Welcome to the Heart of Battersea, Clapham Junction

Many years ago I was a judge in the first LGIU Cllr Awards, another judge commented that it was hard to judge between a councillor who achieved something by virtue of their position, as an executive member, perhaps, and those that achieved something because they were a terrier, focused on an issue or cause that they pursued relentlessly and doggedly while they slowly but surely persuaded others.

It’s a metaphor that has stuck with me, and one that gives me solace when it comes to some of my pet topics. Occasionally I think I make a difference, I remember being one of just two people in a meeting supporting open data, but now I think Wandsworth can claim to be one of the more open councils in the country (although most of the credit on that is down to the national policy climate). Most of the time I can only admire the tenacity of those who employ the terrier approach, and wonder what, if any, issues or causes I would have the patience to persistently champion when I return to the back-benches.

So I look at Philip Beddows determined campaigning for Battersea through the Love Battersea campaign, which he started as a councillor and has continued ever since he stood down, with huge admiration.

People leaving Clapham Junction station, Battersea
The sign greeting those leaving Clapham Junction station, Battersea.
His latest triumph was unveiled this morning: a sign welcoming those leaving Clapham Junction station to the heart of Battersea.

Although it was installed overnight, it was not an overnight decision, he can point to the very first time he raised the idea in February 2009. Ever since he has continued to remind, chivvy and encourage those involved to get to this stage. I can speak from experience—having been tangentially involved in the process—that the ins and outs of negotiations, legal agreements and just funding it, would have ground a lesser man down. I have no doubt that without him it would never have happened.

His battle against the Claphamisation of Battersea is one that he seems to be winning. Recently it feels like the tide has turned, with people and businesses increasingly getting their location right. This, hopefully, marks a turning point, since the station is the chief culprit for people’s mistaken impression that SW11 is Clapham: there’s now a sign, in the station itself, letting people know it’s in Battersea.

Battersea has a long and proud history, and a vibrant and exciting present. We should all be proud of the Battersea identity and, like Philip, do what we can to protect and champion it.

If Fitness First is the new frontline, where is the frontline?
If Fitness First is the new frontline, where is the frontline? Photo by Kate Meacock

I have, at times, banged on about the Claphamisation of Battersea, with new arrivals and Yorkshire based supermarkets showing no consideration of the area’s history or geography.

In my idler moments I’ve also wondered whether the excellent Love Battersea is perhaps just a little too mainstream and, just maybe, whether there should be a more radical splinter group—a Battersea People’s Front[1]—for those who are more vocal in their demands for Battersea’s place on the map.

Fitness First in Battersea, thinking they are in Clapham Hill in Kent.
Anyone know where Clapham Hill is?

Seeing pictures like the above taken outside the Fitness First on Falcon Road leave me more convinced than ever that the BPF has a place. That this is a year after they put up their ridiculous Clapham Hill hoarding and had the error pointed out to them leaves a rather bitter taste. Apparently, they think “a play on ‘Clapham and Lavender Hill’ is nice!”

Not only are they mistakenly placing themselves in Clapham, they then compound their sin by making up a new place they think is in Clapham (but is actually in Kent) and defend it with a hubris that only Sainsbury’s could match with their ‘Clapham St John’s’ near Wandsworth

I was thinking that we should have a two minutes hate[2] directed at Fitness First (and feel free to tweet them) would be a good starting point. But would two minutes be anything like long enough?

  1. Such naming would, of course, leave the People’s Front of Battersea name available for those who feel the BPF is too tame.  ↩
  2. I recognise that the title of this blogpost should have been ‘we have always been at war with Fitness First’ to keep the 1984 theme, but even I felt war was a little strong.  ↩

Clapham Travelodge, next to Clapham Junction tube

I recently claimed that I was never grumpy, which someone challenged, telling me that my attitude towards those who mistook Battersea for Clapham was textbook grumpiness. I corrected them. My attitude towards those who make such simple geographical mistakes is best described as righteous anger.

Or maybe righteous wrath.

It is currently aimed towards Travelodge, who are currently completing a new hotel on Falcon Road. Being a building site they have caused problems for their neighbours on Mossbury Road to be sure, but through it all I remained fairly emotionally balanced. But when their new hotel was listed on their website it immediately provoked a fit of righteous wrath.

