A place steeped in history and industrial progress, the yin to Chelsea's yang by Joe Campbell

Battersea London power station river thames black and white

in the upper reaches of the London Borough of Wandsworth lies Battersea, a town almost as decorated in landmarks as its more famous neighbour, Westminster.

Originally a part of Surrey, the settlement of Badric’s Island (which later became ‘Patrisey’, and then eventually Battersea) radiated out from the town’s ‘nucleus’ St. Mary’s Church, which is said to have been built originally by the Anglo Saxons in 800 AD. Before the industrial revolution, much of St. Mary’s large parish was farmland that provided food for the City, as well as more specialised products such as lavender, which is where Lavender Hill gets its name, and asparagus, which were affectionately known as ‘Battersea Bundles’.

Battersea London battersea reach alfred yockney

Battersea Reach from a 1910 print by Alfred Yockney

The area slowly became more and more industrialised, which peaked in 1939 with the completion of Wandsworth’s most famous landmark, the Battersea Power Station. Work originally started on the first part of the station in 1929, and was completed and operational in the late 30’s, featuring only two of the famous chimneys. When the power station was first proposed, protests from locals were vociferous, with concerns that it would be an eyesore with foul emissions atop the list. To counter this, Sir Giles Gilbert Scott was commissioned to design the building’s exterior, a renowned architect who also designed the red telephone box.

Battersea Arts Centre London Interior Crowd

Another local landmark, Battersea Arts Centre

After its closure in 1975 the power station nearly became a theme park, of all things, but this project was halted due to a lack of funding. In February 2012, the station was put up for sale on the open market for the first time in its history, and was eventually purchased by a Malaysian consortium, who intend to turn the site into a 40 acre shopping and leisure centre with residential areas. Given the sites Grade II listed status, the iconic features of the station, including the chimneys, will remain and work on their restoration has already begun.

Another of Battersea’s most famous buildings is the Dogs & Cats Home, which was originally located in Holloway before it moved into the shade of the Power Station in 1871. On average the home cares for between 8-9,000 cats and dogs every year with an average daily intake of 14 dogs and 8 cats, so if you are thinking of getting a new furry friend be sure to pay them a visit!

Albert Bridge Battersea London River Thames

Albert Bridge

If you want to see some of the most beautiful landscaping in Central London then head to Battersea park, a 200 acre green space complete with a boating lake, nature reserve and children’s zoo. Outside of the zoo the park plays host to a huge variety of flora and fauna, and the well kept spaces are perfect for a summer picnic. The park also plays host to a spectacular fireworks show every November.

“all troops must break step when marching over this bridge

Battersea Park is straddled by two of the three bridges connecting Battersea to Kensington and Chelsea: Battersea Bridge, Albert Bridge and Chelsea Bridge. The oldest of the three, Albert Bridge (which opened in 1873) is notable for the signs at each end which read: “All troops must break step when marching over this bridge” – the way the bridge had been constructed meant that the resonance of the footsteps of enough marching soldiers could cause damage to the structural integrity.

festival garden fountains battersea park

The Festival Garden fountains in Battersea Park

On the other side of these bridges is the Chelsea embankment, where you’ll find some of the most expensive and luxurious properties in England. Pimlico, Sloane Square, Belgravia, Knightsbridge and Kensington are all within a walk or short bus ride from each other, and are where the luckiest of Londoners live, work and play.

Apart from being awash with luxury properties, this area of London is also home to plenty of things to see and do. If it is some retail therapy you are after, you could visit Sloane Square and then saunter up Sloane Street to visit the world famous Harrods in Knightsbridge. If you want to take in some art and culture, you could head to South Kensington and visit the Science Museum, Natural History Museum or the Victoria & Albert Museum. If you want to see another of London’s beautiful green spaces, Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens sit nearby.

millennium arena sports facility battersea park running track pavillion

The Millennium Arena sports facility in Battersea Park

A beautiful summer day out can be found on the north side of Chelsea Bridge, in the grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea. The Chelsea Flower Show has now been going for over 100 years and is the place to see the best of England’s floral mastery. Whilst the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show is now the largest in England, the Chelsea Flower Show is still the most prestigious. Award categories at the show include Best Show Garden, Best Artisan Garden and Best Fresh Garden, amongst others. Unfortunately this year’s show has already ended, but if nature’s beauty is what feeds your soul, next years Chelsea Flower Show is not to be missed!

It is undoubted that one of the things we love most about London is how each area has its own personality and characteristics. The Southbank has its arts and culture, Westminster has its sights to see, but Battersea has a proud history of progress, and a strong connection to Kensington and Chelsea, the heart of luxury.

Sean Murray winner great chelsea garden challenge flower show

Sean Murray, winner of the 2015 Great Chelsea Garden Challenge. (c) BBCPhotographer: Richard Hanmer

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