The park, the iconic power station and the dogs and cats home — these three institutions, known the world over, bear the name of Battersea and anchor this south London suburb into the consciousness of everyone in the capital.
The big news now in Battersea is the redevelopment of the power station and the surrounding area. When this £8 billion project is complete, there will be a new riverside park and high street, shops, hotels, restaurants and cafés, along with 4,000 glitzy new homes. Also moving in will be the US Embassy, relocating to Nine Elms in 2017 from Grosvenor Square in Mayfair.
Battersea Park is a firm favourite with the local community. Ten years ago it had an £11.4 million facelift, with the restoration of many of the Victorian and Festival of Britain features, including the water fountains that put on spectacular displays throughout the day. The newest draw is a winter garden in the south-west corner, designed by TV favourite Dan Pearson.
Battersea Power Station, with its four distinctive white chimneys, is one of the capital’s best-known landmarks. When it was built in the Thirties, one of the most famous architects of the day, Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, was brought in to counter opposition from Chelsea residents who didn’t want a power station on their doorstep. Scott’s role was to enhance the external appearance, so he remodelled the chimneys to resemble classical columns.
Jog on: a path between Battersea Park and the Thames, with Albert Bridge behind
The power station was extended in the Fifties, but coal barges stopped arriving in 1983, when it closed. There then followed nearly 30 years of neglect and failed plans until 2012, when Malaysian developers SP Setia, Sime Darby and Employees Provident Fund bought the 42-acre site for £400 million and set about implementing architect Rafael Viñoly’s master plan of glassy tall apartment blocks and landscaped walkways.
Such was the excitement when the first new flats in Circus West went on sale in January 2013 that three quarters of the 866 homes sold in the first four days, even though they wouldn’t be ready for another four years.
Now the cranes are hovering above two predominantly residential developments designed by two of the world’s great architects — Sir Norman Foster and Frank Gehry. Launched in October last year, the Foster + Partners-designed Battersea Roof Gardens has a rippling façade with views over Battersea Park, while Gehry Partners’ Prospect Place is a cluster of five buildings, which will offer stunning views of the power station. None of this would have been possible without a drastic improvement to Battersea’s crumbling transport infrastructure.
The arrival of the US Embassy was the spur that brought forth funding for the Northern line extension from Kennington. Two new stations will open in 2020 at Nine Elms and south of the Battersea Power Station development in Battersea Park Road, close to the existing Battersea Park train station. Both new stations will be in Zone 1.
Powering ahead: the rebuilding of Battersea Power Station’s chimneys is under way and will complete next year
What there is to buy in Battersea
Battersea is now a property market of two halves, with the riverside dominated by new flats all the way from Vauxhall to Wandsworth, while the hinterland features mansion flats close to Battersea Park and roads of Victorian terrace houses. The most expensive flat on the market now is a three-bedroom duplex penthouse in Boiler House Square in the power station. It has a large terrace on one of the chimneys and is for sale at £8.35 million, but it won’t be ready until 2019. The most expensive period property for sale is a six-bedroom terrace house in Albert Bridge Road at £4,595,000.
Demand for houses close to the area’s two popular state primary schools, Honeywell and Belleville, can push up prices. The most expensive house currently for sale here is a five-bedroom double-fronted property in Honeywell Road, priced £3.5 million.
So-called “Little India” — oddly, the streets have Afghan names, not Indian ones — lies between Falcon Road and Battersea Park Road. A three-bedroom house in Candahar Road, in need of modernisation, is on sale for £800,000. The “Sisters Roads” is another misnomer, as the three streets, west of Battersea Bridge Road, are named after the developer Edward Pain’s mother, Ursula, first wife Edna and second wife Octavia. Unusually, most of the houses are semi-detached villas. A three-bedroom semi-detached house in Henning Street is for sale for £1.55 million.
The Shaftesbury Park Estate between Queenstown Road and Latchmere Road has two-bedroom Victorian workmen’s cottages, prettily designed with decorative porches. In Tyneham Road, there is a two-bedroom cottage for sale for £849,950.
Estate agent Charlie Mitchell, from the Battersea Park office of Douglas & Gordon, says Battersea property prices have risen an average of 30 per cent over the past three years, while posh neighbour Chelsea, across the river, has only seen rises of about seven per cent. “Our long-term view is that the gap between Battersea and Chelsea will narrow over time,” he says.
Battersea Dogs & Cats Home is the world’s best-known animal rescue charity. It began life in 1860 in an abandoned stableyard in Holloway when Mary Tealby opened The Temporary Home for Lost and Starving Dogs. Little is known about the life of Tealby beyond the fact that she was born in Huntingdon and died in Biggleswade, Bedfordshire. The dogs home, which took in an average of 13 dogs and nine cats a day, moved to Battersea in 1871, where it has been ever since. In 1885, Queen Victoria became its first royal patron.
