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The Knowledge - Battersea

The first thing to say about Battersea is that Clapham Junction is in Battersea but when the station was built Battersea was seen as a poor area and the developers felt by calling it Clapham Junction would improve its prospects. Now Battersea has arguably overtaken Clapham there are plans to rename the station back to Battersea Junction.

The parish grew from several distinct areas, surrounded by open land, which gradually grew during the late 19th century into one urban sprawl. These consisted of the original village around Battersea Square, the crossroads that would become known as Clapham Junction, the upmarket area between Clapham and Wandsworth Commons and the industrial district of Nine Elms. The riverside windmills and wharves gave way to new industries, such as Prices Candles, Morgan's Crucible works, Carton's Glucose factory, flour mills, breweries and the Nine Elms Gas Works. These have now all been developed into Prices Court, Candlemakers, Battersea Reach, Plantation Wharf, Falconwharf, Oyster Wharf, Albion riverside (Norman Foster designed), Montevetro (Richard Rogers designed) and the presently being built Bridges Wharf.

Battersea seems to have a lot going on – there is the planned redevelopment of Clapham Junction (http://www.theheartofbattersea.co.uk) and all these riverside developments. All this and Battersea Power Station has failed to materialise yet - there are plans here for restaurants, cinemas, theatres, conference centres, hotels, apartments among other things on this massive 38 acre site.

With the opening of Clapham Junction Station in 1863, the focus of Battersea changed from the riverside to St. John's Hill and St. John's Road, which became the main shopping centre. At the main centre was the department store Arding and Hobbs (Debenhams), while the cheaper products were available from the street market in Northcote Road. Lavender Hill became the location of the public buildings, such as the Town Hall, police station and magistrate’s court and the post office. Entertainment was also provided in the shape of a theatre (Battersea Arts Centre) and a cinema. As well as trains there were also horse buses and horse trams, which were later replaced by the electric tram and the motor omnibus. The urban sprawl was relieved by the open spaces of Clapham and Wandsworth Commons but the major attraction near the river was Battersea Park, in which all sorts of sports facilities and other attractions were available.

For fifty years Battersea stayed relatively unchanged, until the bombing of the Second World War destroyed or damaged much of the property in the area. After the War a large area of north Battersea was swept away in a vast re-building plan of the borough and the county councils, changing the old face of Battersea.

Battersea High Street pre-war was a thriving high street which ran down to Battersea Square which was the original village centre of Battersea. In the present day there is a short stretch of high street at the Battersea Park Road junction and the remainder of the high street running to Battersea Square is now residential excepting two great local pubs; The Woodman and The Castle.

Battersea High Street is a hidden gem and is fast changing – we are here to help that happen faster. Chez Manny offers a warm friendly atmosphere with good original French cuisine – only next door. Galapagos is another favourite of ours for their fresh sandwiches and baguettes which were also sold in their store in Covent Garden. Jack’s Place which has been serving the very best steaks for decades is well worth a visit - we even have a Nepalese, Indian, and unsurprisingly two takeaway pizza restaurants.

On your way back to Clapham Junction from Battersea High Street you will pass Little India on your left hand side which is a collection of terraced housing (some converted to flats) It comprises of the following roads Afghan, Cabul, Candahar and Khyber, which were named to commemorate the big news of the day, the Second Afghan War (1878-1881).

Battersea Square is the heart of the original village lying on the bank of the River Thames and is absolutely superb on a warm summer’s day dining al fresco on the cobbles. Battersea Rickshaw is a long standing local favourite for Indian cuisine and other options are the Village Bar & Bistro and Barrio - a stone’s throw from the oldest church in the area St Mary’s which summarises Battersea well – old to new as it is overlooked by the stunning Montevetro building.

Battersea Park takes you way out of London in one of the most popular films sites in London – it is so diverse. The property around the park includes the elegant mansion blocks on Prince of Wales Drive and property of good stock. Here we have the Prince of Wales and The Lighthouse with a mix of shops running along Battersea Park Road. The contrast of Battersea raises its head here as there are these stunning building over looking the park but interspersed with Council housing built in the 60’s filling in the gaps left by bombs during the war.

The most popular and the most expensive area of Battersea is Between-The-Commons which is either side of the valley of Northcote Road which has fast evolved into a ‘yummy mummies’ haven with many bars, café’s, baby shops, fat face, white stuff and many restaurants. The recent rent reviews are however killing off the smaller boutiques that made the area as high street names start to sweep through the area. The charm is the valley arrangement and the street market all on a quiet road – we have spent may happy times on Northcote Road.
Lavender Hill runs from Clapham Junction towards Clapham parallel to the North side of Clapham Common. Battersea Arts Centre lies on Lavender Hill and offers many independent theatre productions and there are some good places to go out. Khan’s is a ‘low calorie’ Indian restaurant – not sure how that works but it tastes very good. There are other highlights in The Lavender, Nancy Lam’s and down Latchmere Road the highly acclaimed Fox and Hounds. It is running off opposite the ‘Fox and Hounds’ that we have Sabine Road which is a part of the ‘Shaftesbury Estate’.

The Shaftesbury Estate lies on what used to be a pig farming area but was built on in the 1870’s to provide housing for the working to middle class workers. It is now a conservation area and provides cottage like houses which are very popular with professionals who seek a house rather than a flat; it is also close to Battersea Park, Queenstown Road and Clapham Junction stations. Beyond the Shaftesbury Estate lies the Diamond Conservation Area another area which was wholly owned by the Peabody Trust and provides well build houses and maisonettes on tree lined streets.

Best Bets

Whole joints of meat at the Prince of Wales (formerly The Settle) Sunday lunch. Quecumbar for jazz. Chez Manny for an authentic French sitting. The Greyhound for gastro pub. Battersea park diversity. Riverside Walk from Battersea Square to Battersea Park. A stroll along Northcote Road on a sunny Saturday morning.

Worst Bets

Parking your car in the heart of the Winstanley Estate overnight - but it is free parking!

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