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Pump House Gallery: Battersea Park’s Brilliant Victorian Arts Hub

Pump House Gallery: Battersea Park’s Brilliant Victorian Arts Hub

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Hidden in plain sight in amongst one of South London’s most beautiful parks, the Pump House Gallery is a stunning Grade II listed building converted into a community art house in 1999.

Without a doubt one of London’s hidden gems, the Pump House provides some of the most beautiful views in South London, with the rear of the building overlooking the Battersea Park lake and the front providing stunning green views of the park.

It has evolved into a compelling space that regularly hosts some of the best in contemporary art exhibitions across its four floors. 

But that’s not all – it’s also a favourite space for people to hold private and public events in a beautiful setting (erm, dreamy wedding venue anyone?) within easy reach of all of central London and a short walk from the Thames.

Here’s what you need to know before you visit.

Why Visit the Pump House Gallery?

Pumphouse Gallery

You don’t have to be a fan of contemporary art to be able to appreciate the immense charm of the Pump House Gallery. Indeed, there’s no better reason to pay the gallery a visit than the fact that it’s one of London’s most beautifully restored pieces of Victorian architecture.

Restored Victorian Architecture

Wandsworth Council restored the building in the late 1980s to its former splendour, and it now stands as the sole Grade II listed building in Battersea Park. 

Visible from the park or across the lake behind, the building is a simple tall tower with an austere front-facing fascia containing a large brown door underneath an archway and a stone ‘VR 1861’ roundel above, noting the year the building originated.

At the top of the building is a small 360 degree-window that lies just underneath a pyramid-shaped roof that tapers upwards to a point in the centre. 

At the rear of the building are two large arched Victorian windows, which provide the airy and light feel to the four interior floors of the gallery – affording the featured art plenty of room to breathe.

Incredible Photo Opportunities

Views of the building from the front are beautiful. This is especially true after dusk when there’s an event taking place inside, with the interior lighting appearing through the window providing a stunning uplift to the scene. 

Our favourite photo opportunity is the one afforded from the lake towards the rear of the tower, which appears with its feature windows above the shrubbery. 

With water in the foreground and gorgeous greenery surrounding the building, this angle provides a must-shoot opportunity for snap-happy photo hunters.

Accessible Art

Of course, the primary usage of the Pump House gallery nowadays is as a gallery space to make contemporary art as accessible as possible to audiences of all ages and social demographics through their ‘OutHouse’ initiatives. 

This outreach programme goes into the local community and engages with local schools and community groups, offering activities to increase engagement with the Gallery and local arts.

The History of Pump House Art Gallery

Pumphouse Gallery

As with many of the Victorian-era water pump houses still standing around London, the origins of the Pump House Gallery are traceable back to the mid-19th Century post Industrial Revolution period.

Pump House Art Gallery Origins

The tower dates back to 1861, when it was built by James and William Simpson to supply water to the boating lake behind. As leisure pursuits gained traction amongst the more affluent spheres of Victorian society, boating became a popular pastime for many of Battersea’s wealthier inhabitants. 

Consequently, the 15-acre boating lake designed in the 1850s by James Pennethorne became a key feature of Battersea Park, attracting visitors from across South London and from across the nearby Thames from the affluent neighbourhoods of Kensington, Chelsea and Fulham.

In addition to supplying the famous boating lake, the Pump House’s coal-fired steam engine drove the pump, which circulated water throughout the park, watering its many plants and providing the attractive rocky cascades located on the north bank of the boating lake.

From Extension to Destruction

Still standing today, the outhouse adjoining the tower dates back to 1909 to house the well from which the Pump House took its water. 

This outhouse is a small, chapel-esque building with a gabled roof, built on a single level, with arched windows on either side of the front door and a round window above – the circular outline of the well can still be seen in the flooring of the outhouse today. 

The smaller building sits next to the imposing erect tower. Sadly, the tower was severely damaged by fire in the 1950s, destroying the windows and roof of the tower. 

The entire building fell into disrepair before the original chimney was removed and a temporary roof added to make it watertight. After being used as a storage facility, the building became overgrown and disused, becoming known locally as “the Haunted House”.

Council Ownership and Renovation

Thankfully, the Pump House was given a new lease of life in the late 20th Century after Wandsworth Council took over responsibility for Battersea Park and its constituent buildings in the 1980s. A grant from English Heritage was put to excellent use by restoring the Pump House to its previous Victorian splendour, courtesy of a thorough and careful renovation.

In 1992 the building finally opened to the public as a park interpretation centre complete with an education room. Locals and tourists alike could visit the centre and learn about the park’s history and features. 

At the same time, the education room provided a base for school field trips to take place, allowing local children to learn about the history of their local area.

A 21st Century Centre for Contemporary Arts

Pumphouse Gallery

Further redevelopment took place in 1999, converting the space into the permanent gallery and exhibition space we see today. The long windows and cuboid structure of the Pump House Gallery lend themselves perfectly to displaying some of the finest art exhibitions in London. 

Today, Pump House Gallery hosts a year-round programme of nationally and internationally curated visual art exhibitions while championing up-and-coming local artists beginning to cause ripples in the industry. 

The versatility of the exhibition space allows itself to be reinterpreted with each installation, allowing the artist greater freedom to fully express themselves through the use of space and lighting, as well as their art.

Pump House Gallery: Practical Information

Pump House Gallery is situated in the heart of Battersea Park, within a short walk from Battersea Park and Queenstown Road national rail stations and the new Battersea Power Station Underground station on the Northern Line.

Address: Battersea Park, London, SW11 4NJ

Opening Times: 9am – 5:30pm daily

Tickets: Free admission


Pump House Gallery: Map

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