Clapham South Deep-level Air Raid Shelter

Clapham is one of the most historic parts of London, yet most people know nothing about Clapham’s history. Believe it or not, if you live in Clapham proper, one of the area’s secrets is beneath your feet: literally miles of air raid shelters, over 30 meters down, below the underground.

clapham south deep level shelter - 10You’ll recognise the entrances as those round buildings you’ve probably either wondered what their purpose is, or assumed were part of the tube. Wrongo. They are entrances to underground mini-cities that, when open, would have safely held 8,000 people. That’s even bigger and deeper than Infernos – but probably still better lit.

The London Transport Museum had a major breakthrough recently, receiving permission to open one of Clapham’s many Deep-level Shelters. Built during World War II as air raid shelters against the blitz. We were lucky enough to book tickets for the opening week. Without wanting to give away ‘too’ much, below is a small selection of photos.

It sold out pretty quickly but it is well worth the wait and £30 admission fee – worth every penny. It was a truly memorable experience with outstanding guides. And I hope they get to keep them open so thousands more people can experience Clapham below ground… er, belower ground than the underground and WC that is.
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Clapham History: past local disasters

Love Clapham has received an email from the disasters historian, John Withington, who has a book out called London Disasters. In the book is a piece on Clapham disasters which is an interesting, if tragic read. In the book John explains how at the Arding & Hobbs store in Clapham Junction (now Debenhams)  in the run-up to Christmas in 1909, a fairy light bulb exploded in the window and set fire to tinsel and cotton wool decorations. Continue reading

Big Guns on Clapham Common

Guns on Clapham Common

Every now and then something comes along that makes Love Clapham go “holy crap” and this picture is one of them, found in a book by Clapper Christopher Anderson. During World War II, Clapham Common was used for more than buff posturing joggers, it was the location of four large anti-aircraft guns (pictured above). In the picture you can also see trenches, huts and possibly soldiers doing exercises. This is so far removed from the Clapham Common of today it’s hard to comprehend what it was like. Thankfully, the BBC has a report from a lady called Jean Vines who lived in the area at the time. Jean talks about cycling across Clapham Common to get to school with a very real “danger of being hit by shrapnel from the four big guns on Clapham Common”. Fascinating!

Clapham History: Clapham North Deep Shelter

Clapham North Deep Shelter

Check out this awesomeness from the Clapham North Deep Shelter. Built to house 12,000 people during the air raids of World War II, these rare photos offer a unique look into the forgotten structures. Urban Explorer UK has a stunning set of photos taken inside the shelter including a couple with models which bring these pieces of history bang up-to-date. Their size is mind boggling when you think they’re lying there beneath Clapham High Street. Kudos to Urban Explorer for securing access when they aren’t open to the public.

Clapham History: lion loose in Clapham Junction

Clapham Junction Lion

The above grainy picture is from a video of a lion chilling out while on the run in Clapham Junction. In case you were wondering why you hadn’t heard about this on Twitter, it’s because this amazing footage is from back in 1943. Watch the video on British Pathe, but beware the poetic narrative. Many thanks to Eddie Clarke for spotting this one! If you find any other Clapham historic treats, please get in touch.

10 Clapham facts you didn’t know

Clapham Common picnic

Clapham isn’t just a great place to live, when you’re sitting on Clapham Common you sit on ground steeped in history. We’ve listed ten of the most interesting facts about Clapham that we’ve come across. If you live in Clapham you may have heard of some of these facts, but hopefully it’s still an interesting look into the area’s past. Help Love Clapham take this list up to a mighty fifteen by adding them at the foot of the page. Continue reading