbound bus lane along much of its length.

There are three Santander Cycles public cycle hire docking stations on or close to Lavender Hill (on Dorothy Road at the western end, on Lavender Hill itself close to the junction with Sugden Road, and on Ashley Crescent at the eastern end).


  1. ^ a b c Survey of London, Volume 49: Battersea - Chapter 10, Lavender Hill: Introduction - Bartlett School of Architecture
  2. ^ Wandsworth Council - Conservation area character statement for Clapham Junction, including history of the street
  3. ^ The Buildings of Clapham - The Clapham Society, edited by Alyson Wilson, page 189
  4. ^ Vauxhall Civic Society - Beaufoy Vinegar Factory
  5. ^ Parish Church of the Ascension on Lavender Hill
  6. ^ Rootsweb listing of Welsh chapels in London, including Welsh chapel at 30 Beauchamp Road
  7. ^ Survey of London, Volume 49: Battersea - Chapter 1, Public Buildings - Bartlett School of Architecture
  8. ^ Historic England - Listing entry for the 1924 Reference library extension
  9. ^ a b Battersea Arts Centre - Our History
  10. ^ The Theatres Trust - Theatres Database - The Shakespeare Theatre, 168 Lavender Hill
  11. ^ British Post Office Buildings and Their Architects - Battersea Post Office (1898)
  12. ^ British Post Office Buildings and Their Architects - Battersea Post Office (1961), 202 Lavender Hill
  13. ^ Brit movie - Lavender Hill Mob - explaining naming after the street
  14. ^ Pop Archaeologist - The Kinks, Lavender Hill, 1967
  15. ^ Diana - Her True Story, The Commemorative Edition, Andrew Morton, Pocket Books, 1998, p. 210
  16. ^ Lavender Hill Traders Association - mention of Lavender Festival
  17. ^ British Listed Buildings - Battersea District Reference Library, Wandsworth
  18. ^ Fresh new look for Clapham Junction - Wandsworth Borough Council, 13 August 2012
  19. ^ Wandsworth Chamber of Commerce - Workspace in Wandsworth
  20. ^ Unit Management - Managed workspace - Battersea Business Centre
  21. ^ Old Ordnance Survey Maps - Battersea & Clapham 1894 - London sheet 101 - The Godfrey Edition (reference to paper mill)
  22. ^ Whitbread Trading Update, 9 September 2014
  23. ^ Public Transport Accessibility Level contour map

Coordinates: 51°27′54″N 0°09′29″W / 51.46508°N 0.15802°W / 51.46508; -0.15802