Posts Tagged ‘slum clearance’

St Peter & St Paul, Candles, A Pub & Distillery

Monday, February 26th, 2024

St Peter & St Paul, Candles, A Pub & Distillery continues my walk on Friday 4th August 1989 in Battersea from the previous post, River Thames, St Mary’s, Church Rd, Chelsea Harbour & A Bridge. The walk began with Council flats, Piles of Bricks, A House Hospital and Brasserie.

St Peter & St Paul, Church, l21, Plough Road, Battersea, Wandsworth, 1989 89-8c-74
St Peter & St Paul, Church, 121, Plough Road, Battersea, Wandsworth, 1989 89-8c-74

I left the riverside and walked down Lombard Road and crossed York Road into York Gardens probably to find a pleasant spot to rest a while and eat my sandwiches before going through the gardens to exit on Plough Road close to the church.

St Peter’s Church is still very much alive now on Plough Road, but SPB looks very different to my picture in 1989. The first St Peter’s Battersea was built in 1875 but was seriously damaged by fire in 1970 and the church moved into the building in my picture which had been its church and school hall.

According to ‘Clapham Junction Insider’ Cyril Ritchert, the demolition of this Grade II listed building, “an accomplished example of the free gothic style“, was opposed by the Ancient Monuments Society, English Heritage, the Battersea Society and the Wandsworth Society but was approved by Wandsworth Council in 2010. The developers made a second application in 2015 before any building on the site had started. Google Street View shows the church still in use in 2012.

To finance the new church the developers had been granted permission for an 8 storey block of flats also on the site. Local residents were angered that the developers managed to game the planning system to eventually build a 10 storey block of housing with minimal affordable housing on the site.

Shop, St Peter & St Paul, Church, Flats, Holgate Ave, Plough Rd, Battersea, Wandsworth, 1989

The view of the church from Holgate Avenue shows clearly the position of the church on the edge of the Winstanley Estate to the north of Clapham Junction station. The view of the tower block Sporle Court is now blocked by the new 10 storey block on the church site. The trees at left are in York Gardens.

There is still a billboard and a shop on the corner of Holgate Avenue, but what was then BRITCHOICE is now SUNRISER EXPRESS POLSKI SKLEP. Holgate Avenue was until 1931 known as Brittania Place or Brittania Street and took its name from the Brittania beer house which was possibly in this shop, part of a group of two buildings at 38-40 Plough Lane which are the only remnants of the original 1860s development of the area.

Apparently the Revd Chad Varah, the founder of The Samaritans, was vicar at Saint Peter’s during the 1950’s. St Peter’s was amalgamated with St Paul’s at some time after 1969 – and St Paul’s had been amalgamated with St John in Usk Road in 1938.

Houses, Holgate Avenue, Battersea, Wandsworth, 1989 89-8c-75
Houses, Holgate Avenue, Battersea, Wandsworth, 1989 89-8c-75

According to the Survey of London, “Holgate Avenue, started in the 1920s, was Battersea’s first
successful slum-clearance scheme
.” Poorly built Victorian houses from the 1860s were replaced by these three-storey tenements built by Battersea’s Labour Council in 1924-37 to high standards with some impressive brickwork and detailing. Probably more importantly for the residents they were provided with electric cooking, heating and lighting facilities, unusual luxury for the time.

There was little land in Battersea for building and while the council would have liked to build single family homes it had to compromise with these. But at least tenants at most had only to walk up three flights of stairs, while most new council building by the LCC in the interwar period was in five-storey tenement walk-up blocks.

Price's Candles, York Rd, Battersea, Wandsworth, 1989 89-8c-62
Price’s Candles, York Rd, Battersea, Wandsworth, 1989 89-8c-62

I walked back up Plough Road to York Road, and continued my walk towards Wandsworth Bridge. There was no access to the River Thames on this stretch before the bridge, as the area was still occupied by industrial premises.

Price’s Candles on York Rd was built on part of the site of York House, the London residence of the Archbishop of York from which York Road got its name. You can read more than you will ever want to know about York House in All about Battersea, by Henry S Simmonds published in 1882 and now on Project Gutenberg, which also has a long section on the Belmont Works or Price’s Patent Candle Factory.

Price’s Candles was begun in 1830 by William Wilson and Benjamin Lancaster who had purchased a patent for the separation of coconut fats. They chose the name Price for the business to remain anonymous as candle-making was not at the time a respectable occupation.

