Battersea is an area of the London Borough of Wandsworth, England. It is an inner-city district on the south side of the River Thames.
Rosenau Road was named after Schloss Rosenau, the birthplace and boyhood home of Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, who became the consort of Queen Victoria.
After the opening of Albert Bridge
in 1873 offered the prospect of easy access to Chelsea and the West End, development along its approach road became more attractive. Hedworth Williamson, a speculator then acting as building contractor for the bridge, saw the potential. A cousin of his better-known namesake, the diplomat Sir Hedworth Williamson, he had a somewhat doubtful record in property speculation. A warrant for his arrest issued in 1865 over a questionable sale of shares described him as ‘5ft 6in high, of florid complexion, and very stout face, with projecting front teeth; wears no whiskers or moustache’.
He employed as his architect and surveyor John Robinson. Robinson drew up the initial plans for Williamson, writing in November 1871 to the Commissioners:
At the present moment I think it cannot be denied that the Locality has a bad
name, but, as most of the Building Ground surrounding the Park is still unlet
and as it is in most parts of considerable width, the opportunity I think
presents itself of raising the character of the neighbourhood by limiting the
number of houses to be erected and by requiring those to be erected to be of a
On these lines, Williamson agreed to take most of the ground on the west side of the park (about twelve acres) at £80 per annum per acre, promising to build five detached or ten semi-detached villas facing Albert Bridge
Road by 1874–5, with terraces behind, and to repeat this rate of building annually until there were 16 detached or 32 semi-detached houses and a further 65 houses in the hinterland.
Robinson devised two new roads behind Albert Bridge
Road (Rosenau and Anhalt Road
s) to be lined with terraces. In addition, Petworth Street
was extended to its east, but plans to straighten out Marsh Lane (later Ethelburga Street
) and create a new park entrance opposite came to nothing. Among the first houses on Albert Bridge
Road was Park House (demolished), built in 1873 at the north corner of Ethelburga Street
for Benjamin Cooke, a former Lincolnshire farmer turned builder, who also took other plots near by.
A century later, a scheme came before the London County Council in November 1960. A mixed development on a site of some 14 acres, it comprised 578 dwellings distributed between one 23-storey block (the highest yet mooted in Battersea), three blocks of seven-storey flats, and a multitude of lower groups. The main element delayed was the future Ethelburga Tower, to whose height local residents had objected. A tribunal upheld their case, forcing the LCC to lop off six storeys. Otherwise the construction phase seems to have gone well, most of the estate being occupied in 1965.
Battersea covers quite a wide area - it spans from Fairfield in the west to Queenstown in the east. Battersea is mentioned in Anglo-Saxon times as Badrices ieg = Badric's Island
Although in modern times it is known mostly for its wealth, Battersea remains characterised by economic inequality, with council estates being surrounded by more prosperous areas.
Battersea was an island settlement established in the river delta of the Falconbrook; a river that rises in Tooting Bec Common and flowed through south London to the River Thames.
As with many former Thames island settlements, Battersea was reclaimed by draining marshland and building culverts for streams.
Before the Industrial Revolution, much of the area was farmland, providing food for the City of London and surrounding population centres; and with particular specialisms, such as growing lavender on Lavender Hill, 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 of land in the parish of Battersea were occupied by some 20 market gardeners, who rented from five to near 60 acres each.
Villages in the wider area - Battersea, Wandsworth, Earlsfield (hamlet of Garratt), Tooting, Balham - were isolated one from another; and throughout the second half of the second millennium, the wealthy built their country retreats in Battersea and neighbouring areas.
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; Battersea Bridge was built in 1771. Inland from the river, the rural agricultural community persisted.
Battersea was radically altered by the coming of railways. The London and Southampton Railway Company was the first to drive a railway line from east to west through Battersea, in 1838, terminating at Nine Elms at the north west tip of the area. Over the next 22 years five other lines were built, across which all trains from Waterloo Station and Victoria Station ran. 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.
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 situated within a relatively small area in the north of the district.
A population of 6000 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 local government to site its buildings - the town hall, library, police station, court and post office in the area surrounding Clapham Junction.
All this building around the station marginalised Battersea High Street (the main street of the original village) into no more than an extension of Falcon Road.