Monday, December 2, 2013

Bee is for Battersea

In the 1960s the mosaic bees that so beautifully adorn out entrance were hidden beneath concrete, after a row about how expensive they were to maintain. Fortunately they have been salvaged from the brink of destruction and are a much loved symbol of BAC. The bees have taken on many meanings over the years, and no one is quite sure why they were first chosen. One theory suggests it was due to the very land our building was built on – Lavender fields.

The bees are perhaps a nod towards the double B of Battersea Borough. When the Town Hall was originally built, Battersea existed separately to Wandsworth and the word “Batterseaness” came to describe a certain way of life. “Batterseaness” was epitomised by the working class politics of the late 19th century, when the Town Hall was built.

It is especially interesting that bees are also considered a symbol for workers, especially apt for a building with so many political links to communism and socialism, and especially  to many prominent campaigns for workers’ rights. The building became the local headquarters during the General Strike of 1926, and on several occasions was the site of the Communist Party National Congress. There is also speculation if George Potter, who eventually settled in Battersea, was inspired by the symbol when he called his mid-19th century labour newspaper “The Bee Hive”.

Whatever your take on the bees, radicalism continues to buzz about BAC.

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