Average prices: buying houses and flats in Battersea
One bedroom flat £588,000
Two bedroom flat £921,000
Two bedroom house £791,000
Three bedroom house £1.08 million
Four bedroom house £1.42 million
Travel: Battersea has train stations at Clapham Junction — trains to Victoria in eight minutes, while to Waterloo it is nine minutes — Battersea Park, where services to Victoria take six minutes, and Queenstown Road, where trains to Waterloo take seven minutes. All trains are in Zone 2 and an annual travelcard to Zone 1 costs £1,284.
The area attracts: estate agent Tamzin Incledon, from the local branch of Douglas & Gordon, says young professionals and families love the area for its shops and schools. “We have seen a big influx of French families over the past few years and we are beginning to see American families, too, attracted by the arrival of the US Embassy in Nine Elms in 2017.”
Fine fare: Johan De Jager, co-owner of Source restaurant in Ransome’s Dock, which serves seasonal British cuisine
What there is to rent in Battersea
The most desirable homes to rent are in the Richard Rogers-designed Montevetro scheme and the Norman Foster-designed Albion Riverside development, both overlooking the Thames. A three-bedroom flat in Montevetro and a four-bedroom flat in Albion Riverside are both currently available to rent for £12,783 a month.
The area between Wandsworth and Clapham Commons is popular with families. A five-bedroom house in Blenkarne Road is available to rent for £6,717 a month. Four-bedroom family houses range from £3,250 a month for a modern house in Chivalry Road to £6,067 a month for a Victorian house in Altenburg Gardens. Two-bedroom flats for couples, sharers and young families range from £1,551 a month for a period conversion in Battersea Park Road to a flat in Albion Riverside for £3,900 a month.
Average prices: renting houses and flats in Battersea
One bedroom flat £1,763 a month
Two bedroom flat £2,498 a month
Two bedroom house £2,275 a month
Three bedroom house £2,769 a month
Four bedroom house £3,930 a month
Postcode: SW11 is the Battersea postcode, although it does stray into SW8 on its eastern edge, the South Lambeth postcode.
Best roads: the most expensive houses are in Cambridge Road, Parkgate Road and Warriner Gardens, all roads with large houses close to Battersea Park.
Up and coming
Estate agent Incledon tips the St John’s Hill area up the hill to the west of Clapham Junction station, where there are large family houses and period flat conversions. The area will benefit from the redevelopment of the Peabody Estate. This is being completely rebuilt between now and 2020, and will be replaced with 528 new one-, two- and three-bedroom flats and four-bedroom maisonettes, 221 of which will be rented, while 58 will be for shared ownership and 249 for private sale. Prices of private-sale homes range from £500,000 to £1,236,000.
Staying power: with family houses starting at about £1.5 million for a Victorian house and £1.3 million for an Edwardian house, young professional couples starting a family who want to stay in the area are now happy to buy a larger flat rather than a house.
Battersea Power Station (batterseapowerstation.co.uk
; 020 7501 0678) is currently selling homes in phase three of the Norman Foster-designed Battersea Roof Gardens and the Frank Gehry-designed Prospect Place. Prices range from £1.3 million for a one-bedroom flat to £3.2 million for a four-bedroom flat with “price on application” for the penthouses. There are resales available on phase one Circus West, with prices ranging from £445,000 for a studio to £1,295,000 for a three-bedroom flat.
; 020 3053 6900) is a Berkeley Group development on the site of the former Marco Polo House in Queenstown Road overlooking Battersea Park. It was once home to the Observer newspaper and, latterly, the QVC UK shopping channel. There are 380 one-, two- and three-bedroom flats. The second phase was recently launched, with prices ranging from £849,500 to £3.71 million, and they will be ready to move into between summer 2017 and spring 2018.
The adjoining Battersea gasholders site in Prince of Wales Drive now has planning permission for 839 (201 affordable) new homes to be built by developer St William, a joint venture formed by National Grid and Berkeley Group. The mixed-use development designed by architects Squire & Partners will have 50,000sq ft of educational space, a nursery, supermarket, café and public realm improvements. The flats will be ready in 2019.
Battersea has two leading primary schools in the area between the Commons — Belleville in Webb’s Road and Meteor Street, and Honeywell in Honeywell Road. Both are rated “outstanding” by Ofsted and houses close to these two schools are always in demand. Almost all of the other state primary schools are judged “good”, with Chesterton in Dagnall Street also rated “outstanding”. Wix in Wix’s Lane is a state school with a bi-lingual English/French stream. It has an additional private French school, École de Wix, run by Lycée Français Charles de Gaulle on the same site, but it only gets a “satisfactory” rating from Ofsted.
The new comprehensive free school, Bolingbroke Academy (co-ed, ages 11 to 18) in Wakehurst Road is rated “good” and is also proving popular with parents. State comprehensive Chestnut Grove (co-ed, ages 11 to 18) in Chestnut Grove in nearby Balham is the nearest comprehensive school to be rated “outstanding”.
