Jeanne Rathbone

Battersea Industrial Riverfront Walk

Posted in Battersea Industrial Riverfront between Wandsworth and Battersea Bridges by sheelanagigcomedienne on December 22, 2020

Battersea Industrial Riverfront from Wandsworth Bridge to Battersea  Bridge. This was due to be a walk as the Battersea Society contribution to the Wandsworth Heritage Festival 2020 postponed because of the dreadful pandemic. I will be doing a zoom talk in January for the Battersea Society. Details below of this free event.

Thursday 21 January at 6pm Talk on Battersea Riverside Industrial Heritage 

Discover the industrial heritage of Battersea with local historian Jeanne Rathbone.  The waterfront between Wandsworth Bridge and Battersea Bridge was home to major industries including Prices Candle Factory, Garton’s Glucose, Battersea Enamels, the Flours Mills, Morgan Crucible and Brunel’s Sawmills.   To book for Battersea Society events, please email  Zoom login details will be sent out 24 hours before the event. 

 Battersea Bridge to Vauxhall awaits! All of the industry has been obliterated since I came to Battersea in the early sixties and worked in Gartons Glucose laboratory when there was little access along the riverside. Candlemakers Apartments and Battersea Power Station are almost the only visible reminders of the indusry that was based here.

This is not the full length of the Battersea riverfront which stretches almost to Vauxhall Bridge. This will feature Gartons Glucose,  Price’s Candle Factory, Battersea Enamels, London Heliport,  Battersea Square/High Street,  Marc Brunell Sawmills and Morgan Crucible.

First a brief note about the Thames crossings. Until  Putney was opened in 1729, Kingston Bridge was the only crossing of the river between London Bridge and Staines.

Kingston Wooden Bridge

Kingston Bridge was wooden 1219, 1825 a new stone bridge widened 1914, 1906 taking trams.  

Richmond Bridge 1777 is the oldest oldest surviving bridge.  

London Bridge from Roman and Saxon times were wooden till 1209 when the first stone bridge was built. This famous old London Bridge had shops, a chapel and houses. A new bridge, designed by John Rennie, opened in 1831 Replaced in 1973.The old bridge is now sited in Lake Havasu City, Arizona, having been removed brick by brick. It is London’s widest with  6 lanes.

Proposals to build bridges across the Thames at Lambeth and Putney in around 1670 were defeated by the Rulers of the Company of Watermen. 60,000 rivermen who provided ferry services and a pool of naval reserve. List of crossings of the Thames comprising over 200 bridges, 27 tunnels, six public ferries, one cable car link.

London’s Bridges

Battersea  Wooden Bridge 1771, replaced 1890 Bazalgette,  Battersea Railway Bridge 1863 is the only railway bridge crossing the Thames that continuously has carried passengers and freight from the coast to the north of England, Vauxhall Bridge was built in 1816 and rebuilt in 1906.

Old Battersea Bridge showing the Malt Mill c.1805 Daniel Turner 1782-1801 Transferred from Weymouth Museum, Dorset 2017

Wandsworth Bridge, first a toll bridge built by Julian Tolme 1873, in expectation of western terminus of the Hammersmith and City Railway built 1864, problems with drainage on the approach road made access difficult for vehicles.

1937 Tolmé’s bridge was demolished. The present bridge, an unadorned steel cantilever bridge designed by Sir Thomas Frank, opened in 1940.

Wandsworth Bridge opened 1940

All materials used in the construction of the new bridge were of British origin or manufacture. Painted in dull shades of blue as camouflage against air raids, one of the busiest in London, carrying over 50,000 vehicles daily, it has been described as “probably the least noteworthy bridge in London”. 9.1 m wide, crossing the river with five spans, it’s a lattice  truss bridge of wrought iron. Formally opened in a small ceremony in 1873, a celebratory buffet was provided at the nearby pub The Spread E. A ​12 d toll was charged on pedestrians, and carts were charged 6d. Tolls were abolished in 1880. In 1891 weight limit of 5 tons was introduced, and in 1897 a 10 mph. A217 built 1969. (Wandsworth Town Station nearby opened in 1846. It opened as Wandsworth when the Nine Elms to Richmond line came into service, renamed Wandsworth Town in 1903.)

Wandsworth Bridge now marks the boundary above which a lower speed limit on the Thames is enforced 12 knots (22 km/h)  downstream from Wandsworth but because of the number of rowers using the upper reaches of the river, all of the tidal Thames upstream of Wandsworth Bridge is subject to a strictly enforced speed limit of 8 knots.

Chelsea Bridge 1858 replaced 1937.

Albert Bridge was designed by Roland Ordish, built in 1873

Grosvenor Rail Bridge in 1863.

Except for Tower Bridge 1894, Albert Bridge is the only Thames road bridge in central London never to have been replaced.

Much of this info comes from All About Battersea by Henry Simmonds and the Battersea section of the Survey of London.

Panorama of the Thames: A Riverside View of Georgian London by John R. Inglis and Jill Sanders

has succeeded in digitally restoring Samuel Leigh’s 1829 panorama, which was 60 feet long. (It was produced in segments, mainly for the use of people using boats at a time when the river was still the major route for transporting goods)

The extent of the modern panorama extends 52 miles from Hampton to Tower Bridge. Leigh’s panorama covers 30 miles between Richmond and Westminster.

The river Thames has defined the course of economic and industrial development in Battersea, even after the coming of the railways in the 1830s. Seven water mills were recorded in the Domesday Book; inhabitants of the medieval parish of Battersea depended on fishing for a living, from the late 16th century the river’s fertile loam soil flood plain provided an ideal location for market gardening. Well before the Industrial Revolution, both raw materials and locally manufactured products were being transported up and downstream from Battersea wharves in barges and lighters, themselves often built in the local boat yards.

The Thames, Wandle and Falcon river water supplied the motive power for mills and steam engines, and subsequently enabled the establishment of numerous industries which relied on water- intensive industrial processes with watermen and lightermen, barge-owners, ships’ breakers, fishermen, boat-builders mostly situated at Nine Elms.

My walk starts at Wandsworth Bridge. On this stretch from the Panorama it had market gardens with two industries Wandsworth Distillery  and the Silk Factory which was on the site of York House.

This site housed a gin distillery, oil depot and warehouses.“Richard Bush founded Wandsworth Distillery on Gargoyle Wharf on the Thames around 1780. He was a promoter of the Surrey Iron Railway and also with his sons involved with mills along the Wandle. By 1874, the Wandsworth Distillery was under the names John and Daniel Watney.

Wandsworth Distillery and barges.

Gin history The crown attempted to curb imports of French Brandy into Britain, thus  creating a market for Britain’s homegrown alternative and put in place laws to make it easier to brew and sell gin. Gin quickly flooded the streets, gin was “the principal cause of all the vice & debauchery committed among the inferior sort of people” Gin popular with soldiers and colonials living in lands prone to malaria infections: gin was excellent at masking the unpleasant, bitter flavor of the anti-malarial alkaloid quinine Hence G&T

Guinness had acquired the land which was cleared in 1992 and lay derelict until 2002 when developers started construction, in 1996, the site was subject to a famous occupation by ‘The Land Is Ours’ group, creating the ‘Pure Genius!’ Eco Village. Here is a alink to video of it.

