Saturday, 12 March 2016

Battersea. Some historical background

Battersea Old and New

Historically Battersea comprises a large area east from Wandsworth Common to Clapham Common, south from the Thames Riverfront tapering down to Balham. The Village was in the northern part lying back from the Thames.

Some aspects of the development of Battersea

• Semi Rural. Well into the 19th Century Battersea was mainly a rural, agricultural and market garden area, with some industry mainly along the riverfront.
• Isolated. Until Battersea Bridge was built in 1771 Battersea Village was a backwater. People going to and from London by-passed it using what are now Battersea Park Rd and York//Wandsworth Rds/Lavender Hill and St John’s Hill.
• Industrial Development. The riverfront became important as industries that set up there could be serviced from boats and barges. The 1840s to 1880s saw a dramatic change of Battersea into an industrial area.
• Railways. From their arrival in 1838 the railways began to dominate the northern part of Battersea helping to trigger the industrial changes with the growth of a large working-class.
• Politics. A wide-range of mutual, collective self-help organisations were established by local workers including co-operatives, trade unions, friendly societies, loan societies, and cultural, educational and sports organisations. Their political organisations controlled Battersea’s local government for all but six years from 1894 to 1964. Battersea Council pioneered municipal services.
• Religious Social Welfare. The Anglican and Non-Conformist Churches played an important role in providing welfare services before the post-war welfare state was established.
• Services. The focus of municipal, cultural and retail facilities became based south of the railway line, with the Town Hall and main Library on Lavender Hill, Clapham Junction shopping centre, and music halls and cinema
• War-time Bombing. Industrial Battersea and the Nine Elms district suffered badly from war-time bombing.
• De-Industrialisation. The 1950s onwards saw Battersea de-industrialised.
• Merger with Wandsworth. Battersea ceased to be a local authority in 1964/5 when it was merged into Wandsworth. From then until 1978 political control swung from Labour to Conservative, back to Labour and then since 1978 to Conservative control.
• Recent Social and Economic Change. Dramatic changes in housing tenure, de-industrialisation and the social and economic composition of the population have resulted in today’s Battersea having pockets of high affluence next to pockets of disadvantage.
• Housing Re-development. As a result of the war damage and slum clearance there were large-scale housing estate developments from the 1950s, including high-rise blocks.

Key dates in the history of Battersea
(with emphasis on buildings that still exist, or pictures of which can be seen)

1067 William the Conqueror grants the Manor of Battersea to Westminster Abbey.
1627 The St. John family become Lords of the Manor.
1675 Walter St. John gives some cottages to the Church wardens to use as almshouses.
1700 Sir Walter St. John’s School is endowed.
1733 Battersea Workhouse opens in Battersea Square.
1736 Baptist Meeting House opens in York Rd.
1763 Isaack Ackerman, a London businessman, builds the Sisters House – one of which survives as Gilmore House on the corner of Elspeth Rd and Clapham Common Northside.
1771 Battersea Bridge opens – a wooden bridge.
1777 St. Mary’s Parish Church is re-built.
John Fownes opens a glove factory.
1782 William Blake marries Catherine Boucher in Battersea Church.
1790 Horizontal Air Mill is built next to St. Mary’s Church.
1801 Benedict Arnold, the American Revolutionary General who switched sides to the British, is buried in the Church.
1811 Town stocks are moved from Battersea Square to church gate.
1815 Wellington’s army at Waterloo wear boots built at Marc Isambard Brunel’s factory in Battersea.
1827 Henry Beaufoy buys land to build acetic acid factory (closed 1901)
1838 Railway line opens through Battersea from south-west to Nine Elms
Israel May Soule is appointed as Baptist Minister (to 1875)
1840 St John’s College for training school masters opens in Battersea House.
1843 Price’s Candles starts production at York Rd factory using palm oil from West Africa.
1846 Railway line from Richmond opens.
1848 Railway is extended to Waterloo Station.
Orlando Jones starch works opens on riverfront (closed 1901)
1849 Christchurch (Battersea Park Rd) is built.
1852 Royal Freemasons’ Girl’s School relocates to Battersea until 1934.
1855 Earl Spencer sells land on Wandsworth Common to build Royal Victoria Patriotic Hospital.
1856 The Morgan brothers set up the Patent Lumbago Crucible Co, later Morgan Crucible, becoming a major employer till the 1970s.
1858 First Chelsea Bridge opens.
Battersea Park opens – built on land that had formed part of Battersea Fields.
Nine Elms Gasworks starts production.
1860 Railway extends across the river to Victoria.
1863 West London Extension line running across Battersea High St and over the Thames opens.
Clapham Junction Station opens.
St. John’s Church in Usk Rd is built.
1865 Nine Elms Gasworks gasholder explodes – ten men killed.
1867 The Congregationalists open their first Church on Battersea Bridge Rd.
1868 St. Paul’s Church on St. John’s Hill opens.
1870 St. Philip’s Church, Queenstown Rd, opens.
Education Act leads to building of schools in Battersea.
1871 St. Saviour’s Church, Battersea Park Rd, opens
After local campaigns Act of Parliament saves Wandsworth and other Commons from development.
Battersea Dogs Home relocates to Battersea Park Rd.
1872 Southlands Wesleyan teacher training college opens in Southlands in the High St (until 1927).
1873 Albert Bridge opens.
1874 St. Mark’s Church on Battersea Rise opens.
1875 Battersea Grammar School is founded as off-shoot of Sir Walter St. John’s
1877 Local campaign saves Clapham Common from development.
1881 Start of tram services
1883 Emmanuel School transfers to Battersea Rise.
1885 Arding & Hobbs Department store opens at Clapham Junction.
1889 Vestry opens Latchmere Baths.
1890 New stone Battersea Bridge opens.
Central Library on Lavender Hill opens.
1891 Battersea Vestry opens new cemetery in Morden.
1892 John Burns is elected as a socialist as Battersea’s Member of Parliament.
1893 Start of building of mansions flats built along Prince of Wales Drive.
Opening of Battersea Town Hall (now Arts Centre) on Lavender Hill.
1894 Progressive Alliance of radical, socialists and Liberal organisations takes control of Battersea Vestry.
1894 Battersea Polytechnic on Battersea Park Rd opens.
1895 Salesian Catholic College moves to Surrey Lane.
1900 Battersea Vestry replaced by Metropolitan Borough of Battersea. Progressive Alliance takes control.
Grand Theatre, St. John’s Hill, opens as music hall, later becoming a cinema, bingo hall and rock venue.
1901 Battersea Council opens its own electricity generating station, and starts to electrify street lighting.
1902 London County buys up tram company and starts electricification form 1903
Anti-Vivisection Hospital opens (later Battersea General Hospital closed 1974)
Latchmere (Burns) Estate opens as Battersea Council’s first housing scheme.
1907 Short Brothers start making planes in railway arches.
Medical students severely damage anti-vivisection Little Brown Dog statue in Latchmere Recreation Ground.
1909 Erksine Clarke retires as Vicar of St. Mary’s
Arding & Hobbs store is destroyed by fire – 8 people die.
1910 London County Council opens St. John’s Hospital (closed 1970s)
1920 The South West London Synagogue opens in Bolingbroke Grove (till 2000)
1922 Shapurji Saklatvala, an Indian Communist is elected as Labour MP in 1922; is defeated 1923; re-elected 1924 (to 1929).
1925 Reference Library opens in Altenburgh Gardens.
1929 Work starts to build Battersea Power Station.
1931 Completion of electrification of street lighting
1934 St. John’s housing estate is completed on site for former St John’s College.
1936 Granada Cinema on St. John’s Hill opens on site of Battersea Grammar School, which had moved to Streatham.
1937 Current Chelsea Bridge opens.
1939 Start of Second World War. Battersea experiences heavy bombing.
1945 Council starts Home Help Service
1951 Battersea Park becomes home for Festival Gardens during the Festival of Britain.
Last tram runs through Battersea.
1959 Battersea Heliport opens.
1964/5 Battersea Council is merged into the new London Borough of Wandsworth.
1985 Peace Pagoda in Battersea Park is unveiled.
2001 Montevetro apartment block in Church Rd opens.

