Saturday, 25 September 2021

People Associated With And Memorialised At St, Mary's Church, Battersea. Part 2. The New Church From 1777

 The Vestry And The New Church

 Parish affairs were run by the Vestry, chaired by the Vicar, on which sat well-off residents.

The Survey of Battersea tells us that in December 1769, the Vestry asked one of the churchwardens, Joseph Dixon, to appoint two ‘proper persons’ to join two vestry members in inspecting and reporting on the state of the tower. Being a mason Dixon, a parish overseer in 1767 and churchwarden in 1768–73, took a leading role in developing the rebuilding strategy. He and his carpenter brother Richard had won the contract for Blackfriars Bridge. The collapse of the bridge they were building at Exeter during construction in 1775 and the rising price of Portland stone led to his  bankruptcy in 1778, and his Battersea house was sold. He died in 1787. 

The Vestry decided in December 1771 to re-build the Church rather than repair and enlarge it, because it was in a very dilapidated state. As Lord of the Manor Earl Spencer agreed in 1772 to give it a piece of ground to enlarge the church yard. The new church cost £4,950 13s. 9.d. The money was raised by the sale of pews for 99 years, some estates or docks belonging to the Parish, and by granting annuities on lives. 

The new church was opened on 17 November 1777. The ground given by the Earl Spencer for the enlargement of the church yard was consecrated by the Lord Bishop of Oxford  on 15 April 1778. 

Six of the old bells were re-cast, and two more added. On special occasions they had a special peel to which was a verse beginning: 

Ring out the old year's evil,

The world, the flesh , the devil ;

Let them go ! let them go !

And ring in the Prince of Peace,

Messiah's gentle reign.

 The Vestry Committee overseeing the new church project consisted of:

 The Revd. Mr. Fraigneau, the Vicar

Mr. Rhodes,

Churchwardens: Mark Bell, John Camden, Mr. Dixon and Philip Worlidge 

Overseers: Messrs Bremmer, Thomas Bond, Isaac Akerman, Thomas Misluor, Christopher Baldwin, and Philip Milloway.

 After approval of a plan in March 1773, on 1 March 1774 the Vestry meeting was told by the Committee that it would be necessary to apply to Parliament for power to sell some estates belonging to the Parish, and also forty pews in the new church in order to procure necessary funds.

In 1778/79 there was a request from the parishioners and approval to install an organ.

By the time the Church was opened the Vicar was Revd. John Gardenor. He was one of the signatories on the indentures selling the pews, along with the Vestry Clerk, Allyn Simmons Smith, John Camden and Thomas Rhodes, and the surgeon John Lumsden as five of the Trustees appointed under the Act of Parliament. Pew No. 62 was sold to William Dent for  £31. 10s. and his Executrs, Administrators and Assigns for 99 years, and an annual rent of 2s. 6d. 

Although on the east bank of the Thames the new Church seems to have been a popular church for the London elite, who would have had to come across on small boats from Chelsea opposite, including those operated by ferrymen, or by horse or coach over  until Battersea Bridge, and have their marriages and burials here. 

Horizontal Air Mill 

Eleven years after the Church was built a  Horizontal AirMill was built next to it on the site of Bolingbroke’s Manor House. By 1808 it was grinding malt for a nearby distillery and the grains were used to fatten bullocks, with 650 being  accommodated in sheds. They were brought up the road through the village in September from Kingston and the West country. After fattening them up they would be sold for slaughter. The Mill seems to have been pulled down between 1844 and 1849.

William Blake 

The artist and visionary William Blake and Catherine Boucher, the daughter of a Battersea Huguenot market gardener, married in August 1782. Later they lived in North Lambeth. 

William Wilberforce, the anti-slavery activist attended Sarah Clarke his sister's wedding in the Church in 1800 to James Stephens. Stephens was a leading abolition campaigner.  Until 1808 Wilberforce lived at Broomfield House off Battersea Rise, which was owned by his friend Henry Thornton until1808. The Clapham Church was nearer to where he lived than St. Mary’s, which meant he and other members of what became called the Clapham Sect used the Clapham Church. 

William Curtis

Curtis was a leading botanist was buried here in 1799. Born in 1746 he at first became an apothecary. At the age of 25 he produced Instructions for collecting and preserving insects; particularly moths and butterflies.

He  demonstrated plants at the Chelsea Physic Garden between 1771 to 1777, established his own London Botanic Garden at Lambeth in 1779, moving to Brompton in 1789. He had published his six volume  Flora Londinensis   between 1777 and 1798.He established The Botanical Magazine in 1787.

He is commemorated in a stained glass window as he had collected many  samples in the churchyard there. The Friends of the Church published D. T. Moore’s William Curtis (1746-1799) botanist and St. Mary's Battersea in 2004.

Benedict Arnold 

Benedict Arnold, the American revolutionary who switched sides to support the English is buried under the crypt with his wife and daughter, and there is a  modern stained glass window to him.

With the defeat of the British by the Americans, loyalists like Arnold came to England, he and his family arriving in London in 1782 to a mixed reception. In 1785 he and his son Richard moved to Saint John, New Brunswick, in what is now Canada. They speculated in land and traded with the West Indies. He returned to London in 1786 bringing the rest of his family to Saint John in 1787. As a result of involvement in a series of bad business deals and petty lawsuits, the townspeople burned him in effigy in front of his house. The family returned to London in December 1791. With the outbreak of the French Revolution he outfitted a privateer, while continuing to do business in the West Indies. He was imprisoned by French authorities on Guadeloupe amid accusations of spying for the British. He escaped and helped organise militia forces on British-held islands. His reward was a land grant of 15,000 acres in Upper Canada. He returned  to England and after a period of bad health aggravated by long standing gout he died in June 1801. His funeral procession is said to have boasted ‘seven mourning coaches and four state carriages’. He left a small estate, reduced in size by his debts, which his wife Margaret undertook to clear. It appears that as a result of a clerical error in the parish records, his remains were removed to an unmarked mass grave during church renovations a century later. 