To be fair, they did make attempts to compensate, cutting through decades of TfL delays and engineering to put Clapham Junction on the London Underground network (with an entrance I assume is in the menswear at Arding and Hobbs Debenhams). Despite that, I decided the only proportionate response was an email to the chain.

Contacting them is quite hard, their webform forces you to answer lots of questions, and only a few allow you to answer them. The Clapham Junction Town Centre Manager was one who managed to get through to them. She was told:

We appreciate that the location of the hotel is in between Clapham and Battersea, however we already have a hotel called ‘Battersea Travelodge’

Apart from being wrong about being ‘between Clapham and Battersea’ (because they are in Battersea), I can see the logic. And it does leave open all sorts of alternative names; I was wondering about Manhattan Travelodge, it is, after all, located between Manhattan and Southend-on-Sea, but they already have a Southend Travelodge.

I was blessed with a slightly more positive response:

your feedback has been forwarded to our facilities for them to make the decision if this hotel should be renamed before its opening

Sadly, I think this translates to ‘we’ll pass this on to someone else to ignore’.

On the upside, the responses at least mean we have an email address for Travelodge which obviates the need for their awful customer service webform, it’s customer.services@Travelodge.co.uk.

In fact, I’ve gone even further. If you think they need to re-think, then here’s a pre-filled email with a few facts that might help convince them to reconsider their name.

Local, to leafy Clapham St John's at least

I have a reputation for being a bit grumpy about people pretending they are in Clapham when they are, in fact, firmly in Battersea.

I’m not sure why this has developed, since intensive cognitive behavioural therapy and daily meditation normally keeps it in check. But I know a few issues do fester. One is ‘The Plough, Clapham’, probably more because – since leaving Wandsworth – Young’s has become a soulless hotel/pub chain and the beer is no longer what it once was.

To the east of Fulham Trinity...

The other I consider a much worse sin: Sainsbury’s Clapham St John’s.

Not content with naming themselves after an area several miles away. Sainsbury’s have compounded the sin by making up an entirely new district.

I’m not quite sure where the name originated. Maybe they genuinely thought people call the area Clapham St John’s. It’s entirely possible they liked the ecclesiastical sound of the name which gives it a rural feel. Perhaps they feel inadequate when compared to Tesco, so like to act like a corporate giant that has no connection with its local community.

I like to think it’s a new variation on the porn star/Star Wars/whatever naming games, and you take the name of the last place you got drunk and the church you were baptised. So the manager had to think about THAT night out, checked with their parents and lo Sainsbury’s Clapham St John’s was born. (If you are interested I wasn’t baptised, so can proudly say I live in plain old Battersea.)

I have attempted to raise this with Sainsbury’s via their website, but to no avail. Initially it was passed to their ‘Careline’, who ignored me for a few months. When I chased them up, they basically said “nothing to do with me, guv” (you could almost hear the Clapham St John’s accent) but said they’d pass it on to the relevant department and the issue would be “considered carefully.”

Perhaps I’m cynical, but I rather doubt it was considered at all; I don’t think Sainsbury’s is one of those retailers that especially strives to be part its local community. I’ve certainly heard nothing since.

Luckily, I have a blog, so in addition to therapy and mediation I can vent my frustration. As well as taking satisfaction that, living in Battersea, or Chelsea Lavender as some know it, there’s a Waitrose and an Asda that both know where they are.

View Larger Map

Google Maps is now more accurate!

Having been raised many times by many different people like the SW11tch campaign and various people from the Streetlife Identity Taskforce the mapping used by Google now puts Clapham over, well, Clapham.

While this shouldn’t take any credit away from map providers like Bing or the community created Open Street Map who never got it wrong in the first place, Google Maps is by far the most used online mapping service and often came up as an excuse even when a business was almost in Wandsworth (not naming names, Sainsbury’s Clapham St John’s).

It’s a bit of an early Christmas present, and inspires me to keep chipping away at the remaining Clapham/Battersea offenders.

I know I petulantly boycotted the ballot, but I’m so proud of democracy I could burst!

The people have spoken. Asda is in Battersea!

I’m not going to dwell on the ugly battles before like the time Mick Beck “confirmed” the store was in Clapham or point out that they are re-adopting a name they refused to admit they’d ever had (despite a relaunch with it two years ago).

No. Today is a day to be proud of Battersea, because it was Battersea that produced such a magnificent result. I suggest we all celebrate with something fizzy from Waitrose!