The Battersea Society, Wandsworth Society, Putney Society, Tonsley residents Association, West London River Group, Planning Aid for London, Gargoyle Wharf Community Action Group, Thamesbank and residents’ associations in Wandsworth were almost unanimously against the development and put out a joint statement of their objections.

The development is called Battersea Reach

The Berkeley Group blurb claims; Battersea Reach has become a thriving riverside community, offering contemporary designed apartments, relaxing open spaces and fast access to businesses, shops, entertainment and international travel.

The York House site had been a focus for industry since medieval times.

York House

Before York House the area known as Bridges or Bridgecourt had wharves where stone and other materials from the Reigate stone industry were brought by road from Surrey before being loaded onto ships for transportation to ecclesiastical and royal building projects, including Westminster and Waltham Abbeys, Windsor and Rochester Castles, and Westminster Palace.

There was a malt distillery of  Bell in 1741 then Benwell & Waymouth’s till 1820  close to York House which also fattened pigs and cured bacon, feeding the animals on the ‘wort’ left over from the distilling process. In 1743 the archbishop’s surveyor complained that two new houses built recently in the grounds would have been worth more ‘were there not a great distiller next to them who keeps in different stores a thousand hogs’.

When it closed In 1823–4 it was acquired by John Ford as a woolcloth manufactory, included 450ft of wharfage, warehouses, a dye house, counting-house, engine- and boiler-houses, foundry and blacksmith’s forge, and a residence for Ford. The three-storey brick-built woollen mill, over 150ft long, dominated the site and the riverfront. ( Each floor was supported on hollow iron pillars, to take gas tubes or pipes, gas at the time being introduced into textile mills for lighting. He must have had his own gas-making plant on site). Also   erected were a row of 39 four-roomed dwellings, known as Ford’s Buildings, doomed from the beginning and he was forced to sell everything.

It was purchased in 1826 by Ames & Brunskill) a City firm of silk and ribbon makers, until 1850,when another ribbon manufacturer, Cornell, Lyell & Webster took over. In 1875 the glove-making firm of Fownes Brothers, having outgrown their premises in Falcon Road, acquired the site, but increasing industrialization along York Road jeopardized their delicate wares, and by 1884 Fownes’s had removed to a new factory in their home town of Worcester, a centre of gloving’

Garton’s Glucose Factory was next to Price’s candles and the road in between them lead to the river where the lighters wharved. Again river transport brought the maize in lighters. Garton & Sons specialized in sugars for brewing, invert sugar, ‘saccharum’. Expanded to buildings occupying five acres. The firm later became part of the larger Manbré Group of sugar and starch producers.

Garton Hill & Co were sugar refiners who had moved production from Southampton to Battersea in 1882. Their products included a specialist brewing sugar, Garton’s Saccharum, described as fully inverted, free from impurities, and able to ‘brew Beer surpassing even Burton Ales in brightness and endurance’. The company would continue later under the name Manbré & Garton when taken over by Manbré of Hammersmith from 1926 with Richard Garton as Chair. From then on glucose production concentrated here while cane sugar was processed in Hammersmith until the Tate & Lyle takeover.

There was a tragic accident in Gartons in 1899. Thomas Griffin 21-year-old labourer suffered a fatal accident at the refinery. He was working in the hydraulic room when he heard an explosion. It came from a room where his colleague Fred Biggs worked, and he rushed into the steam shouting ‘my mate, my mate’. When he emerged a few minutes later, he was terribly scalded and soon died from his injuries. Awfully, his death was in vain: Briggs had already escaped unhurt. according to the Deputy Coroner at the inquest into it, “a peculiarly sad case”, as Griffin was due to be married on the 11th of the following month. Mr. Arbuckle, Factory Inspector. Mr. Harper, Barrister, appeared for Messrs. Garton, Hill and Co., sugar refiners, Southampton Wharf, Battersea and Frederick Biggs, engineer at Messrs. Garton, Hill. and Co.’s works, said that Griffin worked under him as a fitter.

Harper told the inquest, reported the Evening Standard on 18th April 1899 that, “His clients fully realised the splendid conduct and the high motive which prompted the deceased which prompted the deceased to act as he did.”The Deputy Coroner was, so the newspaper reported, in full agreement and he closed the inquest by telling the court:- “The conduct of a man like him deserves to be recorded.

This tragedy was recorded with a memorial in the Postman’s Park St Martin’s Le Grand, London EC1A. ( St Paul’s Underground)

Devised in 1887 by artist George Frederic Watts, it was first unveiled in 1900 with just four plaques installed. Additions took place in fits and starts (Watts died and his wife took over the project, then the plaque designer quit to work on his novel, with the 53rd tile added in 1931.After a 78-year hiatus, another plaque was finally added in 2009, in honour of Leigh Pitt.

In 1944 a flying bomb caused damage here and after the war Gartons invested heavily in a modern starch-processing plant. I worked for Gartons in the laboratory in the mid sixties testing the starch products. Birds Custard was one customer. I also remember that perfumes and watches were offered for sale by the lightermen!

Many will remember the Battersea Smell. Left-over fibre was piped across the yard, was superheated to make cattle feed. It was this process that created the odour. I really didn’t notice it whilst at work. It was described as a cloying, unpleasant stench that hung over the area for nearly 30 years. Local residents complained of chest illnesses and applied for rate cuts, and though they spent £4 million reducing the nuisance, little improvement was noticeable.

This 1972 video from BBC archives interviews locals about the smell.

Tate & Lyle bought Gartons for £44 million in 1976. I found this Hansard entry where our Battersea North MP Douglas Jay, asked the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection Roy Hatterseley on what grounds his Department decided not to refer to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission the proposed merger between Tate and Lyle and Manbre and Garton.

Mr. Hattersley Primarily because a unified cane sugar refining industry offers the best prospects of keeping the loss of jobs on rationalisation to a minimum, particularly in areas of high unemployment.

The factory had closed by 1980 and most of its buildings were demolished shortly afterwards for the Plantation Wharf housing and office development.

West of Gartons another starch factory, established in 1848 Orlando Jones & Company, holders of a US patent for a process to manufacture starch from rice or corn. Jones’s patent rice-starch was effective in laundering.

When it relocated to Battersea from Whitechapel it was taken over by two men from Bath, William Evill and John Kemp Welch, who had in 1834 bought and successfully developed J. Schweppe & Company, the soda-water manufacturers. They were joined by William Evill Jr also an engineer. Prior to that wheat was used but was becoming scarce it was legislated against for starch manufacture.

