Another in the occasional series on “Far-Flung Lost London” …
Battersea was first recorded in an Anglo-Saxon charter of 693 as Badrices ege or Batrices ege, from the Old English personal name Beaduric and eg, meaning island, or high, dry land in an otherwise marshy area (*). The Medieval to post-Medieval settlement was centred around what is now Battersea Square: the church of St Mary (see below) was built here sometime before 1067; and the former Raven public house during the reign of Charles II. Development began to spread during the Georgian period of the eighteenth century, although the area remained essentially rural, and the economy predominantly agricultural, and subordinately industrial, until the Victorian period of the nineteenth. Urbanisation and heavy industrialisation began with the arrival of the railway at nearby Nine Elms in 1838, although approximately 200 acres of green space was preserved when Battersea Park was created in 1853, following recommendations made to Queen Victoria’s “Commission for Improving the Metropolis” in 1843. The present Battersea Bridge was built by Joseph Bazalgette between 1886-90, to replace an earlier, wooden one built between 1771-2 (and immortalised in Whistler’s evocative nocturnes). Battersea Power Station was built in 1933, and decommissioned in 1983.
Church of St Mary
The church of St Mary was originally built sometime before 1067, and at this time given by William I to the monks of Westminster Abbey. It was partially rebuilt by the master mason Henry Yevele in 1379, and extended in 1400 and 1469, when the south aisle and chapel were added, and in 1613 and 1639, when the north aisle and tower were added; and subsequently substantially rebuilt again, by the local architect Joseph Dixon, between 1775-7 (**). The visionary poet and artist William Blake was married in the church in 1782; and the high-ranking soldier Benedict Arnold, who famously defected from the American Continental Army to the British during the American Revolutionary War, was buried here in 1802. The church also has links with J.M.W. Turner, who used to sit in one of the windows overlooking the Thames to paint the play of the light on the water.
The east window, of stained-glass depicting Margaret Beauchamp, Henry VII and Elizabeth I, survives from the seventeenth century.
(*) There is also evidence of even older human presence, in the form of Stone, Bronze and Iron Age artefacts, the most famous being the Iron Age Battersea Shield, now in the British Museum.
(**) Most of the manor house that used to stand near the church was demolished in 1778, and the remaining part in the early twentieth century, some materials being salvaged and shipped to the United States for re-use at this time.