A rail station at Balham first opened on 1 December 1856, at the time called Balham Hill. It was renamed to its present name and moved slightly in 1863 as part of works taking place to upgrade the line. It briefly changed its name again in 1927, becoming Balham and Upper Tooting, but this name lasted barely over two years before it reverted to simply ‘Balham’ in October 1929.
As one of the few rail stations offering interchange with tube south of the river, Balham is very busy with over 10million passengers using it in 2015/16. Architecturally, it’s nothing special. The main entrance building is pleasant enough but the platform shelters are fairly basic. Overall, its easily overshadowed by the classic Charles Holden tube station.
The Bedford, 77 Bedford Hill, SW12 9HD
Last time around in Balham, I headed West from the station to The Regent. This time around, I headed East, a quick three minute walk down Balham Station Road and then across to The Bedford, on the junction of Bedford Hill and Fernlea Road.
Inside, on first impressions, The Bedford seems a spacious pub but its far more than that. The Bedford is a thriving live venue, hosting all manner of events under their roof. London and beyond. Downstairs they have their ‘Globe Theatre’, home to their ‘Banana Caberet’ comedy events. The pub has hosted plenty of comedians before they were famous, including Omid Djalil, The Mighty Boosh and Michael McIntyre. They also have plenty of other events here too including everything from salsa dancing to live music and plays from ‘Theatre N16.’ The pub also has a strong live music heritage too, The Clash played here in the ’70s. Ed Sheeran recorded a live album here back in 2011 too…
Its pub credentials are pretty solid too. There were three ales available on tap on our visit, Dizzy Blonde and two offerings from the nearby Wimbledon brewery, the Common Pale Ale and their Copper Leaf Ale. Food wise, I’d summarise it as pub classics with a few risottos thrown in too. I went for a ‘Bedford Burger’, the price is towards the higher end of the spectrum at £12.50 and I can testify it was a hearty portion size. Good chips too!
The downstairs area feels pretty roomy, something amplified on our visit as it was such as sunny day. They also have sofas and comfy chairs. As you’ll see from my photos, the interior looks very sun-kissed. It was quite quiet as we were here on a Saturday afternoon, but speaking from experience it gets very busy here during the evening.
If you want a change of pace from the live events here, The Bedford also has a selection of books and plenty of boardgames if you’d prefer that as entertainment. Games available include Scrabble, Pictionary and a selection of TV tie ins – I can see how a ‘Play Your Cards Right’ board game would work, but admit to be totally lost on how ‘Gogglebox’ would go.
The Bedford is an excellent pub, there is so much going on here. At a time where some pubs are finding their live music being stripped back in favour of packing more people in for food, like the Half Moon in Herne Hill, it’s great to see somewhere with live events still going strong. Well worth a visit!