I attended the small event held to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Clapham Junction yesterday.
It is remarkable to think about the impact it has had on the millions of people who have worked, lived by, used and travelled through the station in those 150 years. Indeed, it defies comprehension. Having to say a few words at the event I was forced to think much smaller, and consider my own experiences of the station.
Like many, Clapham Junction, then a sprightly 133 years old, was my introduction to Battersea. And like many (I hope) I ended up leaving through the wrong exit and spending a cold, wet, winter night seeing a part of Battersea I probably wouldn’t have visited by choice that evening. But somehow, I found myself returning and realising Battersea was where I wanted to make my home.
After that, Clapham Junction punctuated my life. It was the start of unhappy commutes, and the end of happy commutes back home. But it was purely functional. A means to an end.
It was only after I had children that I started to see what it really is: a magical gateway. The hustle and bustle became exciting, and journeys were no longer drudgery, but adventures.
Whether it was the Overground to Westfield and the Lego Store, South West Trains to Waterloo and the London Eye and South Bank or – as we’ll be doing later this month – a pilgrimage to Wembley once we go through the barriers we become explorers. London and beyond is in our reach and the trip has untold potential.
And Clapham Junction’s metaphorical journey is the same. Over the past 150 years it has had a massive impact on Battersea; not least in confusing itinerant residents and corporate headquarters. It has driven change, allowing residents easy access to jobs and leisure, and bring others easily into the area. It plays a vital rôle in the local economy and with each improvement (and I will not pretend the station doesn’t need improvement) it creates even more potential for the area.
We’ve seen the physical improvements to the station and the arrival of the Overground in recent years. Soon we might be adding Crossrail 2 and, one day, maybe even an extended Northern Line from Nine Elms. Despite it’s imperfections, it serves as a wonderful heart of Battersea.