History & Archaeology
Battersea: A Brief Description
Battersea is a substantial stuccoed brick house located north of Upper Appomattox Street in the city of Petersburg, near the south bank of the Appomattox River. Even though the 37+ acre property is bordered by a 19th-century neighborhood and a light industrial area, it still retains its historic rural character. The house was built in 1768 by Colonel John Banister, the first Mayor of Petersburg and a signer of the Articles of Confederation. Battersea was designed and built as a symmetrical five-part Anglo-Palladian house featuring a two-story central block, one-story wings that act as hyphens, and one-and-a-half story end pavilions. One-story columned porticos mark the entrances on the front, back, and sides of the house. The plan of the interior reflects the five-part massing of the exterior, presenting a symmetrical single-pile plan with rooms extending to either side of the central block. The designer of the house is unknown.
Battersea is one of the earliest and finest surviving examples of a five-part, Robert Morris-style Palladian house form in the United States, and is the earliest surviving, fully developed example of this house type in Virginia. Battersea represents a refined and original synthesis of ideas from Andrea Palladio and Robert Morris, copying neither but reinterpreting ideas from both to meet 18th-century American needs. The five-part house form was a basic manifestation of Palladianism in both Britain and America, which enjoyed popularity in the United States during the 18th and early-19th centuries. Today, Battersea is a rare and unusually sophisticated survival of this form. Some of the finest early nineteenth century Classically-inspired architectural detailing resulted–distinctive in its period expression and craftsmanship–within the framework of the Palladian form. The later work shows a rare understanding of the derivation of the Palladian form and a clear intention to work within the parameters of this style. Battersea is therefore eligible for national significance under Criterion C in the area of architecture.
Petersburg City Council and Battersea Foundation celebrated the transfer of the ownership of historic Battersea on June 14, 2011 as the Foundation purchased Battersea, wrapping up the first year of the “Securing Battersea” capital campaign. This signifies a bright future for the nearly 250-year-old Anglo-Palladian villa and accompanying buildings on the 30+ acres on the Appomattox River. As stewards of the property, the Foundation will continue to move forward with its mission to preserve and protect this historic property, and develop the grounds as a resource to the community for educational and cultural enrichment. Your support and commitment helped us reach this milestone in Battersea’s history and we thank you.
Several archeological investigations have uncovered significant artifacts, some from the families that lived at Battersea and others from Native Americans that inhabited the property. Pictured above is an amazing Native American projectile dating to 1200 B.C.
In early 2017, The James River Institute of Archeology (JRAI) explored the area surrounding the greenhouse. They found glass, earthenware fragments, iron objects, and the artifact above. Shortly, we will have their conclusive report on the Battersea findings!