The history of the borough

Two hundred years ago the present borough of Wandsworth did not exist, either as an administrative area, or as a place that any current resident would recognise.

The land was characterised not by buildings, but by fields and woods and the natural topography of the three river valleys of the Wandle, Beverley and Falcon Brooks meandering to the River Thames.

The present character of Wandsworth has only really developed over the past two centuries. The enormous growth at the end of the nineteenth century transformed small hamlets into town centres.

Five town centres were established at Balham, Clapham Junction, Putney, Tooting and Wandsworth. More recently the industrial riverside has been undergoing immense change with the emergence of new riverside quarters.

Balham and Tooting 

Balham and Tooting developed as settlements along the old coach route out of London to the south and west. Development only really burgeoned following the opening of railways in 1863.

Balham's parish church, St. Mary's, was built in 1808 whilst Tooting's St. Nicholas was re-built in 1833 replacing an earlier building that incorporated a Saxon tower. F W Hunt designed St. Luke's Church in Ramsden Road built in 1889.

Numbers 68-72 Upper Tooting Road are rare examples of early Georgian development, some of the earliest domestic buildings in the Borough. Numbers 69-79 and 81-95 Nightingale Lane are two groups of late nineteenth century buildings, the former in an exuberant Arts and Craft Style richly decorated in terracotta, the latter a Classically inspired group of shophouses.

Clapham South, Balham, Tooting Bec and Tooting Broadway underground stations, all by Charles Holden were opened following the extension of the Northern Underground Line in 1926


Battersea district grew from a few hamlets such as Battersea village and settlements along former coach routes. A church at Battersea was referred to in a papal bull in 1157.

This church was replaced in 1775 by a new one, incorporating a stained glass window from 1630. Now listed grade I, the Church of St. Mary forms the focus of the surviving remnants of Battersea Village set around Battersea Square.

The bridge of 1772 was replaced by the current Battersea Bridge dating from 1890. The nearby Albert Bridge by R M. Ordish was opened in 1873. It was the development of the railways after 1840 that transformed the area with the population increasing from 6,600 in 1841 to 169,000 by 1901. Battersea Power Station by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott was built in 1932 to supply electricity to London. Now redundant it is destined for a new life with a vibrant mix of leisure uses.

Clapham Junction, Battersea

As the railway companies built their network of lines through the 1840's, 50's and 60's, Clapham Junction became and remains the busiest railway interchange in the country.

The Station Master's House of around 1840 and Battersea Park Railway Station of 1865 were joined by a variety of buildings that sprang up to serve the burgeoning population: from the former Battersea Town Hall now Battersea Arts Centre (grade II*) of 1892 by E W Mountford and Battersea Reference Library by T W A Hayward built in an Arts and Craft Style in 1924; from The Grand Theatre, 1900 by E A Woodrow, to the former Gala Bingo Hall (grade II*) built as the Granada Cinema in 1937: from the Falcon Hotel, a late 19th century public house to Arding & Hobbs Store of 1912, (Allders).


Putney grew up as a crossing point on the river Thames, the bridge of 1729 replacing a ferry and this was part of an old coaching route frequently used by the Royal Family on their travels to the west of England.

The current Putney Bridge of 1884 by Sir Joseph Bazalgette, widened in 1933 is well-known for its boat race associations. St. Mary's Church, (grade II*) was re-built in 1836 by Edward Lapidge, although it retains its medieval tower and chapel.

Putney expanded rapidly after the opening of the railway to Richmond in 1846 and the underground in 1887 - the White Lion public house bears this date.

Numbers. 23 and 25 Oakhill Road were built in the late 19th century in an Arts and Craft Style, by the architect William Young as houses for himself and his wife's sister.


Roehampton emerged as a favoured residential suburb of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries following the opening of Putney Bridge in 1729 and the development of a number of large private estates from which several of the original houses survive.

Roehampton House (grade I) by Thomas Archer was built between 1710-12 and enlarged by Sir Edwin Lutyens in 1910. Parkstead House (grade I) built in 1750 for the Second Earl of Bessborough, now forms part of the University of Surrey.

Mount Clare (grade I) built in 1772 for George Clive, cousin of Lord Clive, also forms part of the University of Surrey, along with Grove House (grade II*), built originally for Sir Joshua Vanneck in 1777.

'Capability' Brown is reputed to have laid out the grounds. Nearby Downshire House (grade II*) was built in 1770 and soon occupied by the Marquess of Downshire.

Roehampton Village has retained something of its rustic Georgian charm, best exemplified by the King's Head Inn, at the foot of Roehampton High Street and the Montague Arms, Medfield Street, both 17th century in origin.

Dramatic change came to Roehampton when the London County Council built the massive Dover House Estate of the 1930's and the Alton East and West Estates of the 1950's. At Highcliffe Drive on Alton West, the LCC essentially retained the Georgian landscape and placed within it five ultra modern slab blocks: Binley, Winchfield, Dunbridge, Charcot and Denmead Houses, (all grade II*) inspired by Le Corbusier's Unite d'Habitation.


Wandsworth grew up as a crossing point on the River Wandle where originally horse-drawn coaches would ply between central London and the west of England . All Saints Church (grade II*) was begun in 1630.

During the 17th and 18th centuries the Huguenots settled in Wandsworth attracted by its cloth mills on the Wandle and developed a hat industry for which Wandsworth was once famous.

The Old Burial Ground contains a number of listed tombs commemorating the Huguenots. Youngs Brewery developed after 1831 in Wandsworth due to the availability of water for brewing. The complex of buildings includes the Stables, Brewery Tap and 70 Wandsworth High Street circa 1740.

Wandsworth has a selection of fine Georgian buildings, from the town houses at 1-6 Church Row (grade II*) of 1723, the early 18th century pair of cottages at 140-142, and the Friends' Meeting House of 1778. The Town Hall was opened in 1937 as the administrative offices of Wandsworth Borough Council and built to designs by E A Hunt.