Henry Simmonds in All about Battersea 1882 wrote: The process of manufacturing starch from rice was discovered and patented about the year 1840 by Mr. Orlando Jones, founder of the house of the same name. His invention consists in the treatment of rice by a caustic alkaline solution during the steeping, grinding and macerating of the grains. The alkali used is either caustic potash or soda, of such a strength as to dissolve the gluten without destroying the starch; it must consequently vary with the character of the grain and hence the utmost nicety is required. The Battersea Works of Orlando Jones & Co. were built in 1848, the firm having previously carried on their manufacture in Whitechapel, they are situated on the banks of the Thames near the works of Price’s Patent Candle Company, and occupy ground extending from the river to York Road; thus the firm possesses facilities of conveyance both by land and water—this latter is particularly valuable to them to enable them to save all dock, landing and warehousing charges. A large new store has been recently built on their wharf to which rice is barged direct from the ship. From the wharf also the manufactured article itself is conveyed to the docks for shipment to the Continent and our Colonies, with which a large trade is carried on. As an illustration of the extent of Orlando Jones & Co.’s operations it may be added that the box making department is a little factory in itself, and the machinery employed for the various purposes of sawing, dusting, cleaning, lighting, pumping, stirring, and grinding is driven by steam engines. It will be obvious that the manufacture of rice starch on a large scale requires no little capital and skill, and takes high rank among those industrial enterprises which are so peculiarly the characteristic and the glory of our age and country. Messrs. Orlando Jones & Co’s manufacture has been awarded nine prize medals at International Exhibitions, and the grand distinction of the gold medal of the Académie Nationale of Paris. These medals have been awarded ‘for introduction of the process,’ ‘for excellence of manufacture’ and ‘for large production.

William Evill 1821-1905 William Evill – Graces › William_Evill worked on the construction of the Great Eastern Railway, a member of the The Institution of Civil Engineers (for 67 years exceeding that of any of his fellow members), designed and erected, and enlarged, the extensive works of the company. He became a JP, Tory candidate for Battersea, wrote“Journey to Rome and back,” and “Rambling Records of a Long and Busy Life,” a mine of entertaining and instructive reminiscences.

William Jr lived in Lyncombe Villa(named ‘after the beautiful valley in which my wife lived in Bath’) on St John’s Hill near the railway bridge. As Evill’s family grew to twelve children he took over parts of the villas’ gardens, made additions to Lyncombe House, including a ‘capacious’ music room, where his huge musical brood and associates from St John’s College formed an orchestra. One such extension, in 1875, was designed by E. C. Robins, architect of three Battersea churches.The sites of Lyncombe House and its neighbours have been occupied by the Peabody Trust’s Clapham Junction Estate since the 1930s.

The company was acquired by Colmans, the mustard manufacturers who transferred to their Norwich works in 1901. Interestingly, I found some correspondence in 1879 between William Evill with Colman’s Record – Unilever › Record querying their right to claim Cross of the Legion of Honour was for the company!

Next engineers Archibald Dawnay & Sons Ltd, founded in 1870, bought the site and demolished most of the buildings, spending £2,000 on a new a giant open iron-and-steel shed . An even larger workshop was added alongside in 1924. The Evills had also built workers’ cottages (Starch Factory Road) lining the short access road to the factory. This was renamed Steelworks Road in 1907 and eventually demolished in the 1960s for an office block. ‘Archibald Dawnays Ltd, constructural steelworks company founded in 1922 at Battersea. it was one of the oldest Structural engineering concerns. It supplied the Steelwork for some of the largest buildings in England – the Stock Exchange, the Baltic Exchange, some of the largest cinemas in the country,, the Shepherd Bush Pavilion, and the Brixton Astoria, the Central Hall, Westminster; the School of Hygiene in Bloomsbury, theatres, telephone exchanges, post offices, power Stations, railway Stations, road and railway bridges. Dawnays left around 1970 and the site was cleared in the mid-1980s, partly to help accommodate the enormous Plantation Wharf development spilling over from Gartons next door, partly for a trading estate and hotel on Gartons Way and York Road.

There were two riverside plots Sherwood Lodge and York House—set in extensive grounds, with a deep creek at the mouth of the Hydeburn or Falcon brook flowing into the Thames and forming a natural boundary between them. Industries were drawn to the area in the 1740s and ’50s, and eventually both sites were swallowed up to form the factory of one of Battersea’s biggest and best-known companies, Price’s Patent Candle Company.

Battersea Enamels were based in the grounds of York House. It was short-lived but historically important factory producing objets de vertu and other wares in what became known as Battersea enamel. It was based in the grounds of York House. Sir Stephen Theodore Janssen, who owned the premises, and funded the venture, was an aristocrat and entrepreneur. He brought in the expertise of two Irishmen, Brooks brought expertise in the printing processes and Captain Henry Delamain who was a potter but both had left the partnership by 1754. They traded initially as Janssen, Delamain, and Brooks.

Battersea Enamel ware were small luxury items—snuff-boxes, patch boxes, bottle tickets, watch- and toothpick cases, coat buttons and miniature paintings—moulded from thin copper and applied with a white vitreous coating, which when fired gave the appearance of porcelain.

Fine-quality engraved illustrations, usually of royal portraits or picturesque scenes, were then inked on to paper and transferred to the items by a special process, and fixed by further firing. Finally, additional details in enamel colour were applied by brush. The relatively cheap materials and partly mechanical nature of the processes allowed for production at speed and on a considerable scale, the intention being to undercut the trade in similar but expensive items in gold and porcelain from the Continent. As well as enamels, the factory also produced decorative earthenware tiles known as ‘Dutch tiles’.

Janssen was a man of wide artistic and business interests and had a high social standing. Sir Stephen Theodore Janssen, 4th Baronet was an English Member of Parliament and Lord Mayor of London in 1754. He was also the MP for London from 1747 to 1754 and Chamberlain of London from 1765 to 1776. In 1749 he was appointed one of the Trustees for the Establishment of the Colony of Georgia. John Brooks, was a Dublin-born mezzotint engraver and publisher, was a pioneer and possibly inventor of the revolutionary transfer-printing process that was fundamental to the factory’s output. Delamain, a former captain in the Duke of Saxe-Gotha’s army, was owner of Ireland’s foremost Delftware factory, and a potter with a particular expertise

French-born artist and engraver Simon François Ravenet, who had come to London in the 1740s to engrave part of the Marriage à-la-mode series for William Hogarth. Ravenet has also been credited with developing the transfer process, and was certainly responsible for engraving many of the copper-plate illustrations used on Battersea enamel wares. I think his engraving of designs for the Battersea Enamel wine labels of the cute putti quite charming and would like to own some! They sell for a few thousand.

Vitreous enamel has many useful properties: it is smooth, hard, chemically resistant, durable, scratch has long-lasting colour fastness, is easy to clean, and cannot burn. Enamel is glass, not paint, so it does not fade under ultraviolet light.

In 1755 Horace Walpole listed ‘a kingfisher and ducks of the Battersea enamel’ in his catalogue of specimens at Strawberry Hill and sent to a friend “a trifling snuff-box only as a sample of the new manufacture at Battersea which is done with Copper plates.”

The Anti-Gallican Society was formed around 1745 to counter the influx of French goods and the pervasive cultural influence of France to promote British manufacturing. Janssen, was an early Grand President of the Society. The first enamel medallions were produced at Battersea, continuing at Birmingham after 1756. The society met in London four times a year.The society continued in being until the end of the Napoleonic Wars. In the centre is a painted enamel of the arms of the Society St George on horseback spearing flag of Royal Arms of France.The escutcheon is supported by a yellow lion and a grey double-headed eagle.A blue enamelled scroll with a motto For our Country.

1756, after only three years in operation, Janssen was bankrupt, and all of his personal property as well as the factory and stock were put up for auction.

