Battersea Park in London
Battersea Park is a 200 acre (83-hectare) green space at Battersea in the London Borough of Wandsworth in England. It is situated on the south bank of the River Thames opposite Chelsea, and was opened in 1858.
The park occupies a mix of marshland reclaimed from the Thames, and land formerly used for market gardens that served the London population.
Prior to 1846 the area now covered by the park was known as Battersea fields, and was once a popular spot for duelling. On March 21, 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 deliberately 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, but fertile, marshes intersected by streams and ditches where the chief crops were carrots, melons, lavender (all the way up to Lavender Hill) and the famous ‘Battersea Bunches’ of asparagus. These crops served the London markets.
Running along the riverside from the fields were industrial concerns and wharfs, including a pottery, copper works, lime kiln, chemical works, and, increasingly, the new 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, more directly, by ferry direct from the Chelsea bank.
In 1845, spurred partly by the local vicar and partly by Thomas Cubitt, the builder and developer, whose yards were located across the river in the still marshy and undeveloped area of Pimlico, an application was made to Parliament for a Bill 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.
And so the Commission for Improving the Metropolis acquired 320 acres of Battersea Fields, 198 acres went on to become Battersea Park, which was opened in 1858 and the remainder of the land was to be let on building leases.
Original designs for the park were laid out by Sir James Pennethorne between 1846 and 1864, although the park as opened in 1858 varied somewhat from Pennethorne's vision.
The park’s success depended entirely on the successful completion of the new Chelsea Bridge, in 1858 Queen Victoria declared the newly-completed Bridge open. In her honour, the road alongside the eastern edge of the Park was called Victoria Road, and was linked to Queens Road by Victoria Circus (now the Queenstown Roundabout). Prince of Wales Road (now Prince of Wales Drive, London) was laid out along the southern boundary of the Park and Albert Bridge Road was constructed along the western side.
Battersea Park hosted the first football game played under the rules of the recently formed Football Association on 9 January 1864. The members of the opposing 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, Battersea Park was home to the leading amateur football team Wanderers F.C., winners of the first-ever FA Cup in 1872. One team they are known to have played against at Battersea was Sheffield F.C. in the 1860s. The Wanderers are planning to reform, although it is unknown whether Battersea Park will be used as their home ground again.
The Festival Gardens
In 1951 the park was 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 together by tree house-like platforms suspended amongst 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
Another part of the transformation was the addition of Battersea Fun Fair: rollercoasters, swings, roundabouts and general fun for all the family.
The fun fair's most spectacular ride was a rollercoaster called The Big Dipper, which opened in 1951. It was of wooden construction and suffered a major fire in 1970. It was permanently closed down after five children were killed and thirteen others injured in an accident on 30 May 1972 when one of the trains became detached from the haulage rope, before rolling back to the station (the anti-rollback mechanism having also failed) and colliding with the other train. The lack of a main attraction led to the decline in the popularity of the fun fair 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.
Current features in the park
The former site of the fair was levelled and became a site for travelling fairs and exhibitions, and is currently the site of Battersea Evolution, formerly known as the Battersea Park Events Arena.
The park is home to a small children's zoo, a boating lake, a bandstand, and several all-weather outdoor sporting facilities including tennis courts, a running track and football pitches. Four West London Hockey teams currently use the all-weather Astroturf pitches, the most prominent being Wanderers Hockey club.
The park is also the site of the London Peace Pagoda, erected in 1985. A replica of the bronze statue of a dog that was the focal point of the historic vivisection-related Brown Dog affair was also erected here in 1985.
Over the course of 2002-4, the park underwent an £11m refurbishment funded in part by the Heritage Lottery Fund, and was re-opened on 2 June 2004 by Prince Phillip.
In 2011, a sculpture commemorating the 10th anniversary of the September 11 Islamist terror attacks, After 9/11, was unveiled in the park by then Mayor of London, Boris Johnson.
"Meet Me in Battersea Park"
The Park was featured in Petula Clark's 1954 single "Meet Me In Battersea Park". The song was co-authored by Clark's father, Leslie, and her accompanist, Joe "Mr Piano" Henderson and also David Valentine (the pen name of David Lavender). It was also the title of a 2001 boxset focusing on this early part of Petula's career.
The park was also featured in the 1960s films 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".
Nearby railway stations
- Battersea Park
- Queenstown Road (Battersea)
- Battersea Park Road
- The Friends of Battersea Park (1993), Battersea Park: An Illustrated History
- History of Battersea Park
- Friends of Battersea Park
- Map of the park
- Rotary Club of Battersea Park
- Battersea Park Children's Zoo
- Easy Peasy Skate in Battersea Park
- The Battersea Society
- Battersea Festival Gardens 1951 on themagiceye at Joyland