They moved to this site in 1847 setting up a large factory and workforce, making candles, soap and other products with stearine wax for the candles and the by products of glycerine and light oils coming cocunuts grown on a plantation they bought in Ceylon. In 1854 they began to import large quantities of crude petroleum from Burma and developed paraffin wax candles. Later they developed processes to work with other industrial wastes, animal fats and fish oils. By 1900 they were the largest candle manufacturer in the world.

The company was taken over by Unilever in 1919, and became owned by other oil companies including BP, who sold part of the site which opened in 1959 as the Battersea Heliport. A few of Price’s buildings remain, though most with added floors, and the rest of the site is mostly new blocks of flats.

York Tavern, pub, 347, York Rd, Battersea, Wandsworth, 1989 89-8c-63
York Tavern, pub, 347, York Rd, Battersea, Wandsworth, 1989 89-8c-63

The York Tavern was on the corner of York Road and Usk Road in the late 1850s but was given a makeover later in the century in the typical 1890s Queen Anne style with fake gable facades. I can’t find a date for the closing of this pub but it was clearly very shut when I made this picture. The building was demolished in 2003.

John Watney & Co Ltd, Wandsworth Distillery, York Rd, Battersea, Wandsworth, 1989 89-8c-64
John Watney & Co Ltd, Wandsworth Distillery, York Rd, Battersea, Wandsworth, 1989 89-8c-64

Wandsworth Distillery on York Rd was founded by Richard Bush at Gargoyle Wharf around 1780. By 1874 it was owned by John and Daniel Watney. Gin was produced here, having become popular after heavy taxes were imposed on French brandy, and later particularly in the colonies to counteract the unpleasantly bitter taste of the anti-malarial quinine.

Acquired by Guinness, the distillery was demolished in 1992, and I photographed its occupation as the ‘Pure Genius Eco Village‘ by The Land is Ours in 1996. It was redeveloped as Battersea Reach housing from 2002 on.

More from this walk in another post.

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St Ann’s – End of an Era

Friday, August 2nd, 2019

Although the ‘stars’ of photography so far as the media are concerned tend to be those who fly into trouble spots around the world to report on various crises – usually backed by the big international agencies, much interesting documentary work is carried out by people who never get an international reputation, and whose work is made inside communities in which they are embedded, sometimes for years, occasionally for a lifetime.

I’ve long believed that there is a huge unseen body of work out there which has never attracted museum shows, publications or any real exposure, perhaps just seen by a few friends or shown in a local library. Of course now, it may appear on Facebook or Instagram, but tends to remain hidden among the dross and the cat pictures. Of course there are some good cat pictures, probably at least three a year.

My thoughts were directed to this by a Facebook post linking to an article in the Nottingham post, Photographer reveals unseen images of St Ann’s before demolition, about work in the area of Nottingham which was being comprehensively redeveloped when then student photographer Peter Richardson was working ina temporary summer job as a labourer on buildings that were replacing the Victorian housing.

Now, around 50 years later, the freelance photographer has put together a book with 98 photographs that show a real insight into the crowded neighbourhood before demolition. You can see rather more pictures from it in the preview of St Ann’s, End of an Era on the Blurb website.

As well as the quality of the work, the book has other interests for me. At the time when Richardson was taking his pictures I was heavily involved in a similar redevelopment in a similar area of inner-city Manchester, not as a photographer but as an activist. Groups working in the two areas made contacts and learnt from each other – and I think were the first two areas to bring ‘planning for real’ modelling exercises which had originated in Sweden to local community groups in the UK.

I regret very much that I was not at that time an active photographer, being penniless, unable to afford a working camera and lacking any practical training in photography that would have enabled me to work on a shoestring – both things that were remedied a couple of years later. But Richardson’s pictures remind me very much of the people and the homes that I met in Moss Side.

Like Richardson too, I’ve also published books on Blurb – with 16 of them still available. It isn’t an idea way to publish, but does give you the freedom to do so at relatively minimal expense and being print on demand comes with no problems of storing and distributing editions, and the print quality can be good, though not state of the art.

But the problem is price. A single softcover copy of this book costs £44.99, plus an excessive postage charge. Authors can benefit from fairly large discounts offered from time to time by Blurb (and don’t pay any author’s markup), but even so the books are expensive. It makes it impossible to sell through bookshops, where a realistic price would need to be at least £75. There is a cheaper EBook for £9.49 which is more reasonable, and I always advise people interested in my works to buy it in electronic form, though I also sell most of my books direct a little below Blurb prices.

Personally I’ve been thinking for the last couple of years of abandoning Blurb for any new publications. Perhaps publishing a small short-run print book, but making my work available free as PDFs or at higher quality on the web than my current web site. I do make a little from Blurb sales, but hardly enough to notice. For me the point of publishing is to share my work, not to make money.