The dispersal of materials and workmen to provincial centres, especially Bilston, Birmingham and Liverpool, saw a flowering of Battersea-style enamels, often bearing the same printed decorations. This has made the authentication and dating difficult. The book by Egan Mew of Battersea Enamels published in 1926 has a description of the auction sale contents. Amongst the lots at Jannsen’s bankruptcy sale in 1756 were ‘Bottle tickets with Chains for all sorts of Liquor, and of different subjects…’. There appears to be seventeen different designs and around forty different recorded titles.

Lady Charlotte Schreiber left her collection of Battersea Enamels to the V and A in 1884. She was a fascinating women who as an accomplished linguist, and the wife of a foremost Welsh ironmaster John Guest, she became a leading figure in the study of the wider Welsh Renaissance of the 19th century. She had ten children and took over her husbands business when she was widowed. With her second husband Charles Schreiber, her children’s tutor and they became avid collectors. She became a well known Victorian collector of porcelain; their collection is held in the V&A. She was noted as an international industrialist, pioneering liberal educator, philanthropist and elite society hostess.

PRICES Candle Factory

It was essentially a family business but there was no Mr Price. It was  founded by William Wilson and Benjamin Lancaster and run by Wilson and his two sons George and James for much of the nineteenth century, called Edward Price & Company in its original form, the name apparently taken from a relation of Lancaster’s to preserve his and Wilson’s anonymity, candle-making at the time being generally considered a low undertaking. were snobbish about being associated with an industry that was considered a low class trade associated with dead animals and unpleasant smells.

Prices Candle Factory School

Wilson was a Russia broker dealing in tallow and acquired a patent for hydraulically separating coconut oil into its liquid and solid latter (stearine) as a cheap and cleaner substitute for tallow in candle manufacture, the former as a lamp oil. Made the candles for Queen Victoria’s wedding thus gaining a royal warrant. In order to secure regular supplies of raw materials bought a plantation in Ceylon and erected steam-crushing mills there so that the oil could be processed before export. Later William’s son George experimented with mixing strong alkalis with vegetable or animal fats which caused the liquid to separate from the solid components. This process, known as saponification, was already used by soap makers. Further distillation using heat and high pressure to produce a harder, pure fat known as stearine. This was excellent for candle making as it burned brightly without smell or smoke.

By-products of the stearine process included light oils and glycerine. Price’s soon found uses for these by-products, which made valuable contributions to the company balance sheets. Using the new process, candles could also be made from other raw materials including skin fat, bone fat, fish oils and waste industrial grease. The original Edward Price & Co. became the Price’s Patent Candle Company in 1847 joint-stock enterprise with about 84 staff.

The need to minimize the risk of fire the buildings were long, single-storey structures of yellowish stock brick, with large Venetian or recessed semi-circular windows. Only a few—generally the road-front subsidiary buildings—had any upper floors; and nearly all were topped with giant curving roofs of fire-resistant galvanized corrugated iron.

Drawing by James McNeill Whistler of Prices Candle Factory

Twenty-five years later had become a national household name employing 2,300 staff of which 1,200 were boys. Later they imported palm oil from West Africa as a way of providing work which would prevent natives being sold off as slaves. By the end of the 19th century it was the world’s largest manufacturer of candles exporting to all parts of the empire.  Price’s was a benevolent company, introduced an educational programme for staff, a profit-sharing scheme in 1869 and in 1893 a contributory employee’s pension scheme. The provided free breakfast club and canteen to facilitate shift workers. Price’s was one of the biggest employers in Battersea and a global company even in the Victorian era.

In 1877 it produced 147 million candles, 32 million night lights, almost one million gallons of lamp oil and a large range of household and toilet soaps. New buildings for printing, cardboard-box making and other activities replaced the old structures at the west end of York Road, thereby improving the main frontage. Price’s was now at its height, exploiting by-products such as benzine and kerosene. By 1900 paraffin wax candles had a 90% share of the market and their Motorine oil dominated the UK motor oil industry in the early 1900s .

Widespread use of gas and electric lighting led to a reduction in the use of candles, and the company branched out into motor oils, soap and white spirit and opening subsidiary factories in Africa and Asia.

UK demand went in 1910 Price’s set up candle factories in Johannesburg, Shanghai, Chile, Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), Morocco, Pakistan, New Zealand and Sri Lanka to serve local demand.

The Mayor of Battersea in 1912 Thomas Brogan first Irish nationalist and Catholic mayor in London was a Price’s employee who mentored John Archer who was the first Black mayor of a London borough the following year. In was informed that one of Thomas’s sons went to work in Price’s in South Africa.

Price’s was taken over by Lever Brothers in 1919, wanting to diversify into a wide range of fat-based products. After the war, bomb-damage and a changing market saw Price’s contract. Two V1 rockets hit the factory in 1944 and several buildings had to be reconstructed.

British Petroleum (BP), one of a consortium of oil companies that had owned Price’s since the 1920s, removed the motor-oil side of the business to Grangemouth in 1954, prompting the sale of the bomb-damaged north-eastern half of the Battersea site and its redevelopment as a heliport and small industrial estate.

In the early 2000s the factory became upmarket apartments, known as the Old Candle factory and Candlemakers former cardboard-box factory, paper wicks and night-light store, of 1891–2, on the corner with York Place, now with a modern third storey and French-style pavilion roof. These are only a remnant of the complex of buildings that were here.

Hilaire is a poet and member of the Battersea Society Heritage Committee. London Undercurrents is a delightful anthology consisting of poems by her and Joolz about women, Hilaire’s reference south of the river. She reads her poem Wickers about the girls who put the wick in the night lights in Price’s—NvQwJPiwjv2nUzElGxA6YaKiWMMj1R5QGYJdZm-4fzNGnZY6CM


The Festival of Britain 1951 on the South Bank site had a site which was temporarily earmarked by the Ministry of Aviation for flights from 1952 which closed in 1957. The Helicopter Association of Great Britain promoted a report setting out guidelines for a heliport within fifteen minutes’ drive of central London but recommended no sites.

The application from Westland Aircraft for an ‘interim’ heliport in York Road, Battersea was successful when in 1958 Henry Brooke, Minister for Housing and Local Government, guided by London County Council advice, approved the Westland scheme for a provisional seven years.

The London Heliport Ltd was the brainchild of (Sir) Eric Mensforth, chairman of Westland Aircraft and the man most responsible for the successful production of Sikorsky-type helicopters in Britain. It was originally promoted as an advertisement for Westlands, not hitherto flight operators, under the slogan ‘Westland gives London a heliport’; according to the Helicopter Association, ‘no profit is to be expected’.

It is a very small site, making use of a jetty to provide a helipad for take-off and landing, and onshore parking for three to four aircraft, depending upon their size. The heliport provides landing, parking and refuelling services between 08:00 and 21:00 (flights are permitted between 07:00 and 23:00), albeit parking is normally restricted to smaller helicopter categories.

The small portion of the Belmont Works site off York Road acquired allowed little room for buildings or operations. The T-shaped concrete slab stretching into the water consisted of a 65ft stem and a crossbar 125ft by 53ft, capable of withstanding both the single-engine helicopters then operating and the heavier double-engine machines projected but not yet in service.

On land the space was mostly given over to parking helicopters, but to one side was a single-storey building for passengers and staff, and a store with a timber control centre on top, managed by International Aeradio Ltd. The planning and structure were in the hands of H. J. B. Harding of Lewis & Duvivier, engineers, architectural features being provided by Caroline Oboussier.