You can find out more about his role in the American Revolution and his involvements in Canada in Volume 5 of The Dictionary of Canadian Biography on the internet. 

Richard Rothwell and John Camden 

Margaret’s father Richard Rothwell of Battersea died in July 1821, aged 60. His memorial says that he had been an Alderman and High Sheriff of the City of London and County of Middlesex. British History OnLine lists him as a fishmonger elected in March 1818 and Sheriff of a year from 1819-20. However the Gentleman's and Citizen's Almanack of 1815 records him as being elected in December, presumably 1814.

John Camden died in 1780, and his eldest daughter Elizabeth Neild in 1791.A letter published in Notes & Queries  in January 1901 tells us that Camden had two daughters. Elizabeth married in 1788 James Neild, High Sheriff of Bucks in 1804, a philanthropist and prison reformer of the day. He had become very rich as a London goldsmith buying estates the counties of Buckingham, Middlesex, Kent, and Surrey. He set a society for the relief of Persons imprisoned for small debts. He died in 1814, and was buried at Chelsea.

John Camden Neild, was born in 1780, and became a lawer, inheriting his father's property, estimated at £250,000. He lived on the other side of the Thames in Cheyne Walk. He was very miserly and eccentric.

Robert Banks Hodgkinson

Hodgkinson and his wife Bridget who both died in November 1792.  Linley and Jim Hopper’s family history website tells us that he was born in 1722 r in Derbyshire. His father was MP Peterborough in 1690. He  married Bridget Williams in October 1757. Because he had family land interests in  Edwinsford  in Carmarthen he was the High Sheriff of Carmarthenshire in 1784. He was (M.P.) for Wareham, Dorset. He was the uncle of Sir Joseph Banks who lived at Turret House next to the Chelsea Physic Garden from 1763 with his widowed mother. Can we presume that the two Banks visited each other across the river? 

The American Loyalists

As well as Benjamin Arnold several other loyalists in exile in England are buried at the Church. Samuel Fitch, William Vassall and Nathaniel Middleton.

Samuel Fitch died in 1799, and his wife Elizabeth the next year. Fitch had been a lawyer and was one of many loyalists whose land and property were forfeited under the Massachusetts Conspiracy Act of 1779.

William Vassall died in 1800, his wife  Margaret having died in 1791. The Survey of Battersea tells us that from 1775  leased a house and estate from Thomas Bond, a Lambeth timber merchant. Vassall owned property in the West Indies, which was left to his.  Another Vassall Florentius had been born in Jamaica where he lived most of his life but died in London in1778. The Vassall story is told by James Henry Stark in his 1972 book The Loyalists of Massachusetts And the Other Side of the American Revolution.

Nathaniel Middleton died in 1807. He had lost his daughters Sophia in 1790 and Augusta in 1802.His wife Frances lived until 1823. Middleton did not live in Battersea but in Harley St.

Russell Manners

Manners was a General in the Army and Colonel of the 26th  Regiment of Light Dragoons who died in 1800, his daughter Mrs Mary Sneyd in 1839, and his son, Russell Manners, in 1840. Manners had served in the Royal Foresters and been Lieutenant Colonel of the 22nd Light Dragoons in 1762.He was Major General of the 19th Light Dragoons a short lived unit fighting in the American War of Independence  from 1779 and disbanded in 1783. He commanded the 26th Light Dragoon from1795 which appears to have fought in the West Indies. Although he lived in Southend he died in on his way to London to seek medical advice. Why he is buried in Battersea is not known.

Thomas Astle

Born about 1776 and dieing in 1803 Thomas Astle was keeper of the records in the Tower of London who wrote The Origin and Progress of Writing.  He left a valuable collection of manuscripts which were deposited at Stow, with his patron the Marquis of Buckingham. The Survey of Battersea tells us that he lived in a property on the Chatto estate on West Side Clapham Common.

William Francis

Living in the Battersea Rise district William Francis died in 1805. He was a Governor of the Asylum of House of Refuge for Friendless and Deserted Orphaned Girls based in Lambeth established in 1785. The 1794 report lists  Mary and Thomas Ponton of Battersea and William Watson of Nine Elms. The 1816 Annual Report lists Battersea subscribers as Joseph Benwell, Revd. Joseph Hughes and Henry Weymouth who each who subscribed £10.10s, while Wilberforce now living in Kensington contributed £5. 5s.

The Vardons

There is a memorial to Mary Sophia Vardon who died in 1808, and her husband Thomas who died the next year. The New Lady's Magazine, Or, Polite and Entertaining Companion for the Fair Sex  of 1791 tells us that the Vardons were living at St John’s Place, Battersea Rise, when their eldest daughter married. The Survey of Battersea tells us this was may now be Plough Terrace. Vardon had been a wholesale City ironmonger and supplier of anchors to the Navy. He had purchased land and built Spencer Lodge.  His will is in the National Archives.The website of the village Ayot St Peter in Hertfordshire tells us that Vardon was married to Elizabeth Tarbutt

And that he had a large shareholding in Crowley Millington & Co., the iron and steel manufacturer based at Winlaton in County Durham, and Greenwich. The Crowley enterprise made hoes and shackles for the West Indies plantations. Its founder founder Ambrose was involved in setting up the South Sea Company just before his death. He and and his wife are buried in Mitcham Church. Vardon had three sons and two daughters. Either the website is  wrong about Vardon’s wife or Elizabeth was his first wife.

