Lavender Hill

Lavender Hill, Wandsworth

A Victorian street in south Battersea, with Clapham Junction station close by its western end

Battersea library

The street’s name derives from the laven­der that was once cul­ti­vat­ed in mar­ket gar­dens to the north of the road.

After the open­ing of Clapham Junc­tion sta­tion in 1863 the sur­round­ing area was rapid­ly built up with ter­raced hous­ing for the work­ing class­es, many of whom moved here from over­crowd­ed dis­tricts such as Shored­itch. Laven­der Hill became one of the main shop­ping streets serv­ing the new res­i­dents.

The parish church of the Ascen­sion of the Lord, Laven­der Hill, was con­se­crat­ed in 1883. At the request of the parish­ioners, it was designed to resem­ble some of the new­er church­es they had left behind in the East End.

Charles Booth rat­ed the 19th-cen­tu­ry school board divi­sion of Laven­der Hill one of London’s most ‘com­fort­able’ quar­ters.

Shown in the pho­to above,* Bat­tersea library was built in 1888–90 by Edward William Mount­ford. Pevs­ner calls its style ‘Pont Street Dutch’.

Also the work of EW Mount­ford, Bat­tersea town hall opened on Laven­der Hill in 1893 and just under a cen­tu­ry lat­er the build­ing became Bat­tersea arts cen­tre. BAC, as it nowa­days likes to call itself, is high­ly regard­ed for its fringe the­atre pro­duc­tions. The map below is cen­tred on the arts cen­tre.

The last note­wor­thy addi­tion to the street’s archi­tec­ture came in 1924 with the open­ing of Bat­tersea ref­er­ence library, built to the rear of the main library by TWA Hay­ward in an Arts and Craft style. Since then there has been lit­tle renew­al of the built envi­ron­ment, except for the intru­sion of a few com­pact blocks of flats, an ugly post office and a some­what bru­tal police sta­tion. The street’s shops, ser­vices and eater­ies reflect the mixed char­ac­ter of the neigh­bour­hood: part gen­tri­fied but main­ly work­ing-class.

The Lavender Hill Mob is a 1951 Ealing comedy about a mild-mannered civil servant who decides to use his inside knowledge of bullion transport to steal a million pounds’ worth of gold and then spirit it out of the country. The notion that a retiring, dull individual could pull off this crime is underscored by the film’s title, which conveys the unlikelihood of hardened criminals hailing from a respectable part of London like Lavender Hill.

Postal district: SW11
Website: Lavender Hill traders’ association
* The picture of Battersea library at the top of this page is adapted from an original photograph, copyright Reading Tom, at Flickr, made available under the Attribution 2.0 Generic Licence. Any subsequent reuse is freely permitted under the terms of that licence.