Battersea is a large district of South West London, England and in the London Borough of Wandsworth. It is centred 3.5 miles (5.6 km) southwest of Charing Cross and extends along a curve that includes a west bank, on the south bank of London's reaches of the Thames. It includes Battersea Park, a 200-acre (0.81 km2) northern rectangle by the Thames.
The ancient parish turned "district" has remained only in a few non-administrative terms a part of Surrey since 1889 when the County of London began and became the administrative county. Among these terms are mainly traditional sports – most especially county cricket. Battersea was for centuries since the 9th century centred on many of its cottages which stood by the then-founded St. Mary's Church. This hub stood by the High Middle Ages (such as four centuries later) on a dyke-drained set of fields near the mouth of the Falconbrook. This was a brook that rose in Tooting Bec Common and flowed through Tooting, and the west of Clapham and finally Battersea into the tidal Thames.
Battersea is mentioned in the few surviving Anglo-Saxon geographical accounts as Badrices īeg meaning "Badric's Island" and later "Patrisey". As with many former parishes beside tidal flood plains the lowest land was reclaimed for agriculture by draining marshland and building culverts for streams. Alongside this was the Heathwall tide mill in the north-east with a very long mill pond regularly draining and filling to the south.
The settlement appears in the Domesday Book as Patricesy, a vast manor held by St Peter's Abbey, Westminster. Its Domesday Assets were: 18 hides and 17 ploughlands of cultivated land; 7 mills worth £42 9s 8d per year, 82 acres (33 ha) of meadow, woodland worth 50 hogs. It rendered (in total): £75 9s 8d.
The present church, which was completed in 1777, hosted the marriage of William Blake and Catherine née Boucher in 1782; Benedict Arnold, his wife, Peggy Shippen and their daughter were buried in its crypt.
Battersea Park, a 200-acre (0.81 km2) northern rectangle by the Thames, was landscaped and founded for public use in 1858. Amenities and leisure buildings have been added to it since.
The parish included, as a detached part, a few hundred acres known as Penge (including part now within the modern-termed place Crystal Palace).
The borough dates from the London Government Act of 1899, and includes the greater part of the original ecclesiastical parish of St. Mary Battersea. Under the same Act Penge, formerly a hamlet of Battersea, was constituted a separate urban district...the curious anomalies of local government led to its [Penge's] formation as a separate urban district and its transfer to the county of Kent in 1900. [which would join London with neighbouring parishes in 1965] Penge was a wooded district, over which the tenants of Battersea Manor had common of pasture.
Wandsworth Borough Council was incepted in 1965 as the dominant local authority; lesser functions of Greater London which in other ways took over from the County of London in that year today mainly vest in the Mayor of London's office such as Transport for London.
Before the Industrial Revolution, much of the large parish was farmland, providing food for the City of London and surrounding population centres; and with particular specialisms, such as growing lavender on Lavender Hill (nowadays denoted by the road of the same name), asparagus (sold as "Battersea Bundles") or pig breeding on Pig Hill (later the site of the Shaftesbury Park Estate). At the end of the 18th century, above 300 acres (1.2 km2) of land in the parish of Battersea were occupied by some 20 market gardeners, who rented from five to near 60 acres (24 ha) each. Villages in the wider area: Wandsworth, Earlsfield (hamlet of Garratt), Tooting, Balham – were separated by fields; in common with other suburbs the wealthy of London and the traditional manor successors built their homes in Battersea and neighbouring areas.
Industry in the area was concentrated to the northwest 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 planted lavender and gardens and established a range of industries such as mills, breweries and dyeing, 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 to the west, was built in 1729 and rebuilt 1882, 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 1874 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.
In 1929, construction started on Battersea Power Station, being completed in 1939. 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. Some decades after the end of large scale local industry, resurgent demand among magnates and high income earners for parkside and riverside property close to planned Underground links has led to significant construction. Factories have been demolished and replaced with modern apartment buildings. Some of the council owned properties have been sold off and several traditional working men's pubs have become more fashionable bistros. Battersea neighbourhoods close to the railway have some of the most deprived local authority housing in the Borough of Wandsworth, in an area which saw condemned slums after their erection in the Victoria era.
Battersea was radically altered by the coming of railways. The London and Southampton Railway Company engineered their railway line from east to west through Battersea, in 1838, terminating at the original Nine Elms railway station at the north east tip of the area. Over the next 22 years five other lines were built, across which all trains from London's Waterloo and Victoria termini would – as today – travel. 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': a campaign to rename it "Battersea Junction" fizzled out as late as the early twentieth century. During the latter decades of the nineteenth century Battersea had developed into a major town railway centre with two locomotive works at Nine Elms and Longhedge and three important motive power depots (Nine Elms, Stewarts Lane and Battersea) all in an initial pocket of north Battersea. 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 and vast railway sheds and sidings (much of which remain), 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 in the area surrounding Clapham Junction, where a cluster of new civic buildings including the town hall, library, police station, court and post office was developed along Lavender Hill in the 1880s and 1890s. The Arding & Hobbs department store, diagonally opposite the station, was the largest of its type at the time of its construction in 1885; and the streets near the station developed as a regional shopping district. The area was served by a vast music hall – The Grand – opposite the station (nowadays serving as a nightclub and venue for smaller bands) as well as a large theatre next to the town hall (the Shakespeare Theatre, later redeveloped following bomb damage). All this building around the station shifted the focus of the area southwards, and marginalised Battersea High Street (the main street of the original village) into no more than an extension of Falcon Road.
