A brief history of the Battersea Barge
The Battersea Barge (or Maria II as she was known then) was built in Holland in 1932. Shortly after this, she set sail for France where she was used to carry grain between Rouen and Paris. In 1941 Hitler requisitioned every available seafaring vessel in order to transport his tanks to France for his planned invasion of Britain. Maria II didn’t escape this fate and probably carried at least two tanks along the canals of Germany and France. Luckily she didn’t reach England until the 1970s. She was brought across the Channel to Lymington in Hampshire where she had a makeover, followed by a brief spell as a restaurant. Sadly, the owner died and she fell back into disrepair. She was spotted in 1985, derelict and unloved, and was towed along the south coast to the mooring where she remains to this day – on Old Father Thames in Nine Elms, Battersea.
The area of Nine Elms straddles the former Pleasure Gardens in Vauxhall and the power station in Battersea. The power station which remains visible from the Barge was built during the second quarter of the last century and was designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, whose other works include the Liverpool Cathedral, Bankside Power Station, Waterloo Bridge and the classic red telephone box. It was built to meet the power demands of a growing metropolis and remains the largest brick building in Europe. More recently, changes to the surrounding area have resulted in the transformation of an industrial space into a residential one, bringing with it a whole new community and new challenges. The Thames Tideway Scheme is one of the city’s most ambitious engineering upgrades to the network of sewers built during the Victorian period and will be running along the Thames, capturing outfall from the existing network that would otherwise flow into the river. The Thames has always been the lifeblood of London’s rich culture and history, witnessing events of great historic importance.
In 1999 the newly named Battersea Barge was purchased by the previous owner, who carefully restored the vessel and turned her into a performance space as well as a venue for private parties and weddings. Her current home is shared by a small mixed community of boat owners and boat lovers who have been an intrinsic part of the historic Thames. So if you get the chance, please stop by and hop on board.
Images courtesy of ‘View from the Mirror’ –