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Battersea

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Battersea
OS Grid Reference: Template:Gbmappingsmall
Administration
Borough: Wandsworth
County: Greater London
Region: Greater London
Nation: England
Other
Ceremonial County: Greater London
Traditional County: Surrey
Post Office and Telephone
Post town: LONDON
Postcode: SW11
Dialling Code: 020
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Battersea, as defined by the Metropolitan Borough of Battersea, part of the old County of London, England, before 1965

Battersea is a place in the London Borough of Wandsworth, England. It is an area of London lying on the south bank of the River Thames. Vaguely triangular in shape, its northern boundary is circa 4 km miles of the Thames, as it runs first north-east, and then east, before turning north again to pass Westminster. Its north east corner is one mile (1.6 km) due south of the Palace of Westminster; the north west corner is demarcated by the Wandsworth Bridge, and Battersea tapers south to a point roughly three miles (5 km) from the north east corner and two miles (3 km) from the north west.

The area takes its name from the old village of Battersea, a island settlement on the Thames marked now, especially, by St Mary's Church. William Blake was married, and Benedict Arnold and his wife and daughter are buried in the crypt of the church. Battersea is mentioned in Anglo-Saxon time as 'Badric's Isle' and later 'Patrisey'. As with many former Thames island settlements, Battersea was reclaimed by the expedient of draining marshland and building culverts for streams.

Within the bounds of modern Battersea are (from east to west):

The tradition of local government in the United Kingdom was based on the Parish. Population growth in the 18th century demanded new arrangements, and the Metropolitan Borough of Battersea was created in 1900, with the boundaries described above. It was in 1965 combined with the neighbouring Metropolitan Borough of Wandsworth to form the London Borough of Wandsworth. The former Battersea Town Hall, opened in 1893, is now the Battersea Arts Centre.

Before the industrial revolution, much of the area was farmland, providing food for the City of London and surrounding population centres; and with a particular specialisms, such as growing lavender on Lavender Hill (nowadays denoted by the road of the same name) or pig breeding on Pig Hill (later the site of the Shaftesbury Park Estate). Villages in the wider area - Battersea, Tooting, Wandsworth, Balham - were isolated one from another; and throughout the second half of the second millennium, the wealthy built their country retreats in Battersea and neighbouring areas.

Industry in the area was concentrated to the north west just outside the Battersea-Wandsworth boundary, at the confluence of the River Thames, and the River Wandle which gave rise to the village of Wandsworth. This was settled from the 16th century by protestant craftsmen - Huguenots - fleeing religious persecution in Europe, who established a range of industries such as mills, breweries and dying, bleaching and calico printing. Industry developed eastwards along the bank of the Thames during the industrial revolution from 1750s onwards; the Thames provided water for transport, for steam engines and for water intensive industrial processes. Bridges erected across the Thames encouraged growth; Putney Bridge, a mile (1.6 km) to the west, was built in 1729, and Battersea Bridge in the centre of the north boundary in 1771. Inland from the river, the rural agricultural community persisted.

Along the Thames, a number of large and, in their field, pre-eminent firms grew; notably the Morgan Crucible Company, which survives to this day and is listed on the London Stock Exchange; Price's Candles, which also made cycle lamp oil; and Orlando Jones' Starch Factory. The 1774 Ordnance Survey map of the area shows the following factories, in order, from the site of the as yet unbuilt Wandsworth Bridge to Battersea Park: Starch manufacturer; Silk manufacturer; (St. John's College); (St. Mary's Church); Malt house; Corn mill; Oil and grease works (Prices Candles); Chemical works; Plumbago Crucible works (later the Morgan Crucible Company); Chemical works; Saltpetre works; Foundry. Between these were numerous wharfs for shipping.

Battersea was radically altered by the coming of railways. The London and Southampton Railway Company was the first to drive a railway line from east to west through Battersea, in 1838, terminating at Nine Elms at the north west tip of the area. Over the next 22 years five other lines were built, across which all trains from Waterloo Station and Victoria Station ran. An interchange station was built in 1863 towards the north west of the area, at a junction of the railway. Taking the name of a fashionable village a mile and more away, the station was named Clapham Junction. The effect was precipitate: a population of 6,000 people in 1840 was increased to 168,000 by 1910; and save for the green spaces of Battersea Park, Clapham Common, Wandsworth Common and some smaller isolated pockets, all other farmland was built over, with, from north to south, industrial buildings, slum housing for workers, especially north of the main east-west railway, and gradually more genteel residential terraced housing further south.

The railway station encouraged the government to site its buildings - the town hall, library, police station, court and post office - at Clapham Junction; the Arding and Hobbs department store, diagonally opposite the station, was the largest of its type at the time of its construction in the 1885; and the area was served by a vast music hall - The Grand - opposite the station and nowadays serving as a nightclub and venue for smaller bands.

In the period from 1880 onwards, Battersea was known as a centre of radical politics in the United Kingdom. John Burns founded a branch of the Social Democratic Federation, Britain's first organised socialist political party, in the borough and after the turmoil of dock strikes affecting the populice of north Battersea, was elected to represent the borough in the newly formed London County Council. In 1892, he expanded his role, being elected to Parliament for Battersea North as one of the first Independent Labour Party member of Parliament.

Battersea's radical reputation gave rise to the Brown Dog affair, when in 1904 the National Anti-Vivisection Society sought permission to erect a drinking fountain celebrating the life of a dog killed by vivisection. The fountain, forming a plinth for the statue of a brown dog, was installed near in the Latchmere Recreational Grounds, became a cause célèbre, fought over in riots and battles between medical students and the local populace until its removal in 1910.

The borough elected the first black mayor in 1913 when John Archer took office, and in 1922 elected the Bombay-born Communist party member Shapurji Saklatvala as MP for Battersea.

In 1929, construction started on Battersea Power Station, being completed in 1939. Thus from the late 18th century to comparatively recent times, Battersea, and certainly north Battersea, was established as an industrial area, with all of the issues associated with pollution and poor housing affecting it.

Industry declined and moved away from the area in the 1970s, and local government sought to address chronic post-war housing problems with large scale clearances and the establishment of planned housing. More recently, some decades after the end of large scale local industry, residential overspill from fashionable Chelsea, the borough across the Thames to the north, has changed the character of Battersea. Factories have been demolished and replaced with apartment buildings. Many of the council owned properties have been sold off. Many traditional working men's pubs have become more fashionable bistros.

Neighbouring areas

Railway stations

External links

  • Battersea (http://www.wandsworth.gov.uk/Home/LeisureandTourism/Aboutborough/abthistory.htm) in A short introduction to the history of the borough of Wandsworth from Wandsworth Council
  • Battersea (http://www.wandsworth.gov.uk/Home/LeisureandTourism/Museum/StoryofWandsworth/default.htm) in the Story of Wandsworth from Wandsworth Council Museum
  • Conservation Area Character Statements (http://www.wandsworth.gov.uk/Home/EnvironmentandTransport/PlanningService/OtherPlanning/conservcharacter.htm) from Wandsworth Council, providing the history of many areas in and around Battersea
  • Excerpts from Battersea Works 1856-1956 (http://www.morgancrucible.com/about_history.htm), from the Morgan Crucible Company

Further reading

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