From their press release:


After weeks of debate amongst local residents, councillors, the local MP, and community groups, Asda is proud to announce the new name of the store as “Asda Clapham Junction, Battersea” following an instore ballot.

Even though the final ballot results showed Asda Clapham Junction as a favourite with customers the store were keen to ensure Clapham Junction is still recognised as being at the heart of Battersea.

Full Ballot results

  • Asda Clapham Junction 374 votes
  • Asda Battersea 350 votes
  • Asda Clapham Junction Battersea 109 votes
  • Asda Clapham 91 votes

General Store Manager, Mick Beck, said: “I’m delighted that we have finally come to a decision on the store name, we’re incredibly proud of our location and we would like to thank our customers who took the time to come in and vote – here’s to the new and improved, ASDA Clapham Junction, Battersea.”

I’m fully aware that many wonder why on earth I feel so strongly about Asda calling themselves ‘Clapham’. I’ve been expounding on it a lot recently, not on this blog, but the story has been covered on BBC Radio London, in the Evening Standard, the South London Press (not on their website) and the Wandsworth Guardian.

I think I’ll to a post I made on Streetbook:

To return to the discussion about the difference, London is not a bland homogenous entity. Its charm and beauty is that Battersea and Clapham aren’t the same. Just as Soho and Pimlico are different. Or Wembley and Kilburn. There are similarities, but the atmosphere, the vibe, is always different.

In many ways we are not only trying to protect the name Battersea, but also Clapham, which is mis-used to cover so much of South London it’s becoming meaningless.

To have an attachment to a place, you must first know that place. In exactly the same way you can’t truly have a friend or lover who is a stranger to you. To say that you love Clapham when you really mean Battersea only betrays that you haven’t yet made that connection. And it’s those connections and common bonds that strengthen our communities and society.

And I’d probably add a line from the Wandsworth Guardian for good measure:

It’s no coincidence that those who believe it’s Clapham are often those with weaker ties to the area; new residents, antipodean travellers, Yorkshire based supermarkets.

My opinions on it are fairly clear. What I just cannot understand is Asda’s opinion, or lack thereof. They are holding a ballot in store to ask people what they think. And I’m boycotting it. I know it’s just one vote, and am not going to suggest to anyone else that they boycott it, but it devalues everything, Battersea, Clapham and democracy.

I may as well hold a ballot on whether a giraffe has a long neck or to see if people think it would be quite cold in the Arctic circle.

Democracy is about opinions, beliefs. It’s about a political process and a choosing a vision for a town, borough, region, nation. It is not something that changes the facts. All a ballot will prove is that of those that voted some know the store is in Battersea, and some didn’t.

To suggest that the long history of places like Battersea and Clapham can be changed by a few shoppers putting crosses on scraps of paper is nonsensical. While after a 1,000 years historians may still point to Battersea’s place in the Domesday Book, I rather doubt any will be referring to Asda’s pointless ballot in 3010.

If they want ballots perhaps they can have a look at the one being run by the Battersea Society which currently shows 97.8% of people know Asda is in Battersea. If they want something more neutral, perhaps the Wandsworth Guardian’s poll would do, that currently has 78% of people putting Asda correctly in Battersea. Or maybe the South London Press’s straw poll of shoppers which had 70% correctly stating it should be Asda Battersea.

So, I’m not taking part in something that shows nothing be disrespect to the area I love and its long history.

But despite that I’m looking forward to a result that reflects all the other polls and shows a sold victory for Battersea. If it’s any other result, I’ll have to see if the Asda manager will do me a favour if I stand for re-election, it would save all that lengthy campaigning!

80 years ago, on people don't know where Battersea is, and the trains aren't any faster

Last time there was a coalition between the Liberals and the Conservatives was 1922. It didn’t end well, at least it didn’t end well for Lloyd-George. But some things were better.

Imagine you were at Victoria and needed to get to Clapham as quickly as possible. You’ve heard trains go from here to Clapham Junction, so you pull out your trusty copy of Bradshaw’s Railway Guide and look up the times…

Still probably too close to Clapham for some

Hold, what’s that, there’s a little indicator next to Clapham Junction. Better check what that refers too. Hold, it says here that Clapham Junction is actually “Mid. Battersea, 1¼ miles from Clapham.”

Phew, were it not for the accuracy of Bradshaw you’d have found yourself in the middle of Battersea.

And it wasn’t just Bradshaw’s Railway Guide.