Battersea Population 1831-1871

Streatham (inc.Balham)
Putney (inc)Roehampton
Total Area
Battersea %

Battersea Population 1881-1921

Streatham (inc.Balham)
Putney (inc)Roehampton

Source for lines 2-7: Census tabulation by Wandsworth Local History Collection at Battersea Reference Library

Some Famous People in Battersea:

John Burns. The local socialist leader John Burns becomes a Battersea member of the newly formed London County Council in 1889. From 1889-1892 he is leading figure in Dock and Gas workers' strikes and in the development of New Unions especially among low paid, semi-skilled workers. Many of the new Unions developed into the big unions of today, like Transport & General Workers Union and Unison. 1892 he is elected as socialist MP for Battersea. In 1906 he is appointed Minister in Liberal Cabinet. In 1914 he resigns Cabinet in protest at declaration of First World War.

John Archer (1863-1932), black Catholic Liverpuddlian elected as Progressive Councillor. In 1906 he is elected as Progressive Councillor. In 1913 he is elected as Mayor. Supporter of black rights and colonial freedom. Made his living as a photographer. Special interest public health. Campaigner for the unemployed in the 1920s. Backed Shapurji Saklatvala as Battersea Labour MP until 1926 split between Labour and Communists. Block of flats on St John’s Estate/Battersea Village named after him.

John Smith. 1660s to early 1670s ran a refinery processing sugar from Barbados where he owns plantations.
William Wilberforce (1759-1833). Lived in Battersea Rise/Broomwood Rd area 1792-1807. Campaigner in Parliament for abolition of the slave trade.

John Walter (1739-1812). Founder of Times newspaper. Lived in Gilmore House 1773-1783.

George Alfred Henty (1832-1902). Lived at 33 Lavender Gdns. Journalist and writer of adventure stories for boys.

Edward Thomas (1878-1917). Writer and poet, Educated at Battersea Grammer School. Killed in France in 1917.

Tom Taylor. Editor of Punch magazine lived on Lavender Sweep (1859-1880). President Lincoln was assassinated while watching Taylor’s play ‘Our American Cousin’ in 1865.

Richard Church (1893-1972). Writer. ‘Over the Bridge’ records his reminiscences of growing up in Battersea as a child.

Edward Adrian Wilson (1872-1912). Died with Scott at the South Pole.

Albert Mansbridge. Founded Workers’ Educational Association and other educational organisations promoting adult education. Went to Walter Sir John’s and Battersea Grammar Schools.

George Shearing (1919-) Blind Jazz musician born in Battersea. Now lives in United States.

Julian Bream, guitarist (1933-). Born in Battersea.

Charlotte Despard. Campaigner for votes for women, freedom for Ireland and other causes. Socialist. Lived and undertook social welfare work in Nine Elms.

Caroline Ganley. Leading socialist and co-operator. Battersea and LCC Councillor. Battersea South’s MP 1945-51.

Buster Merryfield. (1920-99). Born Battersea. Actor. Played Uncle Albert in ‘Only Fools and Horses’.

Note: transferred from former website.

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