The Chalies  

There are several monuments to the Chalie family. Marianne died in 1793, Mary Anne 1796, John 1800Matthew 1816, Catherine Sarah (Hoper) 1828, and Elizabeth (Hoper) 1852. Ancestry tells us that Matthew who died in 1816 was born in the parish in  July 1794 to Matthew Chalie and Mary Hoper. He died at West Common, Battersea.

Grace’s Guide to British Industrial History tells us that John and Matthew Chalie were wine and spirit  merchants. John had started in partnership with James Chalie in 1700, changing to Chalie & Dolignon; and then  John & Matthew Chalie based at Mincing Lane. John’s widow donated £50 to the Lying in Charity for delivering unmarried women in their homes listed in its Annual Report of 1817. Both she and Matthew Chilie of  Mincing Lane are listed as Governors. Battersea based Governors were Mrs Champion of Battersea Rise, James Browne and William Dent of Battersea Fields, and John Hodgson.

The Gentlemen’s Magazine of 1846 tells us that the body of the lawyer R. V. Richards was interred in the Chalie vault because his wife was Jane was  Matthew’s heiress

William Hollingsworth

Notes and Queries of August 1916 tells us that the William Hollingsworth and his wife his sister lived in Nine Elms for 50 years. His  brother John had lived in the area but in August 1776 and his wife in August 1775. Phoebe in April 1824 and William died in July 1825.

The Survey of Battersea  tells us that William was  a wealthy merchant and brewer, and went into partnership with Marc Brunel and his sawmills. The London Gazette of 1823 tells us that William’s partnership with Michael Pass the elder of Nine Elms as lime burners was dissolved in 1823.

Thomas Ashness 

When Thomas Ashness died in 1827 he left £100 for the benefit of the poor a charity which is now part of Battersea United Charities. He had been a Governor of  the Asylum for the Support and Education of the deaf and dumb children of the poor listed in 1817. Others were Joseph Benwell and Miss Mary Lane, James Langdale and William Savill of Bathersea Rise. 

The Ashness memorial is also to his wife Abigail who died in 1823, and his nephew George Ashness, who died in 1853, his wife Mary (1840), and another nephewJoseph Whitaker Ashness (1845).  

The Survey of Battersea tells us that Ashness House  on  West Side which had been built by 1780 had been owned by Thomas from c.1786 till his death in 1827, followed by various members of his family. Lindore and Almeric Roads now stand on its site. 

Revd. John Inglis 

Revd. John Inglis was Bishop of Nova Scotia when he died in 1850. The Dictionary of Canadian Biography that he was born in December 1777 in New York City. After the British evacuation of New York in 1783, he accompanied his father Revd. Charles and two sisters to England. He returned to North America in 1787, on Charles appointment as the first bishop of Nova Scotia. He visited England in 1806–7, 1812–13, and 1816 on behalf of the colonial church. He became Rector of St Paul’s Church in Halifax Nova Scotia, paying particular attention to the needs of the poor. He supported King’s College and persuaded the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel to establish scholarships there for the sons of missionaries. The Society was still owner of the Codrington Slave Plantation on Barbados. Inglis opposed the British and Foreign Bible Society as a competitor of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge. He opposed the legal incorporation of dissenting and Catholic congregations. He was consecrated as Bishop in 1825. The diocese included Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland, and Bermuda. He visited England in 1831 and between 1837 and 1840.  

He is buried in the vault of Sir Rupert George, decided to be buried in the church yard  as a result of a visit to Lord Cremorne, at Cremorne House, on the opposite side of the Thames. He came over to Battersea and was so impressed with the beauty of the view across the river that he purchased the vault Several of his sons and daughters are interred there, He and Inglis were friends  and linked through marriage. 

Robert Story

A poet he died in 1860 in Battersea but is buried in Brompton. He  was born at  in Northumberland 1795,the son of an agricultural labourer. He became a gardener. By 1820 he was running school in North Yorkshire. Many parents withdrew their children he opposed parliamentary reform.

In 1834 supported  the Conservative Party in his The Isles are Awake. In 1843, Sir Robert Peel’s  Conservative government offered a small post to him in the Audit Office, so he  moved to London. In 1845 he published Songs and Lyrical Poems and in 1852 a medieval romance Guthrum the Dane. Algnernon Percy, the Duke of Northumberland became his patron in 1857. In 1859 he read his poem on Robert Burns at that poet’s centenary celebrations. When he died he lived in Battersea.  

Church Yard

Although most of the gravestones in the churchyard are unreadable because of erosion we know something about some of the people they were erected for even if they were not buried here, like Robert Story. 

Ordinary parishioners were also buried in the church yard and include: 

Goody Harleton, aged 108 years, buried 1703; William Abbot, 101, 1733; Wiat, 100, 1790; and William Douse, 100, 1803. 

Rebecca, wife of Richard Harding, who died in labour of their fourth child, which was still-born , was  buried in February 1730,and her three infant children, Mary, Sarah, and Rebecca were buried in March. 

On the right-hand- side of the pathway leading towards the porch of the Church is a grave stone at the bottom of which is the following inscription: 

‘Mrs. Sarah Eleanor McFarlane, who fell by the hand of an assassin the 29th of April, 1844, aged 46 years.’ This poor widow resided in Bridge Road, and obtained a subsistence by keeping a Day and Sunday School. The name of the murderer who deprived the life of his victim by cutting her throat on Old Battersea Bridge, was Augustus Dalmas, a Frenchman. This horrid crime was committed late at night. The woman who had charge of the toll seeing the helpless condition of Mrs. McFarlane conveyed her to the " Swan and Magpie” Tavern at the foot of the Bridge, where she expired exclaiming " Dalmas did it ! " Dalmas was transported to Australia in 1845. 

