| Disabled Access:
BAC aims to provide access for all. The building has ramps and rails to the front door, adapted toilets, and induction loops in the theatres. We also welcome working dogs. For full details of all our access facilities, please contact the Box Office by phone (020 7223 2223)
The Grade II* listed building which houses BAC, designed in 1891 by EW Mountford, first opened as Battersea Town Hall in 1893. The building was used for over 70 years as council chambers, holding borough meetings, elections and discussions - it was a key focal point essential to the legislative activities within the borough. During both world wars the then Town Hall building was a recruiting station, administrative centre and between 1914 - 1918 used as a conscientious objectors' tribunal site.
During The Second World War the building became an Air Raid Precautions centre, site for rationing control and distributing gas masks and the lower hall was used as an air raid shelter. Its history as a home for the arts began in the early Ê 1900's when the Grand and Lower Halls staged talent contests, traditional jazz performances and musical evenings, taking over the role of the bombed Shakespeare Theatre as a music hall venue for a period during the 1950's.
The 1963 London Government Act reformed London's 83 Metropolitan boroughs, dissolving them into the Greater London Council and 32 London Boroughs. Consequently in 1965, Battersea Borough became part of Wandsworth Borough Council. The building was striped of its role as a borough administration centre. The municipal building became partially unused, with the exception of the Grand and Lower Halls, which continued to hold dances, shows, music, bazaars, wedding receptions and an array of other community events.
In 1967, Wandsworth Borough Council announced that the building's Victorian frontage was to be demolished, to make room for a recreation centre and library. However residents of Battersea demonstrated a deep loyalty towards the building, expressing great public concern with a protest led by the Battersea and Victorian Societies, appealing to the Greater London Council for a preservation order to be placed on the building. At the recommendation of Housing Minister, Anthony Greenwood who was advised by specialists that the building should be listed as one of special architecture and historic interest, asked the Council to reconsider their proposals, which they did providing that a use for the building was found.
The use for the building was found in 1974, when the building was reopened as a community arts centre run by Wandsworth Borough Council, Ê offering a variety of arts and adult education classes and space for local theatre groups to use for rehearsals and performances. However in 1979, the council decided to close the Arts centre as part of a wide-ranging programme of expenditure cuts. In response to the closure, representatives from the arts world and the local community mounted a major campaign of protest.
It was agreed that the arts centre would become an independent organisation with the Borough Council providing an annual grant to cover part of the costs of operating the centre. In 1980, BAC was born.
Renovations were made inside the building, transforming former council chambers into theatre, studio, workshop and gallery spaces. In 1993, the buildings centenary year marked with a weekend of celebrations, BAC took over the running of the Grand and Lower Halls.