Balham – Ugly, Abominable & Unpleasant

balham picBalham – ugly, abominable and unpleasant. Once, maybe. But not any more.

Post Sunday morning church relaxation invariably involves a freshly pressed cafetiere, the Sunday Times and the sofa in the sitting room. Imagine my surprise when turning to the ‘Homes and Gardens’ section I found this in an old copy I’d saved.

Apparently Balham was the second best suburb in which to live in the whole of London. It lost out to Ally Pally (who’d have thought).

This is what was said,

Described by Arthur Ransome as “the ugliest and most abominable of London’s unpleasing suburbs”, this is now one of the capital’s most sought-after addresses. A sure sign of its rise: the gourmet-pizza mini chain Franco Manca has added a Balham branch to its outposts in Chiswick, Northcote Road and Broadway Market. The area’s other middle-class landmarks include Waitrose, Oliver Bonas, Trinity Cafe and Deli, a Rick Stein-owned brasserie, Harrisons (now gone and replaced by Foxlow -ed), and the weekly farmers’ market. Tooting Commons have a lido and tennis courts.

Prices range from £625,000 for a two-bedroom maisonette to £3m for a large detached home. Local primaries include Henry Cavendish, Telferscot and the outstanding Chestnut Grove Academy. The transport links are great, too — Balham station is on the Northern line, and has rail links to Victoria in 15 minutes, Gatwick in 40 minutes and Brighton in an hour.

Why we love it It’s no longer the new Clapham: it’s more serene and the high street doesn’t resemble a drunken stag do.

If a two bedroom maisonette is going for £600K, you might understand why our guys are having to buy in Streatham, Mitcham and Norbury!

But we like it. It’s where church is. And we love who lives here. It’s home. Even though we now live in Streatham!

There’s Nothing Average About These Prices


Colliers Wood has never looked so attractive.

Words I never thought that I’d ever utter. But with the average house price in Balham costing £740,000, Colliers Wood (more former than the latter) is the only place any of our young workers will be able to afford to buy. It’s nuts. It really is. We’re now more expensive than Wimbledon. Friends of our recently moved from Balham to Walthamstow. And with the house prices being what they are and the Victoria Line links into Central London you can appreciate why they’ve done it.

I love a good map. And especially one with a bit of analysis thrown in. Graham Miller from LCM is my usual source . But Facebook beat him to it this time. And this one from eMoov is revealing.

There may be an upside. It might just stop this nonsense of the ‘forever’ house that Christians of a certain age begin to spout. We need to remind one another that we only have one forever house and it’s in the New Creation. If we think we start to treasure one here we might just never get to see the one in glory (Matthew 6:21). Just get a house that you can afford and that works, having already worked out which church family you’re going to be a part of. But we don’t want to get into the mindset that begins to think that we’re building heaven on earth.

With my Christ Church Balham hat on this analysis is a little discouraging. But it confirms what we’ve thought for a while; that most of our young workers won’t be living here for ever. And so our principle ministry priority has to be to train them for service elsewhere.

With my Antioch Plan hat on  it’s going to make planning Cohort 2 an interesting time. There’s something to be said for planting churches in places where people can afford to stay! Trying to grow a church with ‘churnover’ is a like trying to fill a leaking bucket.