The heliport was opened on St George’s Day 1959 by John Hay of the Ministry of Transport and Civil aviation, who arrived in a Port of London Authority launch and departed in a Westland Widgeon. With other options still being considered, Hay was cautious in his predictions for the heliport, thinking it too far from the centre of London for regular passenger services. BEA and Sabena, the civil airlines most interested in helicopter operations, pronounced themselves ready to fly there occasionally, but the main users anticipated were hospital patients, businessmen, and ‘aircraft carrying news and pictures for London newspapers’.

Traffic in the early years was limited to daylight hours, emergencies excepted, with 1,515 movements recorded in the first year. The numbers did not rise much till 1966, when turbojet helicopters for executives started flying. By then the seven-year option on the site had been extended; this was repeated recurrently until permanent planning permission was granted in 1995. After the number of flight movements climbed, an annual upper limit of 12,000 was fixed in 1977. By the end of 2006 this had been exceeded, against a background of a growing population along the Thames corridor used for the majority of flights and increasing concern over noise levels. By that date the heliport was owned by Weston Aviation.

It has been much replanned; none of the original buildings survives. In 2003 London Heliport was acquired by Weston Homes. In 2012 it was bought by the Reuben Brothers, who also own Oxford Airport.

Its strategic location provides the ideal launch pad for celebrities, business people, heads of state, and other weathy folk and dignitaries as well as air ambulance and aerial police units. The Children’s Air Ambulance was launhed in 2012 by Simon Le Bon.

Since 2013 it opened up for sightseers who want to get a bird’s eye view of London — provided they can afford it and special trips for the fashionable events including Royal Ascot, British F1 Grand Prix, Festival of Speed/Revival Meetings at Goodwood, Cowes Week, Wimbledon Tennis and inbound for the Chelsea Flower Show.

Paparazzi photos inform us that Tom Cruise, Kendall Jenner, and Mariah Carey are among the celebs who’ve recently flown in here — and apparently the facility is also particularly handy for footballers needing to get places quickly on transfer deadline day. The site of the heliport can only be seen easily from the riverside walkway in Fulham.

On 16 January 2013 a helicopter diverting to London Heliport in adverse weather collided with a construction crane and then crashed into the street near Vauxhall Tower, killing the pilot and one person on the ground. This was the first fatal helicopter crash anywhere near the heliport since records began in 1976.

Edmiston, the luxury yachts, announced in August 2019 that they would be taking over the title sponsorship of the heliport with a restyling of the interior & exterior areas as well as repainting the helicopter landing apron.

View London from 1000 feet above the Thames! See all the major attractions that have made London one of the greatest cities in the world.Approx 60 mins with 30 mins flying. From £99 per person!

So what was set up as a temporay enterprise is still there and it is London’s only heliport.

Beyond the Heliport towards Battersea Square which was the old village of Battersea were a few industries Whiffen’s from1850s made strychnine and quinine at Lombard Wharf, by 1933 had moved to Fulham, fire-brick and sanitary ware manufactory of West Brothers, 1870s until the 1950s.

Walter Carson & Sons paint and varnish works the Grove Works, was the longest lasting, surviving into the 1960s.

Before Battersea Power Station in 1901 Battersea Borough Council’s constructed an electricity generating station beside the Caius Mission till 1972. There was boat- and barge-building mainly from the 1870s at Albion Wharf, beside the White Hart Inn. At Valiant Wharf was a ready-mixed concrete plant 1955–8 by Ham River Grit Co. Ltd, processing cement and aggregates brought by road and river from Kent and Essex expanded into marine aggregates and in 1968 was taken over by the Ready Mixed Concrete. The wharf closed and were replaced by Valiant House flats,

Albion Works of Thomas Hunt & Sons, millwrights, a dye-works at Althorpe House (1850s); a cigar factory in the High Street (1875), Allen and Ernest Lambert, sons of the founder of Lambert & Butler. It became a pipe factory Ductube Company Ltd which closed in the 1950. , E. Wolff & Son Pencils in Battersea the High Street were absorbed into the Royal Sovereign Pencil Co. Ltd, when production moved to Neasden.

Victoria Granaries warehousing and stables,at Battersea Square converted to dance studios for the Royal Academy of Dance. Ship House at Nos 34 & 35 became offices in 1989–91. The Royal Academy of Dance is moving and and has been bought by Thomas’s School to build a secondary School there. Will the young royal children continue their education here?

In Church Road from 1834 was the May & Baker factory perhaps the area’s biggest and best-known chemical company as suppliers to pharmacists of bismuth, camphor, ether and ammoniacal preparations. The firm’s riverside site at Garden Wharf, acquired in 1841, remained its headquarters until 1934.

Bolingbroke House next to St Mary’s Church was the manorial house. In the 1740s it had been home to the famous politician and philosopher Henry St. John, 1st Viscount Bolingbroke.

Bolingbroke House

The house is particularly associated with Henry St John, first Viscount Bolingbroke. Henry St John, 1st Viscount Bolingbroke (1678 –1751) was an English politician, government official and political philosopher. He was a leader of the Tories supported the Jacobite rebellion 1715 escaped to France but was allowed to return to England in 1723. It was his childhood home, and he died there in 1751. Both Bolingbroke’s grandfather, Sir Walter St John (1622–1708), and father, the first Viscount St John (1652–1742), lived there for much longer periods.

Memorial to Viscount Bolingbroke and his wife Mary Clara with inscription N

Most of it was pulled down in the late eighteenth century, leaving the north wing and stables (later occupied in connection with the adjoining flourmills and demolished about 1925.

However, the next structure on the site was the horizontal mill built in 1788 by Thomas Fowler. It was one of Battersea’s first power stations. The two paintings below are by two non related Turners and both are in Tate Britain. The Swan is the pub in Daniel’s painting around 1805. with the old Battersea Bridge erected 1771. Daniel lived and worked in Horseferry, Millbank, just a few moments’ walk from where the present-day Tate Britain stands.

It had been built in 1788 for Thomas Fowler, an oil and colour merchant, and first used for crushing linseed for a few years before, in 1792, being annexed to the extensive adjacent maltings and distillery owned by John Hodgson, and being put to use grinding corn and malt. The white tower contained a forty-metre-high machine, comprising horizontal ‘floats, as in the wheel of a water-mill’ which when the shutters were opened turned to generate power, ‘even where there is little wind. This strange gasometer-like horizontal windmill monopolized the skyline around the church for forty years and built on land reclaimed from the river in front of the formal gardens of Bolingbroke House.

The idea that Bolingbroke’s home had become the site of an industrial windmill horrified one former visitor, who wrote in 1817:“This house, once sacred to philosophy and poetry… is now appropriated to the lowest uses! The house of Bolingbroke become a windmill!.. yesterday, this spot was the… seat of enjoyment of Bolingbroke, Pope, Swift… (now) vanished; while in their place I behold hogs and horses, malt-bags and barrels, stills and machinery!” (Rev Daniel Lysons 2nd Edition 1811).

The management of the mill changed from Hodgson to Thomas Dives probably coincident with the change from wind to steam power, which occurred before 1833.