Battersea has a long and varied history of social housing, and the completion of the Shaftesbury Park Estate in 1877 was one of the earliest in London or the UK. Additionally, the development of the Latchmere Estate in 1903 was notable both for John Burns involvement and for being the first estate directly built by a council's own workforce and therefore the first true "council estate". Indeed, both of these earlier estates have since been recognised as conservation areas due to their historical and architectural significance and are protected from redevelopment.
Battersea also has a large area of mid-20th century public housing estates, almost all located north of the main railway lines and spanning from Fairfield in the west to Queenstown in the east.
There are four particularly large estates. The Winstanley Estate, perhaps being the most renowned of them all, is known as being the birthplace to the garage collective So Solid Crew. Winstanley is close to Clapham Junction railway station in the northern perimeter of Battersea, and is currently being considered for comprehensive redevelopment as one of the London Mayor's new Housing Zones. Further north towards Chelsea is the Surrey Lane Estate, and on Battersea Park Road is the Doddington and Rollo Estate. East, toward Vauxhall, is the Patmore Estate which is in close proximity to the Battersea Power Station.
Other smaller estates include: York Road (see Winstanley Estate), Ashley Crescent, Badric Court, Carey Gardens, Chatham Road, Ethelburga, Falcon Road, Gideon Road, Honeywell Road, Kambala, Peabody, Robertson Street, Savona, Somerset, Wilditch and Wynter Street.
The tradition of local government in England was based in part of Manor, and later on the Parish. Battersea's governance can be traced back to 693, when the manor was held by the nunnery of St. Mary at Barking Abbey. After the Norman Conquest of 1066, control of the manor passed to Westminster Abbey, ending at the time of the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1540. Battersea was one of only three of the Abbey's demesne directly supervised by monks, rather than being let to tenants. Local control rested with an officer appointed by the abbey, variously termed a beadle, reeve or sergeant, whose responsibility it was supervise the farm servants of the manor, and to enforce and direct customary work performed by manorial tenants.
After 1540 the Crown assumed ownership of the manor, and let it on short leases to a succession of individuals, until in about 1590 it came into the hands of the St. John family of Lydiard Tregoze in Wiltshire, who later became the St John Baronets of Lydiard Tregoze and ultimately the Viscounts Bolingbroke. Bolingbrokes exercised control of the manor for some 173 years, showing varying levels of interest and competence in running the estate's affairs, until in 1763 the disastrously dissolute Frederick St John, 2nd Viscount Bolingbroke sold the manor to help to settle his many debts. Battersea now passed into the Spencer family - John Spencer, 1st Earl Spencer being related to Frederick's wife.
The Survey of London identified the period of Frederick's tenure with the development of the Vestry in Battersea; absent a competent lord of the manor, this local secular and ecclesiastical government took it upon itself to establish a workhouse in 1733, and met monthly from 1742.
The period of Spencer ownership of the manor saw important land ownership changes introduced to the area. The family had many estates, such as at Althorp in Northamptonshire and Wiseton in Nottinghamshire. Locally, their interests were concentrated on Wimbledon. During their tenure, large tracts of land were sold, notably around 1761, and from 1835 to 1838, leading to the development of a plurality of smaller estates, which had implications for the later development of the area.
The scope of governance throughout this period was relatively slight. Lords of the manor were responsible for church appointments and maintenance of the fabric of the church; for drainage, and for the direction of the duties of the manor's tenants. From time to time work was done under manorial direction on the Thames foreshore; and a Spencer was responsible for the construction of first local bridge across the Thames, Battersea Bridge from 1771 to 1772. And albeit Battersea saw some slow change over the first seven centuries of the second millennium, it was not until a later period that an imperative for greater local government arose.
The vestry of Battersea continued to increase in importance from 1742, notably concerning itself with Poor Law administration and drainage. Responsibility for the latter was removed from the vestry in 1855 with the establishment of Metropolitan Boards of Work under the Metropolis Management Act 1855; a Metropolitan Board concerned itself with cross-London drainage and sewerage, whilst a local Wandsworth Metropolitan Board assumed responsibility for minor sewers and the connection of houses to sewerage systems. It was during the tenure of the Wandsworth board that much of Battersea was developed; but such was the pace of development in Battersea that by 1887 it had a population sufficient to win the case for renewed local autonomy under the Metropolis Management (Battersea and Westminster) Act of 1887. The Battersea vestry continued through to 1899, when it became the Metropolitan Borough of Battersea as a result of the London Government Act 1899.
The Metropolitan Borough of Battersea 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.
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 populace 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 in the Latchmere Recreation Ground, 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 London in 1913 when John Archer took office, and in 1922 elected the Bombay-born Communist Party member Shapurji Saklatvala as MP for Battersea; one of only two communist members of Parliament.