Others buried in the churchyard are: 

Arthur Collins, author of The Peerage and Baronetage of England . His grandson, David Collins, was Lieutenant Governor of New South Wales, and author of a history of the English Settlement there. 

The Countess de Morella, who lived in one of the five mansions which gave its old name of Five House Lane to Bolingbroke Grove, placed a coped stone with a over the old grave of her aunt Miss Elizabeth Hofer, in the church yard and had the tablets of her family at the west end of the north gallery cleaned. 

Charles Williams of London was an actor at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. His funeral was attended by the whole body of Comedians. 


Owen Ridley 

Vicar from 1570 Owen Ridley was in constant dispute with his parishioners. 43 of them submitted a petition against hijmin1593 stating their grievances which they suffered from their Vicar during the space of eighteen years and accusing him of conversing with a witch. A second petition signed by 17 people to Lord Burleigh, the  Lord High Treasurer of England defended him as ‘zealous in the gospell, honest in life, painefull to teache us and to catechise our youth; charitable and liberall to the poore and needy accordinge to his ability, he never sued any of all his parisheoners for tythes, althoughe he hath hadd cawse gyven by some so to doe.’ It stated that he hated witches.

Robert Eden 

Born in 1799 Robert Eden was Vicar from 1835 to 1847. He moved in the high Whig circles around the Spencers. His promotion to Battersea was supported by his friend Lord Melbourne and other grandees. Eden readily intermingled politics with his duties. As a local church-builder Eden has just one foundation to his credit, Christ Church, started in 1847.

In 1838 he considered that there was a stark class division in Battersea. He told the diarist Greville that the parish population had 'no middle-class of tradesmen in good circumstances; they are divided between the extremes of wealth and poverty; masters and operatives'. The operatives had 'a considerable amount of knowledge, though their minds be ill-regulated and their principles perverted.' When he had first taken up post 'the place abounded in the disciples of Carlile, pure athesists, and when Carlile was in prison he was supported by their contributions.' 

Eden went on: 'Some were reclaimed and went to church, but the greater part, who required some powerful excitement, sought it in politics, and became deeply imbued with the most pernicious principles of hatred against all institutions, against the higher orders, and against property.’ 

He and others  established evening lectures on various subjects to counteract. His views may not come as too much of a surprise given that Eden was a member of the aristocracy, third son of William Eden, 1st Baron Auckland. He was Royal Chaplin to William IV and Queen Victoria.  He was a leading force behind the creation of Battersea Park partly motivated by his dislike of fun activities taking place in the Battersea fields, especially at the Red He became the 3rd Baron of Auckland in 1849. 

J. S. Jenkinson 

J. S. Jenkinson was Vicar from1847 to 1871. He moved towards subdividing his exploding parish into further districts. With St John’s already in the offing, he anticipated including St Mark’s, Battersea Rise.

The Survey of Battersea tells us that significant alterations took place in 1823–4, when £3,608 19s 6d was spent on repairs and improvements  to enlarge and improve access to the galleries. The seating was rearranged, and a portico added to house new staircases.  The organ installed there in 1791 was replaced by a superior. 

John Erskine Clark 

Revd. Clarke was Vicar of St Mary's and an amazing man. He was born in 1827 in Calcutta where his father served in the East India Company. When he became a Vicar in 1856 he started the first Parish magazine and then in 1863 a children’s paper The Prize. This was followed by Chatterbox in 1866 which he edited until 1902, a paper that survived until the 1950s. In 1871 he started Church Bells magazine editing it until 1906. He became Vicar here at St Mary's in 1872, and a Trustee of Sir Walter St John Trust until 1916. From 1885 he was Hon. Chaplain to Queen Victoria, then Edward VII, then George V. He organised the division of the St Mary's parish into new parishes to reflect the population growth and the building of new Anglican churches such as St Luke's, reorganised the People's Dispensary at the other end of the High St, supported the Penny Bank, and set up the school for girls in the Shrubbery off Clapham Common Northside. He had a severe strike in 1916 and died in 1920.  

He was not afraid to appoint curates with new views about the meaning and role of Christianity, including Canon Escreet, who was active in the St Mary's Guild in the early 1880s, one of the precursors of the Christian socialist movement. Later that decade saw Rev Dennis Hird preaching socialism in the pulpit while John Burns organised unemployed demonstrations outside the Church. Hird went on to be the Principal of Ruskin College Oxford, which provided higher education to workers sponsored by their trade unions. It was the attempt of the authorities later on to dismiss him that led to the strike by the students there, and the formation of the socialist Plebs education organisation. 

John Morris 

I end this talk with Revd. John Morris who many of us knew and admired. When he was vicar the spire was strengthened with a new steel base in 1977. It was in his period of office that the stained glass windows designed by John Hayward were installed: Benedict Arnold in 1976; William Blake  and J. M. W. Turner in 1979 presented by Morgan Crucible, and Curtis. When  he left in 1988 he noted a ‘dramatic change’ in the locality over the previous decade, ‘with the balance swinging to the private sector and the arrival of more affluent residents’.




People Associated With And Memorialised At St.Mary's Church Battersea. Part 1. The Village Context And The Old Church

 On 16 September I gave a talk for Battersea Society in St Mary's Church, the old parish church of Battersea, by the Thames, the first time the Society had been able to hold a live meeting since the COVID lockdown started in March last year. I talked about people like the St.John family, William Blake,and various vicars. The text is set out in 2 parts on this blog site.


