«Battersea Bridge Road to York Road The area nominally covered by this chapter is a large one, taking in some of Battersea’s most historic sites ...»
Councillors quickly overturned this decision at a full meeting the following month, and so expressed themselves ‘mystified’ by John Gummer’s insistence that the final judgement should be his, after a public inquiry in June.18 The Environment Secretary’s department was at the time putting the finishing touches to a new strategy for riverside development in the capital, and saw Montevetro as a potential landmark case. Gummer had also invited Richard Rogers to join his Thames Advisory Group. It was the high quality of the design that seems to have swung the decision in its favour. Fortunately, Gummer made his approval conditional on the faithful execution of the Rogers team’s plans, for as soon as permission was granted the site changed hands again, British Land selling up to developers Taylor Woodrow for £19 million. Revised plans were accepted by the council in November 1997 and work began shortly afterwards. Nevertheless, the Rogers team lost control of the final construction phase, which was handled by another firm; and it has been suggested that this may have contributed to problems complained of by early residents.19 Montevetro was also notable for its method of construction, which owed much to the Rogers practice’s expertise with fast-track commercial projects. The use of prefabricated components like the glass curtain-walling, which could be attached quickly to the in-situ concrete frame, greatly expedited the process.
This attention to detail and the streamlined modernism continued inside (Ill. 2.5). Stripped-down interiors and wide, ceiling-height windows and door openings made roomy apartments appear even bigger. Rather than traditional tiling, the bathroom pods were finished in floor-to-ceiling sheets of glass, in a selection of marine colours. When completed in 2000, apartments ranged in price from £250,000 for a one-bedroom flat to £4.5 million for the biggest penthouse, placing them in the exclusive reach of the well-off—a bias that did little to endear the building to its detractors. One pair of wealthy new residents contrasted the ‘young, free-and-easy Californian lifestyle’ offered by the building to their previous home ‘in stuffy old Belgravia’.21
East of Bolingbroke Walk The wedge of ground formed by Battersea Church Road, Battersea Bridge Road, Westbridge Road and Bolingbroke Walk retains a significant number of houses from this district’s first major period of building activity in the 1840s.
Among them are some of Battersea’s best of the period: the ‘villas’ with long gardens ranged along the north side of Westbridge Road—a surprising middle-class island amid so much meaner housing, strong enough to withstand later waves of redevelopment.
On the south side of Church Road, the first row of small two-storey cottages (later 1–9 Battersea Church Road) was erected in 1842 by John Sugden, a Bermondsey builder, for the Rev. J. P. Haswell, along with three stuccoed houses and shops adjoining at 46–50 Battersea Bridge Road; all are now demolished. Sugden also built the corner block opposite on the north side of the new road (also demolished). Most of the surviving houses on Battersea Church Road date from the mid-to-late 1840s. Thomas and Robert Jones, builders of Pimlico, were responsible for Nos 11–29, of c.1844. Their miserly two-storey elevations were typical of the housing going up in the vicinity, but unusually the rear halves were taller, with a small top-floor window lighting an upper rear room behind. Most have since had dormer roofs added in front, though the original arrangement can still be seen at Nos 21 and 25. Alongside, Nos 31–35 are of a similar vintage; and further west at Nos 51–57 are remnants of a row of six (No 47–57) erected c.1848 by George Ayles and George Tyrrell, two Chelsea builders. The terrace at Nos 61–71 (formerly ‘Pinn’s Terrace) is later, being the work of John Pinn, a local carpenter formerly of Lambeth. A few years later Pinn also built the last row on the north side (Nos 22–50, now demolished), but went bankrupt soon after.22 Around the corner in Battersea Bridge Road, Richard Gibb, a Cavendish Square coffee-house keeper, bought land at the Cobbs’ sales and around 1843 built a row of six houses and shops called Caledonia Cottages (now 58–68 Battersea Bridge Road), borrowing money from the Cobb family bank to do so. Within a year these had been joined by a trio of taller houses Survey of London © English Heritage 2013 10 Draft and shops adjoining to the north, a speculation by John Collett called Europa Place (now Nos 52–56). The frontage southwards was also developed around 1843 by Richard Colven, a Brixton builder, with three houses and shops (Nos 70, 72 & 76) and a corner pub at No. 74, originally called the Prodigal’s Return (later extended into No. 76). Colven also built the two adjacent houses at the east end of Westbridge Road (see below). The present pub (the Draft House) is a rebuilding of 1929–30 to designs by G. G. MacFarlane, architect to the Stag Brewery in Pimlico.23 Aside from the trio of houses at 10–14 Westbridge Road—another example of mid 1860s infill—the houses on the north side of Westbridge Road were all built within a year or two of each other in 1844–6.24 Many were surprisingly fine for the area, if not large, arranged mostly in semi-detached pairs, or occasionally in rows of three or four, and gardens were generous and well laid out (Ill. 2.2). One pair (later Nos 6 & 8, now demolished) stood either side of a Methodist chapel set further back from the road, built at the same time the Rev. J. P. Haswell (see vol. 49).
