Local Notes: Stories of our neighbourhoods | Richard Saxon
Tuesday 23 March 2021
For 35 years we have lived in a 1980s Wates estate on the Thames-side site of the Morgan Crucible Works, beside Battersea Bridge.
It was an early part of the change of the South Bank riverside from industrial uses to residential and commercial and this change has progressed to create a linear neighbourhood from Albert Bridge in the east to Wandsworth Bridge in the west. Our estate, at 2-4 storeys of brick-faced town houses and flats, lushly planted, looks suburban now with much greater densities adopted subsequently. The flour mill to our west became the site of Richard Roger’s Montevetro ‘sundial’ slab.
A timber yard beside the railway bridge is now a Patel Taylor ‘wobbly’ 28 storey tower of white platters. Gordon’s Gin factory has become a Broadway Malyan village of 12- 15 storey buildings. The area to the east of Battersea Bridge is now what I call ‘the Battersea Creative Quarter’, with the HQ of Norman Foster’s empire, Vivienne Westwood’s base and the second campus of the Royal College of Art. The RCA is shortly to complete a huge studio and research building by Herzog and de Meuron, a knobbly brick liner with the largest northlights ever constructed (probably). The once-marginal retail outlets which used to huddle along Battersea Bridge Road and Parkgate Road are gentrifying to provide a passable local offering. The RCA even has a Co-op store under its Haworth Tompkins ‘Dyson’ building.
The riverside walk created in every redevelopment so far looks across to the Chelsea Embankment, aka Cheyne Walk. The view sweeps from Ray Moxley’s Chelsea Harbour, past Farrell’s current rebuilding of the Lots Road power station and adjacent land and Eric Lyon’s Worlds End to Christopher Moran’s Tudor fantasy palace, Crosby Hall. Property prices treble per square foot as you cross the bridge.
It’s not a quiet corner. We are on the final approach to Heathrow’s north runway and have the Battersea Heliport, convenient for global practice. The army Chinooks thunder by, morning and evening. Red buses connect us to Clapham Junction, Victoria, Sloane Square and South Kensington as it is over a mile to any tube or train. But it has been a haven during lockdown, with gardens, little overshadowing and walks in all directions. On a sunny Sunday recently, there were thousands on the riverside walk up to Battersea Park and on to the Power Station. That’s another ‘urban village’ to be visited, when the Northern Line extension opens.