If all roads lead to Rome, then it often feels in South London that all railway lines lead to Clapham Junction. It is Britain’s busiest railway station in terms of the number of trains travelling through it, although not on passenger numbers as that honour falls for nearby Waterloo. I’ve not counted them myself but Wikipedia informs mean there are well over 120 trains at hour which stop here in the off-peak.
Clapham Junction is where all the lines out of Waterloo and the Sussex-half of Victoria converge together. Every single Southern train out of Victoria stops here(well,when it isn’t cancelled..) and the majority of South West Train services do too. It has 17 platforms, with Southern services running from platforms 17 to 12, and then SWT trains from 11 to 3. Platforms 1 and 2 are served by London Overground.
With so many platforms and services, the sprawling and not altogether spacious nature of the station has seen it not viewed particularly favourably by commuters. In 2009 it was named in a report as ‘the second worst station in the country’ – some investment followed with an additional entrance and ticket hall in the old ‘Brighton Yard and new lifts down to several of the platforms. However there is still a lot to do here, as anyone who has used Platform 17 with its particularly large gap between the train and the platform will testify to!
The station first opened on 2 March 1863. Back then, Battersea was not considered a desirable area so the railway companies at the time decided to name it after Clapham which was considered more well-heeled. There are occasionally rather half-hearted campaigns to rename the station to Battersea Junction but the area around here has now taken on the name of the station, in many ways a distinct entity in its own right to the rest of Battersea.
The Falcon, 2 St. John’s Hill, SW11 1RU
The station has three possible exits so to reach The Falcon, head out of the St Johns Hill exit, this is the one with the mini shopping arcade before you reach the street. Head down the Hill on the same side of the road and you’ll come the pub on the corner of the street – it is a very distinctive building with clear signage so it is hard to miss. Sadly though the old style red sign above the windows doesn’t seem to be switched on anymore.
The Falcon is a very big pub and has the honour of being recognised as having the longest bar of any pub in the country in The Guinness Book of Records. At the back of the pub, there is a small display which claims the Dutch artist M.C Escher – of tessellated patterns and optical illusion type artwork of ‘impossible stairs’ – helped to design the bar. I haven’t been able to find any concrete proof for this mind you.
It dates from the late 19th century and was originally built as a hotel with the pub on the ground floor. The whole building has been Grade II listed since 1974, the relevant architectural items of interest are highlighted on its entry on the Historic England website. As you might expect, it has many preserved heritage features with plenty of cut glass throughout. I particularly like the wooden partitions between the back sections of the pub. The doorways on these two are both very narrow. I assume these were previously window panes that have been knocked through to allow people to pass through the various sections. Unless you have a small frame yourself, these can be challenging to pass through!
It’s a Nicholsons pub so had a decent selection of ales on our visit – 6 in total – London Pride, Adnam’s Ghost Ship, their own IPA, Rising Tide by Sharp’s and Black Dog Mild by Elgoods. Apparently normally they have a fair few more available on tap as 12 were counted when the Londonist visited in July 2015. I guess I just hit it at a fallow time. As with other Nicholsons, their food menu is made up of traditional English dishes.
We visited on a Friday night so the place was very busy – its prime spot means its a really easy location for a drink before heading on elsewhere in London or braving a train home. That said, its size allows it to accommodate large groups and we managed to grab ourselves a table pretty easily. On this occasion and my previous visits here, the back area tends to be a bit quieter, perhaps as people as deterred by the narrow doorways. They were also showing the football on Sky, although I didn’t find the TV screens particularly intrusive even if it was my own team playing…
I know The Falcon divides opinion, I think this is probably due to the fact it’s got a bit of a busy thoroughfare feel to it, on account of being by a busy thoroughfare! I like it though, it’s a solid pub and worth a visit alone to admire its historic interior.