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For the railway station, see Battersea Park railway station.
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Battersea Park
Battersea Park Peace Pagoda.jpg
Location Battersea
London, SW11
United Kingdom
Area 200 acres (81 ha) (0.8 km²)
Created 1858
Operated by Wandsworth Council
Public transit access National Rail Battersea Park, Queenstown Road (Battersea)

Battersea Park is a 200-acre (83-hectare) green space at Battersea in the London Borough of Wandsworth in London. It is situated on the south bank of the River Thames opposite Chelsea and was opened in 1858.

The park occupies marshland reclaimed from the Thames and land formerly used for market gardens.

The park is Grade II* listed on the Register of Historic Parks and Gardens.

History

1830londonSW - Battersea Pk
Battersea Common Fields shown on a map published in 1830
1852 Davies Case Map or Pocket Map of London, England - Geographicus - London-davies-1852 Battersea Pk
Battersea Park shown on a map published in 1852

Prior to 1846 the area now covered by the park was known as Battersea fields, a popular spot for duelling. On 21 March 1829, the Duke of Wellington and the Earl of Winchilsea met on Battersea fields to settle a matter of honour. When it came time to fire, the Duke aimed his duelling pistol wide and Winchilsea fired his into the air. Winchilsea later wrote the Duke a groveling apology.

Separated from the river by a narrow raised causeway, the fields consisted of low, fertile marshes intersected by streams and ditches with the chief crops being carrots, melons, lavender (all the way up to Lavender Hill) and the famous 'Battersea Bunches' of asparagus.

Running along the riverside from the fields were industrial concerns and wharves, including a pottery, copper works, lime kiln, chemical works, and, increasingly, railways. The site of Battersea Power Station was partly occupied by the famously bawdy Red House Tavern, patronised by Charles Dickens. Access was via the rickety wooden Battersea Bridge or by ferry from the Chelsea bank.

In 1845, spurred partly by the local vicar and partly by Thomas Cubitt, the builder and developer, whose yards were across the river in the still marshy and undeveloped area of Pimlico, a bill was submitted to Parliament to form a royal park of 320 acres. The Act was passed in 1846 and £200,000 was promised for the purchase of the land. The Commission for Improving the Metropolis acquired 320 acres of Battersea Fields, of which 198 acres became Battersea Park, opened in 1858, and the remainder was let on building leases.

The park was laid out by Sir James Pennethorne between 1846 and 1864, although the park which was opened in 1858 varied somewhat from Pennethorne's vision.

The park's success depended on the successful completion of the Chelsea Bridge, declared open in 1858 by Queen Victoria. In her honour, the road alongside the eastern edge of the Park was called Victoria Road, linked to Queens Road by Victoria Circus (now Queen's Circus). Victoria Road and Queens Road later became Queenstown Road. Prince of Wales Road (now Prince of Wales Drive) was laid out along the southern boundary and Albert Bridge Road constructed along the western side. The park came under the management of the newly formed London County Council in 1889.

The park hosted the first exhibition football game played under the rules of the recently formed Football Association on 9 January 1864. The members of the teams were chosen by the President of the FA (A. Pember) and the Secretary (E.C. Morley) and included many well-known footballers of the day.

From the 1860s, the park was home to the leading amateur football team Wanderers F.C., winners of the first FA Cup, in 1872. The Park also hosted the historic London v Sheffield football match in March 1866.

In 1924, the 24th East Surrey Division War Memorial by Eric Kennington was unveiled by Field Marshal Lord Plumer and the Anglican Bishop of Southwark Cyril Garbett. It commemorates the over 10,000 men killed or listed as "missing presumed dead" whilst serving with the 24th East Surrey Division. It is now Grade II* listed.

During both wars, anti-aircraft guns and barrage balloons were installed to help protect London from enemy air raids. Shelters were dug, part of the park was turned over to allotments for much needed vegetables and a pig farm was also set up. Maintenance of the park was reduced as the war effort took priority.

The Festival Gardens

FestivalGardens
The Festival Gardens
GuinnessClock
The Guinness Clock

In 1951 the northern parts of the park were transformed into the "Pleasure Gardens" as part of the Festival of Britain celebrations. As well as a new water-garden and fountains, new features included a "Tree-Walk", which consisted of a series of raised wooden walkways linked by tree house-like platforms suspended between the branches of a number of trees.

Popular attractions included the Guinness Clock, designed by Jan Le Witt and George Him, and the Far Tottering and Oyster Creek Branch Railway.