I am delighted to be able to give this talk because this historic church opens a window into the complex history of the development of Battersea, people who lived, and the way it illuminates local, regional, national  and international events, including Britain’s involvement in slavery.  It is one of the few churches that has a very large collection of monuments and memorials which tell us about many of the people who were associated with it particularly through burial.  It is not my intention to describe these as you can read about them in: 

  • Bob Speel’s website St Mary's Church, Battersea and its Monuments,
  • Taylor’s Our Lady of Battersea.
  • Church Monuments Gazetteer website
  • Survey of Battersea
  • Internet, espec. Google Books

 The purpose of this talk is to discuss some: 

·        of the context about the development of Battersea

·        aspects of the history of the Church as a building and its role

·        of the people buried here and outside in the graveyard

·        of the clergy associated with the Church

Some of the detail comes from the wide range of resources that are now on the internet,  which were not available to Simmons and Taylor, and which are constantly being added to. There is of course not enough time to talk about all the people buried or memorialised here.

The Development of Battersea

Historically Battersea Village developed around the Square, along the High St and Church Rd to this Church and the Manor House next door. Well into the 19th Century Battersea was a rural and market garden area. Developed near the Thames the Village was a backwater for centuries. The riverfront became far more important than the Village because industries that set up there could be serviced from boats and barges. 

When Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries in 1540 the Manor of Battersea passed from Westminster Abbey to  the Crown, which let it. In 1625 Sir Oliver St John became the lord of the manor. The St Johns remained as such until 1763 when the rights were sold to the trustees of Charles, who became Earl Spencer. 

Battersea Bridge

In the second half of the 18thC Battersea parish’'s population remained steady at between 2,000 and 2,100, living in about 350 homes. The Village had about 123 homes. In 1777 it was estimated that 19% of the Battersea ratepayers were poor. The construction of Battersea Bridge in 1771, funded by a group of investors led by John Spencer began to make it easier to get into Battersea. But even by 1801 the population had not risen much above 2,350. 

We do not know that much about the lives of the rural and industrial workers, apart from a suggestion that they were paid lower than elsewhere and were in poverty, and that this is reflected in an estimate that even those who had to pay rates were poor. 

The main process of industrialisation and urbanisation of Battersea parish took five decades from 1840, partly stimulated by the development of the railway system through the area from 1838, accompanied by massive building development and increase in population. 

With more and more people in the parish the number needing to be buried increased and the church yard became full. The last burial here was in 1853. The St.Mary’s Burial Ground on the corner of Battersea Rise and Bolingbroke Grove was opened in in 1860 as the parish’s new burial ground and it continued to be used until the 1960s. As Battersea's population continued to grow a large new cemetery was opened in Morden.

Battersea saw further major development from the 1920s with the building of the Power Station and Council estates like St. John’s Estate, and the charitable Peabody Estate off Battersea Rise. The late 1950s and 1960s saw the sweeping away of rows of terraced housing due to bomb damage and slum clearance and their replacement by Council estates, especially high-rise ones.

Village Area Redevelopment

After the War the churchyard passed into the control of Battersea Borough Council, becoming public open space with rights reserved to the church. A revised layout was made in 1964. Then in 1971 the Greater London Council proposed a ‘facelift’ in connection with flood defence works.

The GLC also proposed major redevelopment of part of the area including  the top end of the High St with Battersea Square. After lobbying by the then Battersea Society it agreed that there were sufficient buildings worth conserving, and excluded them from its plans. This enabled the then Labour controlled Wandsworth Council to designate the Battersea Square Conversation Area in 1972, and has meant that an important part of the historic village remains.

A further new plan by Wandsworth in 1974 was linked with the idea of a riverside walk. Then the site of the old flour mills next to the Church were developed by Richard Rogers & Partners to create  the Montevetro Apartments, which physically over dominate the Church.

The OId Church

The original church from the medieval period was replaced in 1777. Many memorials and monuments were saved and installed in the new Church. Let’s look at some of the people involved.

Sir Edward Wynter 

The East India merchant Edward Wynter who settled in Battersea in 1673 buying York House, the former palace of the Archbishops of York, died in 1685. Over 42 years in the East Indies he had built up a large fortune including when acting as agent for the East India Company. The Legacies of British Slave ownership database tells us that Wynter left an unnamed plantation and enslaved people on Jamaica to his son Edward. This would have made him an early investor in the slavery business in Jamaica which had only be captured by Oliver Cromwell’s expeditionary force in 1655. Wynter’s plantation was probably the Hampshire estate.

His descendent William Wynter owned three lots of land  totalling 1,328 acres in 1754. When he died in 1773 he owned  307 enslaved people. His estate was valued at £20,648.72 in Jamaican currency. In his will of  1772 he freed a group of enslaved women and left them some land. He left the rest of his real and personal estate to his son Edward Hampson Wynter. Edward was a signatory of the 1782 address to George III asking for increased military and naval protection of the West Indies.

The St.Johns 

One of the early member of the St. John family Sir John was buried here in 1648 with ‘unusual pomp’ involving heralds  with one of them saying that he had never seen so many people except at the funeral of one of the blood royal. 

Sir Walter St. John, who was born about 1622, was buried here in July 1708. He was a supporter of Parliament in the English Civil War, and related to Oliver Cromwell through marriage. He inherited land in Wiltshire in 1656 becoming the 3rd Baronet St. John of Lidiard Tregoze. He was Wiltshire’s MP from 1656 and then from 1660 to 1700 for Wootton Bassett.   

