Wednesday, July 28, 2010

My Areas: Battersea (images)

Second in a series where I revisit the places I've lived in London (SW, W, E, N and SE) and offer a historic and contemporary snapshot of the area but also where my head was at the time. Battersea text here.

The Battersea97/98 Rewind starts at Clapham Junction, which you wouldnt think was Britain's busiest people transfer hub from the unassuming back entrance.

A small scale 60s patchwork precinct confronts the traveller as if it the rear end of Clapham Junction was a new town in the HCs. People en route to scoring on the Winstanley may well have pondered the Christian way out offered here.

As Falcon Road bends round to run parallel with York Road, this mosque was going when I was there as grotty pubs foundered and were then bulldozed. It seems to be mostly used by the Somali community.

The Asparagus at the end of Falcon continues to rein in the weak white men of the area, competing for business with another value joint just before it. I wonder whether the building was purpose built by Tim Martin's deliverer of fair priced light poison, sorry product?

Onto Battersea High Street, this end of which retains its Delboy air and has always struggled to be the little Broadway Market-type it would like to be. Still, at about the half units in use this is better than in my the day.

I still can't resist a hyperbolic name for an estate agent. Absolute Living says: come, maximise your life, rent with us and it will absolutely be better than where you are now. You're a loser if you look away. And you'll give in anyway.

Maybe not Absolute Living fodder but this was where I lived for a year, on Trott St just off the High Street. It was a pleasant little block of four-storey houses like these and a couple of 10-storey towers. The church is from more grandiose days while its old vicarage buildings now hosts a dual-language school for primary school children.

Classic French wouldnt be needed at 'Le QueCum Bar' though, which is a fairly dreadful riot of dissonant entreaties. Nostalgic jazz, private affairs (ooh la la matron), hot gypsy swing and Parisian ambience. 1950s St Germain this aint. There used to be two bars within walking distance of each other on the high street, the Original Woodman and the Woodman, the former old-school local and the latter scraping by on reps from any demographic. Market stalinism won it for the Woodman, and the Original became this joke.

That said, you'd probably get good working French if one of the professional partnership insisted on sending the kids to the other private option, St Thomas, which trades on the motto of the old grammar school first sited here in 1700 - 'Rather death than false of faith'.

Battersea Square still looks nice, but even with another new set of restos and bars still won't ever lay claim to being a happening zone due to the relative remoteness of its location. All Bra-Bum has closed, I see.

Round the corner onto Church Street and you're soon confronted by Richard Rogers Partnership's Montevetro. I found little cheer in its construction when I was living there and little at my return now, with its classic use of romance language non-words to create a cool identity ('Mount Windows,, right Rich?), fiddly externals, over-reaching scale blocking out river views (unless you're a resident) and aggressive posturing of the gated culture (I was about to be moved on because I was taking pictures outside of the development but of something else!)

In a classic example of Battersea juxtaposition, Montevetro sits opposite the Somerset Estate, a series of towers like this and lower-rise blocks with pavements in the sky, on the next image. And never shall residents of the twain meet

That something else was St Mary's Church, marriage venue for Blake, inspiration for Turner and burial place for Benedict Arnold. Unusual to see a church right on the Thames, though I am sure there are others (Putney Bridge). It should be acknowledged that the Montevetro project, which did for an old flour mill, did create a Thames Path from the western side of the church to the bridge. So thanks.

This is a nice image of different elements of industrial infrastructure in long-term (Lotts Road Power Station in Chelz) and short-term (rusting barge with containers) disuse.

Twelve-plus years on and they're still trying to create a mini retail and business district in Hester Road, yet the only real takers have been the flat-dwellers above the ground floor of this wormhole. The 19 starts here. or ends, depending on your outlook. Taking this route to Holborn where I worked was a pleasant start to the day soon obviated by fears of impunctuality as it ground through the west end.

But off the routemaster would trudge over Battersea Bridge Road. Guy Ritchie or Jason Statham fanatics will know this by the cockney worship film Laughing Stock and No Barrels of Laughs. Roll Fool's Gold and the dramatic scene with the rifle! (Actually don't).
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