Battersea Fun Fair

David Moore - Battersea Fun Fair, London - Google Art Project
David Moore Battersea Fun Fair, London (1951)

Another part of the transformation was the addition of Battersea Fun Fair, with roller coasters, swings, roundabouts and other attractions.

The funfair's most spectacular ride was a roller coaster called The Big Dipper, which opened in 1951. It was of wooden construction and suffered a major fire in 1970. It was closed after five children were killed and 13 injured in an accident on 30 May 1972 when one of the trains became detached from the haulage rope, rolling back to the station (the anti-rollback mechanism having failed) and colliding with the other train. The lack of a main attraction led to the decline in the popularity of the funfair and its eventual closure in 1974.

After the closure, the "Jetstream" ride was sold to Trusthouse Forte, the then owners of Belle Vue Zoological Gardens in Manchester. A night scene at the funfair, which was ghostly and empty, featured in the opening title scene for the 1960s television series Journey to the Unknown.

Current features in the park

The site of the fun fair was levelled and became a site for travelling fairs and exhibitions, and is the site of Battersea Evolution, formerly the Battersea Park Events Arena, which hosts exhibitions, conferences and Christmas parties.

Battersea Park gazebo
The bandstand in Battersea Park

The park is home to a small children's zoo, a boating lake, a bandstand, and all-weather outdoor sporting facilities including tennis courts, a running track and football pitches. Four West London hockey teams use the all-weather Astroturf pitches, including the Wanderers Hockey Club.

In the centre of the park is Pump House Gallery, which is housed in a four-story grade I listed Victorian tower. It is owned by Wandsworth Council.

On the western side there are two cricket pitches, home to the King's Road Cricket & Social Club. The club, whose members wear distinctive orange caps, can be seen playing on Saturdays and Sundays.

The park is the site of the London Peace Pagoda, erected in 1985. A Buddhist monk looks after the pagoda on a daily basis. A replica of the bronze statue of a dog that was the focal point of the historic vivisection-related Brown Dog affair was erected here in 1985. It was moved in 1994 to the Woodland Walk, near the Old English Garden.

In 2002–4 the park underwent a £11 million refurbishment funded in part by the Heritage Lottery Fund and was re-opened on 2 June 2004 by Prince Philip.

In 2007, a Dog Walk of Fame was inaugurated in the park.

The Winter Garden, next to Albert Bridge Road, was commissioned by the Friends of Battersea Park and designed by Dan Pearson Studios. It was opened by Mayor Boris Johnson on 3 March 2011, at which he unveiled a plaque designed by Steve Bunn of the RCA Sculpture School.

In 2011, a sculpture commemorating the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks, After 9/11, was unveiled by the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson.

In 2012, the park hosted one of the seven national Foodies Festivals on 17–19 August. Masterclasses were performed by chefs such as Levi Roots and Ed Baines, with burlesque shows, restaurant tents, city beaches and pop-up cinemas.

Battersea Park Nature Areas 7
Battersea Park Nature Area

Battersea Park Nature Areas

A narrow strip along the eastern edge of the park and two smaller nearby areas have been designated the Battersea Park Nature Areas Local Nature Reserve, with an area of three hectares. They have a variety of woodland bird species including blackcap and bullfinch. There are 20 species of butterfly and several of stag beetle. Other invertebrate species include the hoverfly Volucella zonaria.

Arts connections

The park featured in Petula Clark's 1954 single "Meet Me in Battersea Park", co-authored by Clark's father, Leslie, and her accompanist, Joe "Mr Piano" Henderson and David Valentine (the pen name of David Lavender). It was the title of a 2001 boxed set focusing on this early part of Petula's career.

The park featured in the 1960s films Gorgo, The Wrong Arm of the Law and The Day the Earth Caught Fire, and in a 1991 episode of Mr. Bean entitled "Mr Bean Goes to Town". Also, Jim Henson's company filmed the musical number "Couldn't We Ride?" for "The Great Muppet Caper" at the park; it was there that the movie began filming in September 1980.

On 16 September 1978, Battersea Park hosted a big punk rock concert featuring The Stranglers and several guests, among them Peter Gabriel and The Skids.

The cafe and bandstand featured in several scenes shot for the 1998 British comedy Martha, Meet Frank, Daniel and Laurence.

The first 50 seconds of the video for One Direction's single "One Thing" were filmed in the former Festival Gardens area of the park.

British artist Marion Coutts recreated Battersea, along with Regent's and Hyde Park as a set of asymmetrical ping-pong tables for her interactive installation Fresh Air (1998–2001)

Nearby railway stations

  • Battersea Park
  • Queenstown Road (Battersea)
Closed
  • Battersea Park Road
  • Pimlico
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