A later St. John married  Lady Diana Spencer, a daughter of the third Duke of Marlborough, and sold the manor of Battersea to the trustees of Lord Charles Spencer, who became the first Earl Spencer. 

Given the close link with Cromwell can we assume that Sir Walter supported the capture of Jamaica? Members of the family may have already been in the West Indies on Barbados. These included Judge Henry (1687-1719) and three generations of Charles St. John in the 18th/19thCs. 

Whether there was a link between them and Sir Walter is not clear. From about 1660  there was a sugar refinery in Battersea processing sugar from Barbados. A sugar house, where molasses were refined, is mentioned in 1670. John Smy(i)th, who had lived on Barbados is mentioned in 1671 as a 'Sugar Refyner’ having been in operation for several years importing sugar from the island. Could he have been processing sugar shipped by the island’s St.Johns. The Survey of Battersea tells us that Smyth’s sons, Allyn and Joshua, carried on the business into the 18thC most likely refining sugar for brewing.

Taylor's Our Lady of Battersea shows no link with St Johns in Barbados.  The Legacies British Slave-ownership database tells us that Charles senior was owner of the Content plantation between 1823 and  but had sold it. His son Charles junior purchased the Bagatelle estate in 1832 £5,953 from the Chancery. He received £1,359 7s 1d in compensation for 68 enslaved people in 1836. While there was no link between the family and Battersea at the time,  it is worth noting that one of the Commissioners deciding on the compensation claims lived in the Village. 

Henry St John

Walter’s son Henry was born in October 1652, and succeeded his father as 4th Baronet in 1708, later in July 1716 being created a peer as 1st Viscount St John, elevating him to the House of Lords. He died in 1751 leaving £300 to be buried ‘decently but not splendidly’ here. He left money to a number of servants and £50 each to the Free Church of the Savoy and to Walter St. John’s School founded by his father. He set aside £10,000 in trust, for the use of his daughter and son John.

Henry  was a controversial politician during the reigns of Queen Ann. George 1 and II. He was baptised at the Church in 1678. He became a leading politician serving as Secretary of War and Secretary of State. He was one of the architects  of the establishment of the South Sea Company to take over the National Debt, and the Peace Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 and then the Assiento Treaty with Spain in 1715 which awarded the contract to the Crown to supply the Spanish colonies with. It was then sub-contracted by the Crown to the South Sea Company which sub-contracted it to the Royal Africa Company. The Crown was entitled to 25% of the profits and in a secret deal 7% of the profits were to go to a financier friend of Henry’s Manual Gillighan. 

In a major political disagreement he was exiled to France. After being forgiven he came back in 1743 living in Battersea until his death. A very elderly lady recalled in 1816 that Bolingbroke 'used to rise out every day in his chariot, and had a place patch on his cheek, with a  large wart over one of his eyebrows.' 

The leading sculptor of his day Roubillac made a monument to him and his wife which is in the Church. The epitaphs on himself and his wife were both written by Bolingbroke, and includes the statement: 

‘His attachment to Queen Anne exposed him to a long and severe persecution; he bore it with firmness of mind, he passed the latter part of his life at home, the enemy of no national party, the friend of no faction , distinguished under the cloud of proscription, which had not been entirely taken off by zeal to maintain the liberty and to restore the ancient prosperity of Great Britain.’

In May 1842 the Chartist activist John Watkins  who lived at Bolingbroke’s former home the Manor House next to the Church, had published in the Chartist newspaper The Northern Star and Leeds General Advertiser a sonnet about Bolingbroke stating:

‘Awake, St. John! arise! we need thee now. Come forth ! thy country calls  thee lead us on…’It refers to the Roubillac and that says that he was a ‘noble foe’ to ‘vile faction’.

Henry’s daughter Frances married the merchant of James Bull of Clapham to whom another plaque was erected after he died in 1713.

Holles St.John

The memorial to Henry’s youngest son Holles who died aged 28 in 1738, was put up by his sister the Hon. Henrietta Knight. Born in July 1699 she was married to  Robert Knight, the 1st and last Earl of Catherlough. 

His son John born about 1695 became the 2nd Viscount. He held the office of Comptroller of the Customs of London in 1721 and 1740, and was  MP for Wootton Bassett between 1727 and 1734. He died in France in November 1748 and was buried at Lydiard Tregoze.

SirJohn Fleet

On 6 July 1712  Sir John Fleet died in Battersea and was buried under a vault and with a monument by the leading sculptor Roubillac in the church. We know quite a lot about him because of articles in the October 1936 issue of The English Historical Review, and in the History of Parliament, and additional information on The Sugar Refiners and Sugar Bakers Database and found by Wandsworth’s late historian Patrick Loobey.

 He may have lived in the parish from 1689, and in 1700 became a trustee of the newly founded Sir Walter St. John’s School. He had had four daughters and one son, who inherited his estate. 

Born between July 1646 and July 1647, Fleet served his apprenticeship from December 1659 to become a freeman of the Cooper’s Livery in February 1666/7. He lived on Barbados for sometime as a young man, establishing a family business. Around 1662, he began importing sugar from Barbados. He became a general merchant trading to the American colonies and a sugar baker. He was part owner of a ship trading to the West Indies. In 1688 he became an alderman of the City and was knighted. In 1692 he was elected as City Lord Mayor and switched across to the Grocer’s Company, becoming its master 1693-5. In March 1693 he was elected one of the MPs for the City until 1705, apart two short periods in 1701 and 1702. He was active in the governance  of the East India Company from 1691. 