Richard Colven’s houses at Nos 2 & 4 stand out for their striking flint façades and medieval-style decorations, which include statuettes set in halfdomed tabernacles or niches, door porches with grouped colonnettes and pointed arches, cusped window tracery, plentiful head-stops and other sculpted decorations (Ill. 2.6). They failed to take at first, standing empty whilst the rest of the street filled up quickly, until c.1851; but Colven, who died in 1846, had belief or pride in them, asking in his will that they be retained while his other properties were sold off to support his kin.25 With several builder-developers at work in Westbridge Road in the mid 1840s there was considerable stylistic variety. The peculiar Gothicism of Colven’s pair is echoed in a more eclectic trio at Nos 32–36 (originally Albert Villas), with neo-Tudor mouldings, head-stops and jaggy bargeboards; these Survey of London © English Heritage 2013 11 Draft were a speculation by John Chancellor, a job master living in Hyde House, one of the bigger, older properties near by on Hyde Lane.26 Elsewhere a weakish neoclassicism predominates, as in the paired semis at Nos 24 & 26 and 28 & 30 (Myrtle and Elm Villas), or a chunkier Italianate, as at Nos 38 & 40 (Oriel Villas). The short terrace built by William Woods at Nos 46–52 (Woodbine Cottages) has a simpler early Victorian look.
Westbridge Road was characterized in the early 1890s as having ‘a respectable class of house’, despite its situation amid ‘a poor neighbourhood of little streets’. Certainly the annuitants and professionals who lived here, and the resident domestics who served them, were rarely found elsewhere in the surrounding area. Even so, few were of note, though the English Aesthetic artist John Eyre (1850–1927) was living at 26 Westbridge Road in the early 1900s.27 The west side of Bolingbroke Road (now Walk) was laid out in 1844 and filled rapidly with small houses, now all demolished; the east side and land behind remained mostly vacant until it was taken for Bolingbroke Road (now Westbridge) School in the 1870s.
West of Bolingbroke Walk This ground was a market garden when it was sold with Timothy Cobb’s estate in the early 1840s. Here Frances (later Condray) Street, with 59 twostorey terraced houses, was laid out in 1851–3 for John Allen, a Lambeth musical-instrument maker, and his lessee William Hayman, a lace manufacturer from St Marylebone; John Pinn was again one of several builders involved. Two shorter streets of small houses—Hart (later Scholey) Street and Somerset (later Handley) Street—were shoehorned between it and Church Lane at the same time. Gradually the district became even more Survey of London © English Heritage 2013 12 Draft densely built up. West of Church (now Sunbury) Lane, a handful of houses known as Althorpe Grove was added off Westbridge Road in 1856, to be joined by a cul-de-sac called Freeland Street around 1867–8. Though these were never among the worst streets in north Battersea, they suffered overcrowding and poverty, particularly in the blind alleys.28 After the Second World War all these sites were acquired and demolished by the LCC for new housing (below), the only remnant being an isolated former pub of c.1867, The Stag, at 96 Westbridge Road.