There is a wide choice of private schools. The primary infant and primary schools are L’Ecole de Battersea (co-ed, ages three to 11) in Trott Street, L’Ecole du Parc (co-ed, ages 18 months to five) in Garfield Road and Stormont Road, Parkgate House (co-ed, ages two to 11) in Clapham Common North Side, Dolphin School (co-ed, ages two to 11) a Christian school in Northcote Road, and Oliver House (co-ed, ages three to 11), a Catholic school in Nightingale Lane. There are preparatory schools, too. Thomas’s has two branches — Thomas’s Battersea (co-ed, ages four to 13) in Battersea High Street and Thomas’s Clapham (co-ed, ages four to 13) in Broomwood Road.
The others are Newton Prep (co-ed, ages three to 13) in Battersea Park Road, Eaton House, The Manor (co-ed nursery ages three and four; girls ages four to 11 and boys ages four to 13) in Clapham Common North Side, and Northcote Lodge (boys, ages eight to 13) in Bolingbroke Grove. There are two local private secondary schools — Emanuel (co-ed ages 11 to 18) in Battersea Rise and Thames Christian College (co-ed, ages 11 to 16) in Wye Street. All three Dulwich schools run coaches from the area.
WHAT THE LOCALS RECOMMEND ON TWITTER
@UPCLondon For a chilled-out brunch, we’d highly recommend @PelicanCafeBar
@MrsVickiDay Try L’Antipasto Battersea Park Rd, a real hidden gem; also The Butcher & Grill Parkgate Road plus the amazing Le QuecumBar
@BatterseaHomes Santa Maria del Sur in Queenstown Road, @ChezBruce on Wandsworth Common & @indianmoment in Northcote Road are some of our favourites
@MattChristmas1 I’d recommend Soif, the neighbourhood bistro and wine shop, at 27 Battersea Rise
Leisure and the arts
Battersea Arts Centre has remained open in spite of a devastating fire that destroyed the large hall in March. Theatre503 is a fringe theatre above the Latchmere pub on the corner of Battersea Park Road and Latchmere Road. The local council-owned swimming pool can be found at Latchmere Leisure Centre, which has a wave machine immortalised in a song by The Maccabees.
Shops and restaurants
Battersea’s main shopping centre is around Clapham Junction and up St John’s Road, where there is a branch of Debenhams, locals still call it Arding & Hobbs, a large Asda, and Lidl. St John’s Road leads into Northcote Road — the road that runs through the middle of the “between the Commons” area — also known as “nappy valley”. Here, the shops are smarter, with branches of skincare chains such as Neal’s Yard, Kiehl’s and Space.NK. Fashionistas will love checking out White Stuff, Jack Wills, Phase Eight, Joules, LK Bennett, Crew, Whistles and Jigsaw. Chain restaurants include Nando’s, Gourmet Burger Kitchen, Byron, Franco Manca and Bill’s. In recent years, Northcote Road has lost many of its independent shops, but two butchers remain — Hennessy and Dove & Son — plus longstanding jewellers Asquiths, toy shop QT Toys and sportshop Capstick. Breadstall is just that — a long market stall selling bread, cakes, pizzas and quiches.
There are also shops, cafés and restaurants along Battersea Park Road, Battersea Rise, Lavender Hill and St John’s Hill. Battersea Park Road has Chesneys for fireplaces, WE Interiors stocks Another Brand — head of design at John Lewis Home Theo Williams’s own furniture brand — and Battersea Flower Station is a lovely garden centre that stretches down a railway embankment.
The best local restaurants are Gordon Ramsay’s London House in Battersea Square and Chez Bruce in Bellevue Road. The Doodle Bar is a bar and event space in Parkgate Road close to RCA’s new Battersea campus in Battersea Bridge Road.
Open space: Battersea Park is the local playground where locals can take long riverside walks.
Council: Wandsworth is Conservative-controlled and Band D Council tax for this year is £704.57.
The BBC’s Play School made history in 1964 thanks to Battersea. Why?
Three things about Battersea
Where did a pig fly in Battersea, putting aviation at risk?
A pink inflatable pig flying above the chimneys of Battersea Power Station is the famous image on the cover of Pink Floyd’s 1977 album Animals. The pig was tethered to one of the south chimneys, but broke free and wandered into Heathrow Airport’s flight path. As a safety measure, it was tracked by police helicopters until it came down in a field in Kent.
What connects a fantasy village in North Wales with a home for cats in Battersea?
Portmeirion is a pretty Italianate village created by architect Sir Clough Williams-Ellis (1883-1978) between 1925 and 1975 on the Dwyryd estuary on the North Wales coast. It was used as the location for the Sixties cult TV series The Prisoner. In 1907, Williams-Ellis had designed a new cattery, Whittington Lodge, for Battersea Dogs & Cats Home. The building, which is listed, is still in use, but are now used as offices.
How did BBC children’s programme Play School make history in 1964, thanks to Battersea?
BBC was due to be launched on April 20, 1964, but a fire in Battersea Power Station caused widespread disruption to London’s power supply, including at the BBC. The launch was postponed to the following day. Play School, a new programme for children, thus unexpectedly became the first show broadcast on BBC 2, which was the first TV channel in Europe to broadcast regularly in colour.
Photographs by Daniel Lynch