His partner in the sugar baking business appears to be that of the Smyths from the 1660s. Insurance records for 1713 and 1715 list two sugar-houses, one a substantial structure built of brick, six storeys high of 5,384 sq. ft. probably sited in York Place.  


The parish registers kept in the old Church reveal baptisms of: 

·        Mr Ursel's Black in January 1704.We do not know who Ursel was

·        Catherine Collaton, an adult black in September 1753

·        George Battersea, a black boy aged 16 in March 1756

and the burial of John Juba, described as a black aged 29.

Hugh Morgan

Born in 1530 Morgan was chief apothecary to Queen Elizabeth I from July 1583, dieng in 1613. According to the article Royal Apothecaries of the Tudor Period by Leslie G. Matthews he was a member of the   Grocers' Livery Company. He was trusted to be one of those to inspect drugs sold by other apothecary members of the Company in 1564, finding that many drugs were found adulterated or not fit for use and were burnt. He also acted as the Company’s auditor. He was one of several members who had arguments with the Company over formulas for making treacle. 

He made enough money to invest in property, a substantial house and garden in Battersea, where his  interest in herbs developed into the growing of rare specimens, obtaining many specimens of new drugs from Virginia and becoming the first collector of cacti. He left sums of money to the poor of several parishes with which he or his wife had been connected, he insisted upon a series of sermons being preached within a year of his death, and he provided legacies for the purchase of rings for relatives and friends.

Edmund Burke

The records show that the later polemicist against the French Revolution  attended the wedding of John Ridge and Catherine Sedley at St. Mary’s  in October 1757. His modern biographers F. P. Lock and Elizabeth Labert have found that he was living in  Battersea after his own marriage in March 1757. It is probably safe to assume that he helped arranged for Ridge’s marriage to take place here. Labert shows that they remained in correspondence until at least 1777.

 In the 17th/18thCs collections were made nationally for causes of public concern in. Here at St Mary's: 

·        nearly £51 was raised in April 1699 for the persecuted Protestants of Vadois in the Valley of Piedmont

·        in 1700 for the redemption of English who were slaves in Algiers,

·        nearly £17 in July 1704 for widows of seamen killed in the great storm of November 1703. 

Lambeth Music History.An Introduction. Part 5. School, Community & Black Music

School and Community Music 

Elementary, what we now call primary, education was introduced by the Education Act of 1870. Compulsory secondary education was introduced in 1902. Provision comprised two elements: church and state schools. In London, including Lambeth, they came under the oversight of the London School Board, then the London County Council. In 1965 Lambeth came under the Inner London Education Authority, until its abolition under Margaret Thatcher and transfer of responsibilities to the Borough Councils in 1990. Music was taught in schools and public performances in the community were held. Alongside was different forms of music promotion and activities in the community. Here are some examples of both school and community music since 1966. 

1966 saw the Norwood Music Festival and the launch of the Lambeth Youth Orchestra for boys and girls leaving schools in the Lambeth Borough which went on to hold annual concerts each years and is still running. Nettlefold played an important function as a venue bringing to local audiences the Berlin Philharmonic in 1970, John Quirk in 1971, and Semprini in 1973. 

Lambeth Schools Music 

In 1967 the Lambeth Schools Music Association held its 28th Annual Concert. 

The Scratch Orchestra was founded in July 1969 following a series of music composition classes held at Morley College. It played in town and village halls, universities, youth clubs, parks, and theatres until 1974. 

The Lambeth Art and Recreation Association was active running events like a John Williams concert of guitar music in 1971. 

Ladies’s Jazz 

In 1973 the Musician’s Action Group was formed, the first organised pressure group composed solely of Jazz musicians. Its founders were Jackie Tracey and Hazel Miller along with their jazz musician husbands Stan Tracey and Harry Miller. They opened a club for jazz musicians to perform within Lambeth. 

Steel Orchestra 

The Lambeth Community Youth Steel Orchestra was founded in April 1979 but folded in 2001. Its recordings include Bob Marley’s Redemption Song. 

Nettlefold Festival was founded in 1984 with the aim to provide concerts of new music at the Hall, but by 1989 it was moved to Clapham Common to be more in line with the organisers needs for it to prosper. From 1993 it was called the Colourscape Music Festival.

Individual Composers

Brendan Beales, the composer and animateur, became the artistic director for Musicworks in Brixton in 1987 and two years later was made responsible for organising its In-Service Education for Teachers programme. As a lyricist he worked with Paul Patterson to produce the Little Red Riding Hood Songbook, and with Hugh Shrapnel on the opera War Games. He worked on a series of infant cantatas for Lambeth Council. Shrapnel who had been a member of the Scratch Orchestra was appointed Composer in Residence at Musicworks in 1994

Hugh Shrapnel, a composer who taught music in comprehensive schools in Lambeth in the1970s, led classes in experimental music in community centres in Brixton in the late 1980s. During 1993-4 he wrote South of the River, a piano duet based on emotions reflected on the areas that he had lived.

In October 1993 the Children's Society held its annual national service in St. Albans Cathedral. Taking part were children from Lambeth singing their own song I have a place of my own as part of a church-based research project called Children in the Neighbourhood. It was commented on the Lord Bishop of St. Albans in a House of Lords on the Single Regeneration Budget: Inner Cities in February 1995.

Anna Best’s Projects 

The 2000s saw two projects produced by Anna Best used music as part of community action. In In 2008/9 used 50 singers at Vauxhall Cross explored the relationship between political protest and entertainment, traffic and pedestrians, pollution, breathing and song. She also produced PHIL in which 15 musicians from the London Philharmonic Orchestra played their individual parts of Mozart’s Eine Keliener Nacht Musick on separate occasions in the homes of 15 people whose names included 'phil'. They were filmed and shown as an orchestra of televisions in the Beaufoy Institute on Black Prince Rd. 

Stockwell resident David Tuckey began composing at the age of 14 on the harmonica, the guitar and then piano. He worked at Lambeth’s Brixton and West Norwood Libraries. He has written his own Requiem Mass. 

The Government backed volunteer organisation The Experience Corps employed the services of record producer Charles Bailey to write a special recruitment song Join Up and organise a live event which was held at Lambeth Town Hall in February 2003 in front of 400 invited guests from the Afro-Caribbean community. 

In 2001 the Council established the Lambeth Music Service based at Bonneville Primary School to help raise musical standards and increase access to music in Lambeth. It still operates today at the Brixton Hill Music Centre.

Bob Chilcot

Lambeth schoolchildren gathered in March 2005 in the new Evelina Children's Hospital in Lambeth Palace Road for the premiere of a specially commissioned song cycle Songs for Seven Storeys by Bob Chilcot. It reflected on the seven themes of the natural world around which the new hospital - with its seven storeys. The concert also featured extracts from Initiation Songs by Juwon Ogungbe, commissioned for the South Bank Centre’s 's Africa Remix season by Royal Festival Hall Education and Lambeth Music Services.

In a separate development from the music service local primary school children recorded in 2005 a version of the 1980s Free Nelson Mandela in support of a parental campaign to build a the Mandela secondary school in Brixton. Songwriter Jerry Dammers, founder of The Specials, helped the children rewrite the lyrics.

Trinidadian composer and classical guitarist, Dominique Le Gendre trained as a classical guitarist. She ran composition workshops with primary school children at the Lambeth Junior Centre for Young Musicians. 

The Lambeth Youth Orchestra was founded in 2018 and played at the Brixton Library Windrush Choir Programme that October. 

Black Music 

The history of black music and black musicians in Lambeth is a story in its own right. 

The music hall circuit provided lots of opportunities for black performers, especially from the United States. Examples include Belle Davis at the Brixton Empress in May 1905, June 1906, August and December 1917, and Will Garland in July 1921. 

Duse Mohamed Ali 

Duse Mohamed Ali was the British based North African Moslem black rights advocate, actor, playwright, literary agent, promoter of better understanding of Islam, and editor of The African Times & Orient Review at various times between 1911 and 1920 acting as a voice for Pan-African views. By 1911 he was living at 55 Victoria Mansions on South Lambeth Rd and by 1915 at Langley Mansions on the corner of Langley Lane and South Lambeth Rd. In 1909 he produced the musical Lily of Bermuda by the actor/playwright Ernest Trimingham. Born in Bermuda in 1880 Tringham went on to become one of the first black actors in British film. His last recorded appearance was in London’s West End in 1941. He died in 1942.  

Winfred Attwell & Claudia Jones 

In the early days of the Windrush Generation calypso was popular and was often performed on BBC television. The pianist Winifred Attwell was also very popular on TV and in the charts. She opened The Winifred Atwell Salon" 82a Railton Road in 1956.  

If you walk down Fentiman Rd into Meadow Rd you will arrive at No.6, which was from 1956 to 1960 was the home of Claudia Jones at perhaps her most creative period as an exile from the United States: the founding of the West Indian Gazette in 1958 based at 250 Brixton Rd, and the seeding of Notting Hill Carnival. The Gazette later moved to Station Rd, Loughborough Junction. Following the Nottinghill race riots of 1958 she set up indoor cultural events to raise money for their legal costs, called ‘Claudia’s Caribbean Carnival’, the first being held in January 1959 at St Pancras Town Hall. It was televised by the BBC, subtitled ‘A people's art is the genesis of their freedom’. The 1960 event included the calypsoist Lord Kitchener, the former RAF pilot, actor and singer Cy Grant, and the novelists Samuel Selvin and George Lamming.

Dave Godin 

One of the people who made early 1960s black American music popular in Brian was Dave Godin. Born in Peckham and raised in Lambeth, he moved with his family to Bexleyheath to escape the bombing. In 1964 he founded the Tamla Motown Appreciation Society. In his October 2004 obituary in The Guardian in 2004 Richard Williams says that Godin’s ‘support for America's civil rights movement underpinned his belief that blues and soul music gained their special force from the social and historical context in which they were created.’ 

Linton Kwasi Johnson & Bob Marley 

Theatre and music were important at the former Tulse Hill School. The first Head of music was S. Drummond Woolfe who then went to be in charge of music at Hamilton Cathedral in Bermuda. Pupils include Linton Kwasi Johnson and David Victor Emmanuel, known as Smiley Culture. The School band played in neighbouring Primary Schools and at exhibitions. Its Concert Band won the London Weekend Summer Arts Festival in 1984. 

In 1977 Bob Marley visited the Rastafarian Temple in St Agnes Place while recording Exodus. He played football in Kennington Park. 

Record Shops 

Important promoters of black music included record shops like the Trinidadian Joe Mansano’s Joe’ s Records at 93 Granville Avenue from 1963, Desmond’s at 55 Atlantic Rd in the late 60s and 1970s, and Red Records on Brixton Rd. 


I hope that I have been able to share some sense of the richness of the history of music in Lambeth. There is an enormous amount more research that can be carried out into the themes I have discussed, but also into the role of pubs as venues for live music including the Effra Hall Tavern, the commercial venues like Electric Brixton, The Fridge, the 02 Academy and Hideaway in providing live music, the use of music in the roller skating rinks from the Victorian period, community festivals, etc. There is plenty of scope for community and school projects on aspects of these.