Asparagus Pub, Falcon Road

Above: The modern pub, standing on the corner of Falcon Road and Battersea Park Road.

You might think that ‘The Asparagus’ is a strange name for a pub and, of course, you would be right. It is the only pub by that name in Inner London – maybe in the whole of England. Taking a look at the picture you could also be forgiven for thinking that it looked more like a small office block than a pub. That is also true.

The Wetherspoon pub opened in 1998 on a site that had not been a pub before. The rest of the site was a newly built development of shops with office units above. So, what was the reason for calling the pub by that strange name?

There was no pub on the site before the present one opened and the name ‘Asparagus’ had not been used by any other pub area. This is a case of naming a pub after an old tradition of growing asparagus in the area in the 19th century. So keeping alive the name of a vegetable that was commonly grown in the local fields in times past is a commendable idea.

The City of London, on the north side of the Thames, along with the City of Westminster on its western side were becoming larger during the 18th and 19th centuries as more and more people were living there. It had always been the tradition that the residents of London and Westminster bought their fruit and vegetables in local markets – like Spitalfields Market (to the east of the City of London); the Stocks Market (which ceased operation when the Mansion House was built on the site it had previously occupied for centuries); and Covent Garden Market (just north of the Strand).

We are talking about the times before the coming of the railways – which were not built in London until the 1830s. The railways were instrumental in enabling farmers to send all sorts of produce – including fruit and vegetables – very long distances, to be sold at large markets. Before the railways changed transport dramatically, most of the fruit and vegetables were grown on the outskirts of the City of London – in areas like Hackney, Deptford, Fulham, Hammersmith, Wandsworth and, of course, Battersea. The produce was taken to market by horse and cart. In many of these places, the local farmers had a speciality that they grew. Either they were good at growing a particular fruit or vegetable or it might have been that the soil in a particular area was best suited to a particular crop.

What we know is that Battersea was the place where large quantities of asparagus were grown. After being picked, the crop was sold in what were known as ‘Battersea Bundles’. The modern pub, which stands at 1-13 Falcon Road, at the junction with Battersea Park Road, has a most appropriate name, which keeps alive the memory of the days when most of the flat land nearby was covered in small farms growing produce to feed the hungry mouths of the city folk about six or seven miles away.

-ENDS-

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