A brief history of Battersea and where it stands today


Battersea was once famous for its vegetables, fruits, flowers, and pork. It was the generator and supplier of food for Londoners, and many other places across Britain. That was however way before industrialization changed the landscape for good. Later, it became the seat of industry and “power”, as Battersea, a tiny suburb on the Southern bank of River Thames, became a site for many  factories and mills, starting the 16th century.The easy access to water and transport made it perfect for development.

It got a vastly different look after the Industrial Revolution which metamorphosed Britain. The mostly residential inner-city district in the London borough of Wandsworth became galvanized by new industries and plants. It also got connected with other parts of the London through a powerful railway network that crisscrossed Battersea. During the later part of the nineteenth century, two locomotive works, one at Longhedge, and the other at Nine Elms were set up. There were also locomotive power depots, and this once largely agricultural manor with vast open, green spaces and arable lands become the center of town development. The population also exploded in the area as new civic buildings and government offices were constructed in the area.

Today, it is known for Battersea Park, one of South London’s largest and main parks, and the riverside promenades, malls, and diverse range of architecturally-acclaimed private properties. Today, the once industrialized and maze-like suburb resembles any other upscale London residential zone. In the post-Second World War period, mainly after the 1970s, there was a clamor to return this place to its former state of calm and serenity. The unplanned factories, plants, and shops were demolished and many got relocated, and new well-planned apartment buildings replaced them on the skyline.

One of the most iconic buildings in the area is the Battersea Power Station which had been decommissioned in 1983 and has remained largely vacant until 2012. However, a new consortium of Malaysian builders has accepted the challenge to try and transform the iconic building into a residential cum luxury construction project with a large commercial space as well. Plans and visions for metamorphosing the building and resuscitating it had largely remained a fantasy and remained in the pipeline but the present set of designers and developers seem to be serious.

With the reinvention of Nine Elms residential zone, modern architectural marvels are starting to come up and it has started to resemble a well-planned “village” in London. Its property prices have started to resemble, and even rival, those of Chelsea or Kensington on the other side of the river Thames.

History of Battersea Power Station

The electricity supply in London and its suburbs till the 18th century was erratic and unreliable because there was a number of small but badly managed power stations who competed to keep the price down but didn’t fret over the quality of service. There were frequent power interruptions and load shadings. During the beginning of the 20th century, there was a lot of murmur and discussion in the parliament that electricity generation and supply should be nationalized and unified into a single system. Hence, a publicly owned power distribution system was incorporated. It was suggested in 1927, that a government-owned power station, be developed on the southern bank of the River Thames.

There was a countrywide protest against the decision because it was deliberated in many public forums that the new construction would lead to the creation of pollution in a city which was already reeling under the weight of years of unplanned industrialization and pollution. The realization had just dawned that pollution was a public health hazard and can’t be left unchallenged.

However, the parliament went ahead with their decision and the iconic Battersea Power Station was constructed in the 1930-1940s. It was completed in 1948 by the British Electric Authority and was commissioned in 1953. It produced around 400000 kilowatts of electricity and had the highest thermal efficiency. For over 30 years, it remained the largest thermal power station in the UK and was often referred to as the “Temple of Power”.

It is believed that the initial deco interior and grand design was planned by J Theo Halliday, but Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, the famous architect was brought onboard to complete the construction. He was responsible for the iconic four-chimney exterior façade of the building.

Modern Battersea tower

The modern tower will now be one of the most expensive luxury residential complexes in the metropolis. It will have penthouses which could each be priced over £6 million and studio flats which could be £400000 or even more. The tower will include luxury apartments constructed by such deferred names like Gehry Partners, Foster and Partners, and so on. The New Zone 1 will have a modern underground rail station and river bus services.

The development is being managed by Battersea Power Station Development Company Limited (BPSDC) and brings financial strength, expertise in real estate management and construction business to the table. The consortium has also received wholehearted support from the central government and the local civic authorities of London and Battersea. Most importantly, they are representing the dreams and aspirations of millions of Londoners and foreigners.

It will also have a number of offices, cafeterias, restaurants, leisure parks, and event spaces and an electric boulevard with an eclectic mix of businesses. It is expected to become a booming hub of commercial activities and residential area which would become the envy of other residential neighborhoods in London.

Apple to set up its new London campus in the iconic Battersea Power Station

Apple has already confirmed that it will lease out almost 40% of the total office space in the new building which will accommodate its entire 1400-strong team from existing London facilities under one room. Apple has termed it a unique opportunity to gather its entire team at one place which it believes will allow closer cooperation, collaboration leading to cutting-edge research and innovation.

Apple will occupy almost 5,00,000 square feet of office space across 6 floors of the central Boiler House of the historic building, and will, in all probability, move into its new campus in the year 2021.

Battersea Power Station’s brush with fame

Although the Battersea area has always been an important part of the history of modern Britain, it grabbed headlines globally and become a huge tourist attraction after it appeared on the cover of the famous English band Pink Floyd’s music album “Animals”, which was the band’s take on the prevailing socio-political situation at that time.

For the principal photography, an inflatable pink model pig was tethered to the southern chimney of the tower. The album became popular in the UK, the US, and many other countries, and received generally favorable reviews. Since then, Pink Floyd fans keep returning to this place and often treat it as a memorial or a mausoleum.

Battersea has had a chequered history. It has gone through spectacular ups and dramatic downs. It has been at the receiving end of a number of shifts in government policy and has always transformed with the changing public aspirations.

It is ready once again to change with new aspirations for a better life, cleaner environment, and more sustainable growth. Come and be a part of this new journey.