Battersea Arts Centre was originally the Town Hall of then Vestry of St. Mary in 1893, when the arrival of the railways led to a great increase in the population of what had been the small riverside village of Battersea. It was built in less than two years, at a cost of £42,000, and designed by Edward Mountford, the architect for the Old Bailey. Built in “Modern Renaissance” style, it has red Suffolk brick and Bath stone elevations, green Westmoreland slate roofs and interiors of Portland stone, white Sicilian and red Devonshire marble and mosaic floors.
The Grand and Lower Halls were always used for entertainment and education. The Grand Hall, whose lobby carries the motto of the original Council, “Not for me, Not for You, but for Us”, was often hired for political meetings. Battersea was a politically active area; the Hall was used as the local headquarters during the General Strike of 1926, and on several occasions was the site of the Communist Party National Congress.
The Grand Hall took over the role of the Shakespeare Theatre, which had been bombed during the War. Apart from general music hall entertainment, dances were held – two shillings and sixpence to enter – Glen Miller leading the band on occasion. (It is said that many local people met their sweethearts at a dance in the Grand Hall, later holding their wedding receptions in the same place!)
It was one of the few places where Ska music was played, for the Caribbean community in Battersea. There were also classical concerts, sometimes using the organ in the Grand Hall. The first silent movies were shown here and the projection box, though unused for 20 years, until recently when it went back into use for the 32 hour marathon showing of Twin Peaks, for its 20th anniversary.