Somerset Estate. The Somerset Estate, started by the LCC in 1962 and finished under the GLC, now occupies a large hunk of the ground between Westbridge Road and Battersea Church Road (Ill. 2.7). Architecturally, its two point blocks (Selworthy and Sparkford Houses) and seven lower blocks (Chelwood, Clevedon, Crewkerne, Draycott, Exford, Misterton and Shepton Courts) constitute one of Battersea’s more vigorous public housing developments.
The LCC had been accumulating pockets of slum property for redevelopment in this district since 1952. The largest such acquisition, made in 1957, was around Handley Street, by which name the subsequent project was first known. By 1961 the LCC had almost eight acres in hand, and embarked on a scheme for 296 dwellings in two 21-storey blocks and six fourstorey ‘cluster blocks’ of maisonettes, supplemented by two lower groups for old people.29 The design presented by the Architect’s Department was based on housing types with Brutalist-style elevations then being built on similar terrain at the Canada Estate, Bermondsey, to a pattern worked out by Colin Lucas and Philip Bottomley. They were also being adopted at the same time for the Westbury Estate, just beyond the Battersea border north of Wandsworth Road. The maisonette blocks present strongly modelled, syncopated elevations in which cantilevered concrete floor slabs and downstand beams play their part, set off by bands of grey brickwork (Ill. 2.8).
Survey of London © English Heritage 2013 13 Draft The open staircases are particularly trenchant. The estate’s original colour palette has been much modified, all the concrete being now overlaid in cream paint, and much of the brickwork in black. The two point blocks are grouped together in the north-west portion of the estate, nearer the river. The righthand side of each elevation is canted out in bays of three and four storeys at a time to obviate monotony. The ground storeys were originally left open.
Space was at first reserved in the centre of the estate for a children’s home;
this was then shifted to a position next to Bolingbroke Walk, but the building erected around 1965 has since been demolished and replaced with private flats. At the extreme north-west position next to Battersea Church Road is Dimson Lodge, a low-rise building with an oversailing roof. Named after the GLC councillor Gladys Dimson, it was originally a tenants’ hall but since 2007 has been a clubroom for the elderly.30 The Somerset Estate has survived in better condition than its Bermondsey counterpart, which encountered problems of vandalism from the beginning.
The funnel-like shape of the district now given over to Wandsworth Council’s Surrey Lane Estate had been determined before 1772 by Battersea’s emerging road system. Within the confines of a triangle of roads connecting village, bridge and common fields, a handful of detached houses sprang up in the later 1700s and early 1800s, mostly connected with the market gardens then predominant in this area—among them the Russell family’s Enham Nursery, in the ‘Shoulder of Mutton Field’ between Westbridge Road and Hyde Lane, known in the 1820s and 30s for its rare geraniums. Otherwise there was little in the way of development.31 Survey of London © English Heritage 2013 14 Draft South of Hyde Lane, most of the land facing Battersea Bridge Road almost as far as Surrey Lane was owned in the early 1840s by William Hurst Ashpitel of Clapton Square, for whom the local builder William Everett erected a pair of villas at either end of his field’s long frontage. But concerted development only began after 1848, when this ground and the Enham Nursery were acquired by the brothers Charles William and William Henry Spicer, then both of Upper Brook Street. (William Henry was better known as Henry T. Spicer, the barrister turned dramatist, poet, writer on spiritualism and friend of Dickens, who died in 1891.) In association with the solicitors W.
T. Mackrell and J. C. Lethbridge, the Spicers went on to develop these nine acres or so from the late 1840s into the late 1860s with terraces of houses and some shops facing the main roads—i.e. in Westbridge Road (south side), Hyde Lane (or Road) and Battersea Bridge Road—and in three new residential side-streets, Harley, Spicer and Randall Streets. A separately owned corner of land at the junction of Battersea Bridge Road and Surrey Lane—once part of Little Hill Shot—had already been built up around 1847
on both fronts by Charles Chabot.32 Two notable buildings of this period were:
the Lammas Hall, Battersea’s first public hall, opened in 1858 in a converted beer-house at the junction of Westbridge Road with Surrey Lane; and Battersea Police Station, a predecessor of the present station, which opened in 1861 in a building at the north corner of Battersea Bridge Road and Hyde Lane (vol. 49).