History


Battersea Arts Centre is proud to be guardian of this beautiful building, the former Battersea Town Hall, built in 1893 by Edward Mountford. Over the past 120 years this building has played host to many fascinating people and incredible stories with infamous speeches, radical politics, cutting edge performance and personal journey.

Renowned for its radical politics, Battersea was a focal point in the early days of the Trades Union movement, Independent Labour Party and the campaign for Women’s Suffrage. Christabel and Emmeline Pankhurst and Charlotte Despard presided over meetings in the Town Hall; London’s first black Mayor, John Archer, was elected here in 1913; and Battersea’s council were the first to commission the building of a council housing estate and introduce a 48 hour working week in the borough.

In 1965 Battersea Borough was absorbed into Wandsworth and the building was threatened with demolition. Plans were drawn up by the new council to build a library and a swimming pool in its place.  A local campaign was formed to save the building, resulting in a Grade II* listing in 1970. 

In 1979, the building was saved from threatened closure again and because an independent Arts Centre, rather than one managed by the Council. Jude Kelly became the first Artistic Director in 1981.

Battersea Arts Centre has continued in the spirit of this radicalism, building on its roots to pioneer new practice in contemporary theatre with the development of Scratch in 2000, the creation of Punchdrunk’s Masque of the Red Death in 2007 (which transformed approaches to immersive theatre) and the supporting of key UK theatre artists such as Kneehigh, Ridiculusmus and Forced Entertainment.

As part of our work with the Heritage Lottery Fund we will also be creating a digital archive that will tell you more stories about our rich history.