Even in 1947 SW11 was in Battersea

Imagine it’s 1947, for whatever reason you find yourself away from home, perhaps working and staying in a guest house, you’re curious exactly where you are. You know the address is London SW11, so you grab an RAC guide you always have in your battered leather suitcase…

Ooo, that’s interesting, SW11 is Battersea it says here, SW4 is Clapham. Now you know where you are you might pop to the wonderful Battersea Park you’ve heard so much about, and you’re so glad you haven’t ended staying in that horrible SW4.

Asda Clapham Junction, in Battersea. Not Clapham

Of course, in this wonderful modern world in which we live you could probably just pull out your phone and look it up on the internet. There are plenty of sites that can do it, like this one for Asda that correctly says it’s Battersea.

If only their store manager had made the effort to check.

I have to offer huge thanks to Ian Freeman for sending me the scans. It’s perhaps worth mentioning that, although not a Battersea resident, he’s on the side of right in this battle, and won the SW11 Literary Festival Slogan for Battersea competition with “Battersea: It’s the dog’s”

If you want to download the full size scans feel free:

I apologise. I know that I’m banging on about this, but I’ve just had a response to my latest attempt at communicating with them. What’s getting to me now is not so much their insistence that they are in Clapham, but the fact that they don’t really know where they are and are having huge difficulties in communicating on the subject.

Back on the 1 October they told me that they were in Clapham.

I replied:

Thank-you very much for your reply. Unfortunately I’m not sure that you have fully covered my points.

I’m loathe to suggest this, but might the general store manager be wrong in this instance?

I’ve only lived here for 13 years, so it might be I’m wrong (I’ve no idea how connected he is with the area). However, I suspect that he probably isn’t quite as connected as one of my near neighbours who has lived within a few hundred yards of the store (even when it was a railway yard) for the best part of 80 years, she is adamant that the area is Battersea.

Plenty of others are making a similar mistake. Wandsworth council, which covers the area, seemed to think that SW11 is Battersea when they passed a motion on the subject in 2008 (link opens a PDF of the motion).

And Asda itself isn’t perfect. Back in 2008 you changed your name to reflect the area it is actually located (link). Even today your website still seems to think it’s the Clapham Junction store in Battersea (link).

It seems that there are an awful lot of people that need correcting on this issue!

I know a few people have had responses from one of your colleagues acknowledging a mistake has been made. But I also had an offer from one of your PR people to write a blog post about it on Your Asda and see what sort of response it got; although if we’re letting blog posts rather than geographical fact decide the outcome I think I might see about running a campaign to get it rebranded as Narnia, or possibly Hoth.

Might you be able to double check on the issue?

Today I got a response:

Dear Mr Cousins,

Thanks for your further email sent to my colleague Will Hayton. I’m replying to you on his behalf.

I am very sorry if you find the advert misleading as this was never our intention regarding the location of our Clapham Junction store.

The store is called the Clapham Junction store because it is just next to the Clapham Junction stop on the rail network. However, I have passed on your comments in this matter to the marketing team. They will be able to bear this in mind when planning any future adverts showing the store name.

Thank you for taking the time to bring this matter to our attention. If you require any further assistance please do not hesitate to contact me.

Kind Regards

Kelvin Edet
ASDA Service Team

And where do you go from there? Not only are they failing to acknowledge the facts, they now seem to think their store is called ‘Clapham Junction’ (and it wouldn’t be a problem if it was). Possibly the tactic is to keep the incompetence going until I give up or die, whichever happens sooner.

They should never underestimate the determination of a pedantic man. (Which probably means they’ll keep it going until I die.)

Over a week has gone since I had my response from Asda explaining I didn’t know where I live, but they seem to have ignored my further email (despite Will telling me that I shouldn’t hesitate to contact them if I require any further assistance). Obviously I’ll continue chasing up on the subject.

It also seems that no-one else has had any response, with the sole exception of the Clapham Junction Town Centre Manager who has had a call from them.

Apparently the message was: “We are very sorry you are unhappy about the name. We have no intention of changing it, because it would be confusing.” When asked about the naming in 2008, or on the website, Asda just apologised (apparently not knowing the area or the history).

[I’ll add that I’m fully aware of how places change over the years. I just think that (a) Battersea is worth defending and (b) Asda have an atrocious attitude on this, which is basically just to tell anyone and everyone they are wrong – without even checking their own history. Then again, it is Asda so I’m not sure why I expected better.]