Clapham in the 17th-19th century
In the late 17th century, large country houses began to be built there, and throughout the 18th and early 19th century it was favoured by the wealthier merchant classes of the City of London, who built many large and gracious houses and villas around Clapham Common and in the Old Town. Samuel Pepys spent the last two years of his life in Clapham, living with his friend, protégé at the Admiralty and former servant William Hewer, until his death in 1703.
Clapham Common was also home to Elizabeth Cook, the widow of Captain James Cook the explorer. She lived in a house on the common for many years following the death of her husband. Other notable residents of Clapham Common were Palace of Westminster (Houses of Parliament) architect Sir Charles Barry, Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg and 20th century novelist Graham Greene. John Francis Bentley, architect of Westminster Cathedral, lived in the adjacent Old Town.
In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the Clapham Sect were a group of upper class (mostly evangelical Anglican) social reformers who lived around the Common. They included William Wilberforce, Henry Thornton and Zachary Macaulay, father of the historian Thomas Macaulay, as well as William Smith, M.P., the Dissenter and Unitarian. They were very prominent in campaigns for the abolition of slavery and child labour, and for prison reform. They also promoted missionary activities in Britain's colonies.
Clapham in the 20th and 21st centuries
After the coming of the railways, Clapham developed as a suburb for commuters into central London, and by 1900 it had fallen from favour with the upper classes. Many of their grand houses had been demolished by the middle of the 20th century, though a number remain around the Common and in the Old Town, as do a substantial number of fine late 18th- and early 19th-century houses. Today's Clapham is an area of varied housing from the large Queen Anne, Regency and Georgian era homes of the Old Town and Clapham Common to the grids of Victorian housing in the Abbeville area; and, as in much of London, the area also has its fair share of council-owned social housing on estates dating from the 1930s and 1960s. In the early 20th century, Clapham was seen as an ordinary commuter suburb, often cited as representing ordinary people: hence the so-called "Man on the Clapham omnibus".
Clapham was an ancient parish in the county of Surrey. For poor law purposes the parish became part of the Wandsworth and Clapham Union in 1836. The parish was added to the Registrar General London Metropolis area in 1844 and consequently it came within the area of responsibility of the Metropolitan Board of Works in 1855. The population of 16,290 in 1851 was considered too small for the Clapham vestry to be a viable sanitary authority and the parish was grouped into the Wandsworth District, electing 18 members to the Wandsworth District Board of Works. In 1889 the parish was transferred to the County of London and in 1900 it became part of the new Metropolitan Borough of Wandsworth. It was abolished as a civil parish in 1904, becoming part of the single Wandsworth Borough parish for poor law. The former Metropolitan Borough of Wandsworth was divided in 1965 and the area of the historic parish of Clapham was transferred to the London Borough of Lambeth.
Clapham South (redirected here), where used, derives its name from a tube station — it has no fixed boundary from the rest of Clapham. Taking any definition in informal use it is predominantly mid-rise and low-rise residential land and usually takes in major parts of the Common. Where regard to historic Clapham parish and some street signs is had, this area includes a detached part: the land bounded by Nightingale Square, Oldridge Road and Balham Hill.
Clapham North (redirected here) lies on either side of Clapham Road and borders the relatively modern creation 'Stockwell' in the historic Lambeth parish on Union Road and Stirling Road.
Clapham Holy Trinity was the ancient parish of Clapham. The other churches were established, probably as chapelries, in outlying parts of Clapham as the density of population increased. All these parishes were originally in Surrey and have been redirected here.