Battersea Overview

Above: The original village of Battersea stood beside the Thames. The village church remains today, now surrounded by modern buildings.

Battersea was once a tiny fishing village on the banks of the Thames. Its name goes back to AD 693 when it was first mentioned as ‘Batriceseg’. It also appears in the Domesday Book (1086) as ‘Patricesy’. The ‘ea’ in today’s spelling derives from ‘ey’ in Anglo-Saxon and refers to an island which, in this case, was probably a small piece of land within the marshes that was surrounded by water. The name, therefore, means ‘Beaduric’s or Patrick’s Island’ but the name ‘Beaduric’ is more likely.

Above: Outline map (in red) of the London Borough of Wandsworth. The additional boundary (in yellow) shows the boundary between the pre-1965 Metropolitan Boroughs of Battersea (right) and Wandsworth (left). On the map, the GREEN dot shows the ancient village of Battersea – known to be in existence from Saxon times. The YELLOW dot shows Nine Elms which came into being after 1086.

Battersea was an early manor and, at the time of the Domesday Book (1086), it was held by the monks at what we now call Westminster Abbey. At the Dissolution of the Monasteries (1536) the manor passed to the Crown and in 1627 the manor was granted to Sir Oliver St John and continued to be owned by the St John family for at least two centuries.

From at least AD 800 there was a parish church, called St Mary. The church was unusually mentioned in the Domesday Book. Today’s 18th century church stands on the same site within a churchyard which borders the bank of the River Thames.

The name of the original village of Battersea was used for the Metropolitan Borough of Battersea, which was one of 28 Metropolitan Boroughs formed in 1900. It continued until 1 April 1965 when Battersea and Wandsworth were combined to form the larger London Borough of Wandsworth. The London Borough is still the administrative unit today.

Most of the land covered by the Metropolitan Borough was just open farmland for centuries, being used for market gardens. Large amounts of produce were grown which was sold at London’s markets and fed those who lived in the Westminster and City of London areas.

There are no other early villages within Battersea to be mentioned but, at the top NE ‘corner’, the land was called Nine Elms because of nine elm trees which stood on the land. That land is now immediately west of Vauxhall.

Village life around Battersea gradually gave way to streets lined with houses. Much of the land was used by factories and by Victorian times a large proportion of the land was built up. To provide a large green space, Battersea Park was laid out beside the Thames. Work began in 1846 and it was opened by Queen Victoria in 1858. It is one of London’s treasured open spaces.

It will be seen from the map that Clapham Common is shared by both the London Borough of Wandsworth and the London Borough of Lambeth.

-ENDS-

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