It worked by wind until 1825, when the windmill was dismantled just , leaving the base which was removed in 1849 but the site was used for milling, using other machinery, until 1882. The mill was supplemented by a steam engine and Pitt the Younger is said to have shown great interest in the whole enterprise. Thomas Dives was succeeded by his son Frederick on his death in 1880.

Frederick took James William Mayhew into partnership some time before 1890 and the Mayhew family eventually took over control (1894) though Frederick Dives retained an interest until at least 1901.

Mark James Mayhew (1871-1944 was born in Battersea and in 1891 was living at 1 Spencer Park, Wandsworth with his parents and described as a Miller’s Assistant. He became a great motoring enthusiast rather like Viscount Curzon 1884-1964 the MP for Battersea South who became a racing driver winning the 1931 24 Hours Le Mans race. Served as President of the British Racing Drivers’ Club which he co-founded in 1928 and served as its President until his death in 1964.

Mayhew once stood as a Radical parliamentary candidate for Wandsworth, was an unusually enlightened owner, drawing rebukes from the Master Millers’ Association for paying his workers more than was usual in the trade at the time when he reduced their working hours for the same pay.

As a Yeomanry officer he has made considerable use of horseless vehicles during manoeuvres, and also in conducting staff officers, and frequently the Commander-in-Chief himself, on official inspections. He organised the Corps of Automobile Volunteers. One of his Captains was Charles Rolls of Rolls Royce.He participated in the great Continental Road Races of the day -the Paris to Bordeaux races and the ‘Gordon Bennett’ series. He is the owner of, and drove, Benz, Panhard, Mors, New Orleans and Napier cars. In May 1902, he spent what was probably the first recorded motoring honeymoon – in Wales. Soon afterwards his wife was photographed behind the wheel of her own Baby Peugeot.

He also was, of course, keen on the use of motor vehicles in the milling industry. He was quoted in this mechanical-haulage-for-millers article in 1905 when he tells us about his fleet of lorries .

In 1914 when Mayhew’s business was acquired by Joseph Rank Ltd, the leviathan of British flourmilling, primarily as a vehicle for Joseph’s second son Rowland to practise his own theories on modern milling. This was a time of tremendous growth for the family firm, and increasing involvement and responsibility for Rowland and his two brothers, James and J. Arthur Rank. It was said that but for Rowland’s death in 1939, the success of his firm—which kept the name Mark Mayhew Ltd—might have rivalled that of his father’s.

Rowland began reconstructing the mills on Rank family lines, using his father’s architects, Sir Alfred Gelder and Llewellyn Kitchen. In 1915–18 land was reclaimed from the river to add to the wharf, the remnants of the old horizontal mill were demolished, and a new range of mill, silo and screens buildings erected. Within a decade a second, larger range of buildings for the old maltings site was cleared and its wharf extended into the river. Taller than hitherto, with silos over 110ft high, the new mills could only be raised under waivers from LCC building regulations. Gelder, a veteran of British mill design, complained that he had never ‘been subject to such severe conditions.

The additions, which connected to the existing range at its north and south ends to form a sort of quadrangle, were made c.1934–7. The great height of the buildings—in particular the grain silos—was deemed necessary to enable an entire barge of imported grain to be unloaded at one time. From the silos it was taken to the adjoining screens for washing and purifying, then crushed in the mills by steel rollers powered by coal-fired steam-engines.

The business was incorporated into the Rank company which, in 1962, acquired Hovis McDougal to become Rank Hovis McDougal. All buildings on the site remained until the 1970s. The flourmills finally closed in 1992, and were sold and demolished in 1997 to be replaced by Montevetro which was designed by the Richard Rogers Partnership which took six years to build and finished in 2000. I think it an interesting juxtaposition. Both building dominate the charming St Mary’s Church which is grade 1 listed .

We move along to the site that was dominated by Morgan Crucible but was built on the site that was occupied by Marc Brunel’s Sawmills and boot factory. Morgan’s Walk now occupies that area which is on a modest scale compared to Montevetro apartments alongside of Richard Rogers Partnership’s towering over St Mary’s. As part of the planning agreement an intended private riverside walk was made public, and the site of the disused fire station at Battersea Bridge incorporated into the scheme and landscaped as a public open space.

Battersea was graced with the genius of Brunel who set up his sawmills a little way along from Battersea bridge. Marc Brunel 1769-1949 was a French-émigré engineer and inventor who solved the historic problem of underwater tunnelling. He is best known for the construction of the Thames Tunnel and as the father of Isambard Kingdom Brunel. He was born in Hacqueville Normandy on the family farm. At the age of eleven he was sent to a seminary, where they allowed him to learn carpentry and sketch ships in the local harbour. As he had no interest in the priesthood he was sent to relatives in Rouen where a family friend tutored him on naval matters and he became a naval cadet in 1786, visited the West Indies and made an octant for himself from brass and ivory.

Marc and Sophia Brunel

He had fled to the United States during the French Revolution as he was a a Royalist sympathiser. In 1796, he was appointed Chief Engineer of New York City where he built many buildings, improved the defenses of the channel between Staten Island and Long Island, and constructed an arsenal and a cannon foundry. He moved to London in 1799, where he married Sophia Kingdom from Plymouth. They had met when she was a governess in Rouen in the early 1790s, she was arrested as an English spy, and daily expected to be executed. She was only saved by the fall of Robespierre and returned to London 1795 and was able to leave France and travel to London. Marc remained in the United States for six years, sailing for England in February 1799. He immediately sought and found Sophia and they married in November that year.

He had heard of the difficulties that the Royal Navy had in obtaining the 100,000 pulley blocks that it needed each year which were made by hand. Brunel quickly produced an outline design of a set of machines that would automate their production. In 1802 Brunel’s block-making machinery was installed at Portsmouth BlockMills. A pulley-block has four parts: the shell, the sheave, the pin for locating the latter in the shell and a metal bush, or coak, inserted into the sheave to save wear between it and the pin.His machine could be operated by unskilled workers, at ten times the previous rate of production. Altogether 45 machines were installed at Portsmouth, and by 1808 the plant was producing 130,000 blocks per year. Unfortunately for Brunel, the Admiralty vacillated over payment, despite the fact that Brunel had spent more than £2,000 of his own money on the project. In August 1808 they agreed to pay £1,000 on account, and two years later they consented to a payment of just over £17,000.They started the age of mass-production using all-metal machine tools and are regarded as one of the seminal buildings of the British Industrial Revolution. They are also the site of the first stationary steam engines used by the Admiralty.

Brunel’s Battersea sawmills evolved from this pioneering mechanized block- and sawmills projects for the Royal Navy and he planned to to capitalize on Portsmouth’s renown by establishing his own private block factory and sawmills to serve the merchant navy. He had began experimenting there with new types of circular saws, made to his designs by Henry Maudslay. He had by then acquired business partners and the the intended location for this factory had shifted to Battersea, to a riverside works a little west of Battersea Bridge by 1806.

This appealed to Brunel greatly, principally for its proximity to Chelsea and good transport links: ‘476 feet along the River and contiguous to two Turnpike Roads will always be of great value’, he wrote to his partners, ‘where can you meet with such [a] spot’? He may also have been influenced by his connection with the 2nd Earl Spencer—lord of the manor and major local landowner—and his wife the Countess Lavinia, whom Brunel considered his friends. It was the Earl who, during his tenure as first Lord of the Admiralty, had been instrumental in securing Brunel’s contract at Portsmouth.

