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.
Prior to 1846 the area now covered by the park was known as Battersea fields, a popular spot for dueling. On 21 March 1829, the Duke of Wellington and the Earl of Winchilsea met on Battersea fields to settle a matter of honor.
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 and the famous ‘Battersea Bunches’ of asparagus.
In 1845 a bill was submitted to Parliament to form a royal park of 320 acres. 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’s success depended on the successful completion of the Chelsea Bridge, declared open in 1858 by Queen Victoria.
The park hosted the first football game played under the rules of the recently formed Football Association on 9 January 1864 .
The park is full of curious sites, but the most famous is the Peace Pagoda .
At a time when the cold war and the fear of nuclear attack appeared to be escalating the offer of a Peace Pagoda to promote world peace and harmony certainly seemed appropriate. It was offered to the people of London by the Nipponzan Myohoji Buddhist Order as part of the 1984 Greater London Council Peace Year.
Nipponzan Myohoji is a religious movement that emerged from the Nichiren sect of Japanese Buddhism. They have been constructing Peace Pagodas as the spiritual focus to unify the movement for peace since 1947. They exist all around the world – in Europe, Asia and the United States. The pagoda in Battersea was built by monks, nuns and followers of Nipponzan Myōhōji at the behest of the organization. The double-roofed structure, which is 33.5 m high and constructed from concrete and wood, is one of around 80 around the world and the second to be erected in a Western capital city, the first being in Vienna in 1983. The Pagoda has four large gilded bronze sculptures of Buddha on each of its four sides showing some of the Buddha’s mudras (hand gestures). The gestures performed by the hands of a Buddha image have specific meanings that refer to some event in the life of the Buddha and denote a special characteristic.
If you stand beside the Pagoda, on your left you’ll see the Battersea Children Zoo . The entrance is 9.50 pounds for adult and 7 for kids.
In 1951 the northern parts of the park were transformed into the „Pleasure Gardens“ as part of the Festival of Britain celebrations. Part of them were designed by Russel Page, one of the best garden designers in the world .
On their other side are the Old English Gardens .
If you continue along the path you’ll see the the Bandstand – the centre hub of Battersea Park located on Central Avenue where all the pathways meet. The actual bandstand is a 9m diameter, Victorian covered bandstand, set within a 30m radius hard standing area. This is an open air events site with power and water and can be used for live music, summer & winter fairs and charity runs all year around. You are now able to get married at the Bandstand !
Straight ahead is the Sub Tropical Garden . Battersea Park’s first Superintendent, John Gibson, created the Sub-Tropical Gardens in 1863. The first public Sub-Tropical Gardens in the country, they attracted immediate attention for their show-stopping colours, giant leaves and unusual plants. In 1835 Gibson was sent to India by the Duke of Devonshire hunting for orchids, on a journey that took him through Madeira and South Africa. He brought both plants and ideas back to England and at Battersea created a mixture of exotic plants and colourful “carpet” bedding that started a fashion that swept across England and can still be seen in gardens today.
Gibson created a mild micro-climate for the tender plants in the garden, making a dense shelter belt of earth and trees from the wind. He moulded the planting beds on top of brick rubble to help drainage and absorb the heat of the sun during the day and act as storage heaters for the plants during the cooler nights. Many of the plants were planted in pots and could be lifted out of the ground and put into the Park’s glasshouses for the winter. The Sub-Tropical Gardens remained a feature in the Park until World War II when many of the gardeners went to war and much of the Park became allotment gardens to help feed local people.
In 1992 the Friends of Battersea Park took the first step in the recreation of the Gardens by planting a large palm tree which thrives there to this day. The plants stay out all winter but the more tender species are given winter protection of fleece and straw.
If you walk along the lake you’ll see the artwork “ Three standing figures “ by the world-famous Henry Moore .
Along this path is the Pump House Gallery . Opened in 1999, it is housed in a former Victorian industrial pump house used for the irrigation and fountains of Battersea Park. It was converted in 1992 into a park interpretation centre, education and exhibition space with the aid of a grant from English Heritage.
On it’s back is a statue of dog, which caused the Brown Dog affair . The Brown Dog affair was a political controversy about vivisection which raged in England from 1903 until 1910.
The controversy was triggered by allegations that the Department of Physiology at University College London performed an illegal vivisection before an audience of 60 medical students on a brown terrier dog. The dog was adequately anaesthetized according to Bayliss and his team, but it was conscious and struggling according to the Swedish activists. The procedure was condemned as cruel and unlawful by the National Anti-Vivisection Society.
Anti-vivisectionists commissioned a bronze statue of the dog as a memorial, unveiled in Battersea in 1906, but medical students were angered by its provocative plaque: „Men and women of England, how long shall these Things be?“ This led to frequent vandalism of the memorial and the need for a 24-hour police guard against the so-called anti-doggers. On 10 December 1907, 1,000 medical students marched through central London waving effigies of the brown dog on sticks and clashing with suffragettes, trade unionists, and 400 police officers, one of a series of battles known as the Brown Dog riots.[
Battersea Council sent four workers accompanied by 120 police officers to remove the statue under cover of darkness in March 1910, after which it was reportedly melted down by the council’s blacksmith—despite a 20,000-strong petition in its favour. A new statue of the brown dog was erected in Battersea Park in 1985, commissioned by anti-vivisection groups.
And here are some photos of the lovely lake :
Beside it’s bank is another interesting statue – „Single Form“ by Barbara Hepworth .
There are two War memorials in the park – Australian Memorial Garden and the XXIV Division Memorial.
The Australian Memorial Garden and House are dedicated to the memory of the 5397 Australian air crew lost in action over Europe during the Second World War 1939 – 1945. This sandstone boulder (three quarters of a tonne) is one of 6 removed from a golf course next to Bondi Beach and delivered here by the Australian Rupert Murdoch in March 2000.
The other memorial commemorates the service of the 24th Division, a British infantry division which served on the Western Front in the First World War.
And finally, since I always travel with my kid I’ll show the children playground, which I honestly envied .
And to continue the tradition, here’s the location of the park :