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Friday, 6 December 2013

Development in Battersea - A History

image: freedigitalphotos
The name Battersea (in medieval times Batricheseie, Batricesege or variants) is likely to refer to the gravel 'island' next to the River Thames on which the manor house, church and principle arable land lay. The crown owned the manor of Battersea until 1066, but shortly after the conquest William the Conqueror passed ownership to Westminster Abbey. It was one of the main manors supporting monks there.

When Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries in 1540, the manor was returned to the crown, eventually being sold to the St John family. The Spencer family purchased it towards the end of the eighteenth century, and the manor remains the family's property today.

Between the early seventeenth and early nineteenth centuries, Battersea was very well known for supplying vegetables, fruit and flowers to a great many of London's markets, in addition to exporting plants to the colonies in America. The centre of the village was next to the river, close to the church, with a scattering of industry nearby.

With construction of railways during the Victorian period, the suburbanisation of London accelerated, and Battersea's population increased from 6,617 in 1841 to 168,907 in 1901, when it was a Metropolitan Borough. Four railways companies occupied much of the open land, and the riverside wharves and windmills were replaced by companies such as Prices Candles, Morgan's Crucible works, Garton's Glucose factory, a number of flour mills, various breweries and the Nine Elms Gas Works. Battersea Park was built just in time to save the whole of Battersea from being swamped and overrun by industry.

Higher quality suburban housing was built along Battersea Rise and beyond after 1870. Despite this development, the conditions in the north of the parish remained extremely impoverished indeed. Battersea remained largely the same for the next half a century, until the World War Two bombing destroyed or damaged a great deal of the riverside property there and in the surrounding areas.

After the war, a huge municipal rebuilding plan took over much of the area. Meanwhile, west of Albert Bridge, industries on the river began to relocate or close, with housing taking their place. This included high rise apartment blocks such as the Trade Tower on Plantation Wharf, intended to appeal to young professionals.

The Royal College of Arts continued expansion in Battersea has encouraged newer industries to move into the area, with the redevelopment of Battersea Power Station and the reinvention of Nine Elms, which the new US embassy will call home. As a result, property prices in the area are beginning to compete with those in nearby Kensington and Chelsea.

Estates such as Winstanley, Doddington and Patmore are still deprived areas, and despite the insatiable demand for cheaper social housing, this shows no indication of being met in the near future. The opening of an over ground line has improved transport links from Clapham Junction to Surrey Quays and beyond. Much remains to be done, but there are many signs that positive change is around the corner for Battersea and the surrounding area.

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