Marc and Sophia came to live in Lindsey House in Cheyne Walk in Chelsea directly opposite his sawmills in 1808 1826. So, it was not far for him to walk to work. By then they had their three children Sophia, Emma and Isambard who was born in 1806. Isambard was Marc’s second name.

Lindsey House has quite an illustrious history of occupants. It was built in 1674 by the third Earl of Lindsaey on the riverside site of St Thomas More’s garden and thought to be the oldest house in Kensington Chelsea. It was extensively remodelled in 1750 by the German aristocrat Count Nicholas von Zindendorf, head of the Moravian Church who intended to make it the centrepiece of a religious settlement. Lindsey House originally stood directly beside the river, but when the Chelsea Embankment was built in 1874 to create a modern sewage system for London the house found itself well away from the water.

The house was later divided into seven dwellings: five in the main range and one smaller house in each of the two-storey wings at the ends. The terrace of seven houses thus created was renamed Lindsey Row. Today, it is known as Nos. 96 to 101Cheyne Walk. Whistler was a later resident. Behind the house is a small garden designed by Edwin Lutyens and Gertrude Jekyll which features a lily pond and a mulberry tree, surrounded by a colonnade, with ornamental statues. That section of Cheyne Walk left over Battersea Bridge housed Turner at and Walter Greaves was the hoalso

Of all Brunel’s sawmills, that at Battersea was probably the most sophisticated architecturally, being in a severely simplified, astylar mode of Neoclassicism He placed his sawing-machines in the main central mill area, with ‘pavilions’ to either side—one a boiler- and engine- house, the other workshops.

Brunel explained in a letter to Earl Spencer, the origin of the boot factory was when he was approached in 1810 by a ‘respectable’ Army clothier to invent an apparatus for making military shoes,presumably with a view to entering into partnership. When the clothier withdrew shortly afterwards, Brunel decided to pursue the project alone. In this he was encouraged by Mudge, whom Brunel credited with the idea of employing only invalid not certain that Brunel had an official contract for supplying the Army’s footwear. Following a few tentative purchases by the government, he claimed later to have been ‘prevailed upon and induced’ by ‘flattering encomiums’ and verbal promises from high-ranking visitors to the factory— including Lord Castlereagh and the Duke of York, the Commander-in-Chief of the British forces—to invest in expanding the business to supply the whole army with new boots and shoes, increasing production from about 100 pairs a day in 1810 to 400 by 1812; Wellington’s troops at Waterloo are said to have worn boots made by Brunel at Battersea but when peace came in 1815 the British government had no need for Brunel’s boots on such a scale, leaving him with a stock of some 80,000 unwanted pairs.

Brunel’s desperation had been compounded by further misfortune in August 1814 when the Battersea sawmill was almost entirely consumed by fire. Much of the stock of timber and veneer was rescued but the rsult was the destruction of all but the right wing of the sawmill and its steam engine. Brunel the optimist just made improvements. The sawmills were rebuilt and were fully operational again by 1816., similar to its to its predecessor – a central mill-house with flanking pavilions which had pediments and it was retained like that until its demolition in the late 1970s by Morgan Crucible Company which they used it as a store and workshop,.

By then he got invloved in,new private ventures, including a circular-frame knitting-machine, an experimental rotary printing-press, and the manufacture of a new type of decorative tinfoil. and had acquired new business partners, Samuel Shaw, a personal friend in the decorative tinfoil scheme and William Hollingsworth of Nine Elms a wealthy merchant and brewer, with one of his brothers, only in the sawmills.

Brunel patented his tinfoil process in 1818. By smoothing a thin layer of foil on a heated plate, applying additional heat, he was able to produce a delicately crystallized surface, which was then varnished and used to decorate all manner of objects from small items such as snuff or patch boxes, to lamp columns, urns and cabinets, even coaches. He presented the Prince Regent with a screen made of the patented tinfoil, and some of the rooms at Brighton Pavilion were apparently decorated in the material and it was also exported to Madras and Calcutta. However, the new foil process was widely pirated, and failed to bring the economic success he had hoped.

In 1828 these sawmills were acquired by John and James Watson and sawyers and veneer-cutters, who remained in business there until about 1849. By then the site had become part of a the steamboat yard Its boats plied between London Bridge and Chelsea becoming in 1875 the London Steamboat Company which were In 1897 were acquired by the Thames Steamboat Company, owned by Arnold Hills which eventually failed and its Battersea yard was acquired around 1905 by the Morgan Crucible Company.

Brunel is mostly known for designing and building the first Thames tunnel, between Wapping and Rotherhithe, which is now part of the London Overground. This, the world’s first underwater tunnel through soft ground, was begun in 1825 and – despite many difficulties and disasters – was completed in 1843.He is known above all for designing and building the first tunnel under the Thames, between Wapping and Rotherhithe, which is now part of the London Overground. This, the world’s first underwater tunnel through soft ground, was begun in 1825 and – despite many difficulties and disasters – was completed in 1843. This engineering marvel, had 24 million pedestrians pass through before it was converted to rail use for the Underground in 1865.

Sir Marc Brunel was a remarkable engineer and inventor who certainly left his mark on industrial Britain but Battersea can boast that he came here when he left Portsmouth to set up his sawmills and his later enterprises until bankruptcy when he served time in the King’s Bench Prison in Southwark and his other ventures took over. I am sure the young Isambard must have also crossed over Battersea Bridge with his father from his home in Cheyne Walk and was inspired by what he saw in his Dad’s business.

He was made a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1814 and .knighted for his contribution to engineering in 1841. He died on December 12th 1849 and was buried in Kensal Green Cemetery London as was Sophia and Isambard in 1859. It is one of the Magnifient Seven Metropolitan Cemeteries and well worth a visit. I am familiar with it as I have conducted many a funeral in West London Crematorium, including a memorial service there at newly constructed mausoleum in the cemetery.

Morgan Crucuble Company is the final great industrial venture on this part of the Thames near Battersea Bridge. It was very much a family business founded by six Morgan brothers – Thomas, William, Walter, Septimus, Octavius and Edward.

The business began in 1850 with William Morgan’s acquisition of the City firm of a family friend, importing and exporting druggists’ sundries and ironmongery; by 1855 the other siblings had joined him in Morgan Brothers. Among the items of stock-in-trade they inherited were crucibles of imported graphite (or ‘plumbago’), used by metallurgists and jewellers to melt precious metals. William who was in London working for the National Provincial Bank, the Morgan Brothers became sole agents for crucibles from Joseph Dixon and Co, a New Jersey manufacturer of these crucibles,before long decided to establish their own factory. It offer metal smelters ‘a saving of more than 50 per cent in time, labour, fuel and waste‘ and were soon selling well all around the world.

