The nineteenth century journalist Walter Bagehot once expressed his view that “Public opinion…is the opinion of the bald-headed man at the back of the omnibus.”
In 1903 Charles Bowen QC, when hearing a case for negligence, stated: “’We must ask ourselves what the man on the Clapham omnibus would think.”
His view of Clapham, one assumes, was that of a comfortable London suburb inhabited by “decent” and “ordinary” people whom one could use as yardstick with which to gauge common-sense, middle-class opinion such as it was in the day. Presumably the decent and ordinary thing to do was to use the omnibus as a means of getting about.
At that time of course all the omnibuses in London were horse-drawn. Only in 1916 were all the bus routes in London finally taken over by motorised vehicles. Bowen’s words were in fact not the only claim to fame of the Clapham Omnibus.
About forty years previously one Friedrich Kekule von Stradonitz, a young German chemist, was working at a laboratory at St Bartholomew’s Hospital. Having fallen asleep one day on the omnibus he had a dream that was going to totally revolutionise organic chemistry. He wrote of his dream: “…the atoms were gambolling before my eyes…I saw how the longer ones formed a chain…[and then] the cry of the conductor ‘Clapham Road’ awakened me from my dreaming…."
After having taken something of a turn for the worse during the earlier part of the last century Clapham became fashionable and is now a popular venue for socialising and eating.
We like to believe that Eco Restaurant in Clapham High Street is one of the best restaurants in Clapham offering an impressive range of mouth-watering pizzas and other culinary delights, good wine and excellent service.
Give it a try next time you are passing on the Clapham Omnibus.