Friday, 29 April 2011

The History of Battersea and Wandsworth Common

Spencer Park

Until 1850, only about 300 people lived in the area known as South Battersea. The land had originally belonged to the St John family as Lords of the Manor of Battersea. Henry St John became the first Viscount Bolingbroke after purchasing the title in 1712 and the family are commemorated by a number of streets bearing their name. The land was then purchased by Earl Spencer in the 18th Century and their name also lives in in many road and pub names as well as in Spencer Park, where Earl Spencer built a substantial house.

A banker, Robert Dent, bought a significant portion of the Spencer's land at the end of the 18th Century and began an ambitious building programme including several large estates and five grand houses facing the Common on 'Five Houses Lane' - now Bolingbroke Grove. Only one of the houses - the former Bolingbroke Hospital - remains today. One of the five houses was lived in by a successful wine merchant, Matthew Charlie. His granddaughter, Marianne, married a Spanish count and became Countess of Morella. Morella Road is named after her. Dent himself lived in the largest and most impressive of the five houses, Old Park. The horseshoe shaped Dents Road took his name in 1881, though one half was later named Gorst Road after Sir John Gorst, a lawyer and Conservative MP, who lived there.

The opening of the Clapham Junction Railway Station in 1863 made the City accessible and the area became a target for developers. Broomwood House and its substantial grounds gave rise to Broomwood, Montholme, Gayville, Devereux and Hiller Roads. The house, which William Wilberforce lived in for several years, was demolished in 1904.

For more than sixty years 24 Morella Road was home to Ida and Louise Cook, two opera-mad spinsters, who helped to rescue dozens of Jews from Hitler's Germany. Their mission was financed by Ida's career as Mills & Boon's most prolific author, writing 130 novels over 50 years. The sisters were posthumously honoured for their bravery in a ceremony at Downing St in 2009.

Some of this history can be found at the reopened Wandsworth Museum. Click here for some photos

[With thanks for Sullivan Thomas]

1 comment:

  1. Interesting post, thank you.A part of London I know well.