In 1856 they acquired the small riverside crucible factory of E. Falcke & Sons at Garden Wharf, midway between Battersea Bridge and St Mary’s Church. The Falcke business dated back to about 1823, when the potter Wilhelm or William Gottlob Falcke (d. 1849) took a lease of land here. Trading initially as the Patent Plumbago Crucible Company, the Morgans added new kilns, factory-warehouses, chimney shafts and a wharf wall in the 1850s–70s; much of this work was overseen by the engineers R. M. Ordish and William Henry Le Feuvre. Ordish designed and built Albert Bridge in 1873

In 1872 the Morgans bought up houses standing between their works and the main road, enabling them to erect a large six-storey extension. Italianate in style, with a 100ft-tall clock-tower, the factory dominated the Church Road frontage and remained the focal point of the works throughout its 100-year history.   As business grew, the brothers whenever possible acquired adjoining properties and expanded the works. In 1876–80 the wharves to the east, formerly of Condy’s Fluid Company and the Bolingbroke Oil Works, were annexed, a large chunk of riverfront was reclaimed and embanked, and a concrete wharf wall constructed. In 1881 The current name of the company, the Morgan Crucible Company, was adopted. It became a limited company in 1890.

During the early 1900s they continued to expand along the riverfront. To their east in 1904–5 they bought up the former boatbuilding yard of the Thames Steamboat Company, including 330ft of river frontage and Brunel’s sawmills followed soon after by housing in Church Road and Little Europa Place.

The buildings that took their place included a five-storey office block of 1907, built alongside the 1870s clock-tower factory, and several mill buildings of 1911–14, of ferro-concrete construction. They acquired the Phoenix Wharf in 1910 and also the old maltings site beside the church so that by the mid 1920s only the Battersea Flourmills and May & Baker’s chemical works stood between Morgan’s and complete dominance of the riverfront from St Mary’s Church to Battersea Bridge.

1904 The company diversified into carbon brushes. The youngest and last surviving brother, Edward Vaughan Morgan, died in 1922. Members of the following generation continued the Morgan involvement in the business. In 1929 the Russian authorities closed the Leningrad factory and arrested its director after many years in which he defended this private company against the pressure exerted by the regime.  

Morgan’s expanded by acquiring other firms and diversification, including May and Bakers chemical works the last run of terraced housing at the east end of Church Road and new products such as refractory materials and electrical carbons. In 1934–7 they built large-scale reinforced-concrete factory buildings.

The 1951 film The Man in the White Suit with Alec Guinness was filmed along Church Road by Morgans. I often say how important these clips will become in reminding us what was there before development. This is why the Battersea Society screens a film annually at the Royal College of Art with Battersea locations.

Between and after the wars Morgan’s set up subsidiaries abroad to supply a growing world market. By 1960 the reorganisation of the group that had been underway for 12 years was completed with the creation of 4 new subsidiaries, bringing the total to 11 home subsidiaries and 12 external ones. In 1961 Morgan Crucible ceased to be a trading company; new UK trading subsidiaries were created: Morganite Carbon, Morganite Crucible Morganite Electroheat, Motganite Research and development. It was now a parent of 19 subsidiaries employing 8,000 people and were manufacturers of carbon brushes, carbon products, crucibles, furnaces, foundry plumbago, refractories; electrical and engineering products, radio and heavy duty resistors; bronze oil retaining bearings and sintered metal products. In 1964 they became one of the first businesses in the UK to computerise its financial records.

I worked for a briefly in 1966 in the laboratory of one subsidiary of Morgan’s called Graphite Products Ltd which was based in point Pleasant Wandsworth SW18 which produced lubricants and specialist paints using graphite.

The congested site left the firm little scope for expansion, in 1967 Morgan’s decided to transfer production to an existing second factory at Norton, Worcestershire, which had started as a ‘shadow factory’ during the war, and a new 40-acre complex at Morriston near Swansea. Unemployment around Swansea was high, and the move there in 1969–72 was sanctioned by Douglas Jay, Battersea North’s MP, President of the Board of Trade and a keen supporter of regional development. In 1977 they closed the carbon fibre venture at Battersea because of the lack of domestic demand. Morgan Crucible Co plc changed its name to Morgan Advanced Materials plc in 2013 and it is now a global engineering company, listed on the London Stock Exchange and a constituent of the FTSE 250. They manufacture in 30 countries and employ approximately 8,800 employees. They continue to manufacture products from carbon and ceramic (including crucibles.

We can’t finish this history of Morgan crucible without mention of the wonderful mural of Brian Barnes MBE noted Battersea citizen and campaigner. Brian’s mural most famous mural is The Good the Bad and The Ugly, also known as The Battersea Mural, designed in 1976 and painted by a group of local people from 1976 to 1978. The 276-foot mural was demolished in 1979 by the Morgan Crucible in the middle of the night.

Here is a video of Brian which is one of the 1000 Londoners and is made by Battersea based Chocolate Films. I also feature as one of the 1000 Londoners and one of the four in Nine Elms.

Built by the London County Council, Battersea Bridge river station was located by Battersea Bridge on the River Thames. It was one of four Metropolitan Fire Brigade river stations. It remained open until 1937. It was demolished by Morgans.

After much debate plans for a private housing development by Wates Ltd for the vacated site were approved in 1978. Morgan’s Walk was completed in 1984. This was first big private housing development in Battersea on a prominent, formerly industrial riverside site, and seen as a harbinger of the area’s gentrification. However its the modest scale and architectural conservatism of its buildings is in stark contrast to the towering Montevetro apartments alongside.

Battersea Bridge The bridge’s creation in 1771–2 encouraged industrial development but its narrow timber spans hindered riverborne trade, collisions with barges being frequent enough to merit throwing four of the central spans into two in 1795. But by the early 1800s factories and wharves were appearing in larger numbers: in addition to Brunel’s works, chemical production, soapmaking and a pottery were established, and by the time of the general building boom of the 1840s, the riverfront here was fully built up. Collisions with barges being frequent enough to merit throwing four of the central spans into two in 1795.

With such importance attached to river transport, Battersea Bridge was further modified to aid navigation, Rowland Ordish in 1875 enlarging the central waterway from 31ft to 75ft and also increasing the size of openings towards the Chelsea end. It was eventually rebuilt in 1886–90 with the existing bridge, designed by Sir Joseph Bazalgette and built by John Mowlem and Co. There have been a few incidences with the bridge partly because of its position on a bend but we live with it and get great views from from the bus coming from Chelsea.

Here endeth this trip along the much altered Battersea riverfront. The views from Cheyne Walk by residents and the artists who painted from there, the two Turners, Whistler and his pupil, some say imitator, Walter Greaves certainly enjoyed the views and prompted me to check the houses and plaques of their illustrious residents over the years. I went with my list and friend Joan to take the snaps. I passerby, Clara who lived in the Greaves/Belloc House, kindly toook pics outside her place and Turner’s House. Secret London post was helpful.

If you have stayed with this till the end I hope you feel you learnt a little of the industrial heritage of this stretch of the Battersea riverfront but sorry that it is long and somewhat rambling but it is because I feel that so much has been obliterated of this heritage and replaced by luxury housing. The only upside is that we now have access to the Thames riverfront.

If you are interested in Battersea past, present and future do consider joining the Battersea Society. The aims of the Society are to strengthen Battersea’s sense of identity and community, stimulate interest in its geography,history, and architecture, and to promote excellence in new developments whilst conserving the best of the past. The Society organises talks, social events, walks and visits, and publishes a quarterly magazine, Battersea Matters. Find Battersea Society on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @batterseasoc.

Welcome to the Battersea Society

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