Balham Park Road, SW12

Place Name

Look at a modern map and this would seem to be a reference to the odd parcel of land jutting out as part of Wandsworth Common. But in fact this was one of the first roads to be laid out in the immediate area, when the area was mostly open fields. English Heritage’s Survey of London gives the best description of the area in the mid-19thCentury: “Whilst development was taking off in the mid 1860s on the west side of St James’s Drive, the land opposite, behind St James’s industrial school, was still a ‘park-like’ expanse of open fields. With the creation of the Westminster Poor Law Union in 1868, St James’s parish hoped to sell the building and its immediate grounds to the new body, but hold on to the surrounding 141⁄2 acres, with a view to speculative development. By then houses were starting to go up to the school’s east, in Balham. Here two new roads of c.1864–5 leading off Balham High Road—Balham Park Road and Boundaries (sometimes Boundary) Road—had been brought right up to the eastern limits of the school site, where they ended abruptly. Such a layout can only have been planned in expectation that in time the school’s surplus land would be given over to building and these roads continued across it to St James’s Drive.” The road originally stopped abruptly at what is now the the bend but continued to St James’s Drive by the 1890. The road itself is named after the local area. John Field in his study Place Names of Greater London speculates that the name could come from one of two sources, either meaning a riverside pasture belonging to a Saxon called Bealga, who built his settlement alongside Stane Street (today’s Balham High Road), the great Roman superhighway which ran from Chichester to London, or a “rounded riverside pasture”. The Anglo-Saxon word Hamm often meant land within the bend of a river. It was first mentioned as Bœlgenham in AD957 in the Anglo Saxon charters, by the time of the Domesday Book of 1086 it was recorded as Belgeham, and by 1472 it was recorded as Balam.



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