Hidden away in Battersea is an amazing piece of street art, showcasing not only the delights of the local Thames river front, but also the area’s radical political history. On a former pub on Dagnell Street is the wonderful “Battersea in Perspective” mural, done by local artist Brian Barnes. Centre stage is Battersea Park and the Peace Pagoda, with the Thames and the Albert and Chelsea Bridges either side.
The golden circles in the sky represent the Battersea Shield. This Celtic shield dates back to 350BC and was dug out of the Thames mud during the construction of Battersea Bridge. Its location suggests it was placed in the river as a gift to the gods and it can now be found in the British Museum. The triplane and balloon show Battersea’s industrial heritages, all developed under the local railway arches.
Beneath the colourful cityscape are a series of portraits. These include John Archer, a local politician, who became the UK’s first black council leader in 1913.
Shapurji Saklatvala was the communist MP for Battersea and first MP from an Indian background in the UK. During the general strike in 1926 he was jailed for two months for sedition, speaking up for the striking coal miners. His son Kaikhoshro flew Spitfires during the Second World War.
Also painted is Charlotte Despard, jailed four times for Suffragette campaigning, and a good friend of Karl Marx’s daughter. In the 1930s she toured the Soviet Union and ended up the secretary of the Friends of Soviet Russia. After she left Battersea she moved to Dublin, where her house was burnt down by an anti-communist mob! This amazing woman also has a plaque marking her former home, opposite Battersea Arts Centre, and a local road named after her.
As well as local landmarks such as Battersea Power Station if you look really really closely in the mural you can see a painting of the pub with the mural painted on the side! Still as colourful as when it was painted in 1988 this gem is well worth hunting out in this back street behind Battersea Park.
I talk about political campaigners who worked to abolish slavery in my Clapham Common Virtual Tour and the local slave owners who fought against them.