Battersea is currently divided into five Wandsworth wards. The Member of Parliament for the Battersea constituency since 8 June 2017 has been Labour MP Marsha de Cordova.
Battersea is a large part of outer, central London on a curved south bank of the River Thames.
Battersea's northern limit is thus the Tideway, the Thames below Teddington. Proceeding eastwards along the river at Battersea on an ebb tide, it has just ended a curve east, it runs north, and about twice as far east. At this end it has a second apex, leaving Nine Elms, Battersea to run north passing instead Vauxhall. Battersea riverside is just over 3 miles (4.8 km) long. Directly west is Wandsworth Town. Directly north-east are Vauxhall and then Lambeth including Waterloo again on the south (but turned east) bank – all of which, notably, face Westminster.
Battersea at one end of its riverside has a western corner at a point 350 metres east northeast of Wandsworth Bridge, and Battersea tapers SSE to almost a point, roughly three miles (5 km) from Battersea's northeastern corner – but two miles (3 km) from the western corner.
To the east are South Lambeth, Stockwell; to the south is Balham; to the southeast is Clapham; and to the west Wandsworth Town, south of which is Wandsworth.
The two offspring large neighbourhoods (so controversially full "districts" or "areas" in much modern use) are:
One small neighbourhood, which is riverside, is seen in some popular modern maps:-
Some parts of Battersea have become known for drug-dealing. The Winstanley and York Road council estates have developed a reputation for such offences and were included in a zero-tolerance "drug exclusion zone" in 2007.
In 2011, Battersea had a population of 73,345. The district was 52.2% of White British origin, as against an average for Wandsworth of 53.3%.
Within the bounds of modern Battersea are (from east to west):
Battersea is served by three National Rail stations: Battersea Park, Clapham Junction, and Queenstown Road (Battersea). All three stations are in London Travelcard Zone 2.
Battersea Park is served by some Southern trains.
Trains northbound terminate at London Victoria, which is the next stop along the line. Southbound, Southern's "metro" services run to Clapham Junction, Wandsworth Common, and Balham. After Balham, trains head towards Croydon, Epsom, London Bridge, and Sutton, amongst other destinations.
The first station to carry the name "Battersea Park" was opened by the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway (LB&SCR) as "Battersea" on 1 October 1860 and was located at the southern end of what is now Grosvenor Bridge. It closed on 1 November 1870. The LB&SCR opened another station on a high-level line on 1 May 1867 called Battersea Park. Another station existed closed to the current station called Battersea Park Road railway station by the London, Chatham and Dover Railway in 1867 and closed in 1916.
The largest railway station in Battersea is Clapham Junction, to the southwest of the district. The station is a busy interchange, and it serves destinations across London, the South, and South West England. Train operators from Clapham Junction include:
In terms of the number of train movements, Clapham Junction is Europe's busiest railway station. It opened on 21 May 1838.
Queenstown Road (Battersea) is served by some South Western Railways trains. Northbound, most trains call at Vauxhall en route to London Waterloo. Southbound passengers can travel towards Richmond, Twickenham, Hounslow, and Windsor & Eton direct.
Queenstown Road opened up the line on 1 November 1877 by the London and South Western Railway, as Queen's Road (Battersea). British Rail renamed the station to Queenstown Road (Battersea) on 12 May 1980.
As part of Northern line extension to Battersea, Battersea will be connected to the London Underground network at Battersea Power Station tube station in 2021.
London Bus routes 44, 137, 156, 344, 436, and 452 serve the Battersea Park area during the daytime. Night buses N137 and N44, as well as the 344 route, run overnight.
Cycling infrastructure in Battersea is provided by the London Borough of Wandsworth and Transport for London (TfL).
Battersea features in the books of Michael de Larrabeiti, who was born and brought up in the area: A Rose Beyond the Thames recounts the working-class Battersea of the 1940s and 1950s; The Borrible Trilogy presents a fictional Battersea, home to fantasy creatures known as the Borribles. The Optimists of Nine Elms, a 1973 film starring Peter Sellers takes place in Battersea. Battersea is also the setting for Penelope Fitzgerald's 1979 Booker Prize–winning novel, Offshore. Kitty Neale's Nobody's Girl is set in a fictional café and the surrounding Battersea High Street Market. Nell Dunn's 1963 novel Up the Junction (later adapted for both television and cinema) depicts contemporary life in the industrial slums of Battersea near Clapham Junction. Battersea provides the backdrop for the real world scenes in the audio book and app series Rockford's Rock Opera.
Michael Flanders, half of the 1960s comedy duo Flanders and Swann, often made fun of Donald Swann for living in Battersea. Morrissey mentions Battersea in his song "You're the One for Me, Fatty". Babyshambles recorded the song "Bollywood to Battersea" for a 2005 charity album Help!: A Day in the Life.
Battersea is the setting for Joan Aiken's Black Hearts in Battersea, the second published volume in the Wolves Chronicles.
The following people have lived, or currently live, in Battersea: