The name means Badric’s Island in Anglo-Saxon. It was originally an island surrounded by water and marshes.
Battersea Square was the original centre of the village. The Raven public house in the square has survived from the time of Charles II. The local church, St Mary’s, existed at the time of the Norman conquest, but was rebuilt in 1777. For most of its life, Battersea was a thriving agricultural area because the soil was particularly fertile. Battersea was especially famous for its asparagus – bunches were called “Battersea bundles”.
This rural idyll all changed when the London and Southampton Railway opened a huge terminus and depot at Nine Elms in 1838. New Covent Garden now occupies the site of the Nine Elms yard. Industry moved into the area as well. The population grew from 3,000 in 1800 to 169,000 in 1900. Much of the area was taken over for housing for the workers – 24,000 new homes were built. More of the remaining open area was developed as the Shaftesbury Park estate in 1872.
The agricultural area near the river was turned into Battersea Park. The Commissioners for Improving the Metropolis were authorised by an Act of Parliament in 1846 to create a royal park in Battersea Fields. They bought 320 acres, of which nearly 200 form the park. The rest was sold for housing. The park was laid out by Sir James Pennethorne. The Buddhist Peace Pagoda was built in 1985 near the river overlooking Chelsea.
This was the site of a duel between the Duke of Wellington and the Earl of Winchelsea in 1829. The Earl had accused the Duke of treason against the Constitution – fighting talk. When one of the seconds gave the order to fire, Winchelsea kept his pistol at his side, and Wellington deliberately fired wide. Winchelsea then fired his pistol into the air and apologised. The first Battersea Bridge was a wooden bridge built in the 18th century. It was replaced in 1886-1890 by the present cast iron bridge designed by Sir Joseph Bazalgette.
The Battersea power station was designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, who also designed Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral. The first part of the power station opened in 1933, but the second stage was not completed until 1953. It was closed down in 1983.
Battersea is the trendy end of Wandsworth. It has always been popular as a cheaper alternative to Chelsea a short walk across the river. But in recent years its status as a residential area has been enhanced by the transformation of the old commercial river front into a highly desirable new residential area. All along the river front dramatic new blocks of flats have sprung up and former warehouses have been converted. Battersea is an area of contrasting neighbourhoods. As well as the new riverside, Battersea offers Edwardian mansion blocks around the park, and a large area of solid Victorian houses. The drawbacks are that there is no tube link and traffic is congested, but Clapham Junction provides train services in central London.
Nearly all of Battersea’s river front has been turned into new flats. One of the earliest development was Plantation Wharf, near Wandsworth Bridge. On Vicarage Crescent near the river in the west is Valiant House, a 1970s mansion block and an original riverside block. Many other developments have been constructed between Wandsworth Bridge and Battersea Power Station in recent years; these are some of the more prominent examples. Montevetro, Lord Rogers’ glass wedge, towers over the original village church, St Mary’s, near Battersea Bridge. More new blocks, such as Lord Foster’s Albion Wharf overlooks the Thames on Hester Road between Battersea Bridge and Albert Bridge. Waterside Point is in this area too. Battersea Park takes up most of the land between Albert Bridge and Chelsea Bridge and runs right to the river’s edge so there is no development there. But between Chelsea Bridge and the rail bridge is Chelsea Bridge Wharf, a Berkeley Homes’ development. Beyond Chelsea Bridge and Queenstown Road is Battersea Power Station, yet to be developed.
Battersea Park has long been popular for its mansion flats. Prince of Wales Drive on the south side Battersea Park is lined with Victorian mansion blocks such as York Mansions, Overstrand, and Cyril Mansions. Parallel streets behind Prince of Wales Drive – Lurline Gardens and Warriner Gardens – contain similar mansion blocks, but there are houses too. There are more mansion blocks lining Albert Bridge Road, such as Albert and Albany.
Battersea also contains large tracts of Victorian houses. On either side of Queenstown Road there is a conservation area called the Park Town Estate, and also known as the “Diamond” to local estate agents. This contains mainly small mid-Victorian terraced houses. Further west, back towards Latchmere Road, is the Shaftesbury Estate consisting of working men’s cottages built in the Gothic style of the late Victorian era.
Between Clapham Common Northside and Cedars Road there are streets of late Victorian terraced houses known as “The Northside Square” with two and three-storey houses, and some larger houses now mainly converted into flats. There are more Victorian houses and some Edwardian houses in the streets below St John’s Hill and blocks of flats in the streets off Lavender Sweep. Northcote Road runs south from Battersea Rise to Thurleigh Road. This area is called “Between the Commons” – Clapham Common and Wandsworth Common. Here there is a large lattice-work of streets containing terraces of late Victorian and Edwardian houses. The streets nearest Nightingale Lane form part of the Broomwood House Estate. The largest houses are in Bolingbroke Drive which runs along the edge of Wandsworth Common.
There are smaller caches of houses nearer Battersea village and the river. Off Falcon Road is “Little India” – a group of Victorian terraces with street names from the Raj such as Khyber Road and Cabul Road. There is a group of streets called “the Sisters” off Shuttleworth Road (so named because some of them have women’s names, such as Octavia Street and Ursula Street). A conservation area at West Bridge Road contains attractive Victorian houses. Battersea Village is a pre-War flat development near Vicarage Crescent.