The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/06/2010
Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news. www.wandsworth.gov.uk; ; www.batterseapark.org; www.thrive.org
Site on English Heritage Register of Historic Parks and Gardens, for Register Entry see http://list.english-heritage.org.uk
Battersea Park is an early municipal park, created following an Act of Parliament in 1846 that allowed it to be laid out on part of Battersea Common and Battersea Fields, including the site of a notorious tavern called the Red House. Speculative builder Thomas Cubitt had first proposed the creation of the park as part of new housing developed on the largely open land of Battersea Fields in 1844. An early plan of 1845 by James Pennethorne, who laid out Victoria Park (q.v.) in the East End, was developed by MBW Parks Superintendent John Gibson. 750,000 tons of material excavated from Surrey Docks was used to raise the level of the land and further material created the landscape. It opened to the public in 1854, with the formal opening by Queen Victoria taking place in 1858. Management passed to the newly-formed LCC in 1889, to the GLC in 1966 and finally to LB Wandsworth in 1987.
The park's original layout had a perimeter gravelled carriage drive, well-planted with perimeter trees and shrubberies, a grand tree-lined avenue, winding walks and landscaped areas noted for their horticultural displays. It was bounded to the north by the Thames, where a promenade was laid out following the embankment of the river in 1877. It was railed on the east, west and south boundaries, with lodges and ornamental gates built at the entrance points. The 10-hectare serpentine lake in the lower, southern part of the park was one of its main features, with Pulham & Co commissioned to create rockwork features and cascades in 1866 and 1870. An Italianate Pump House was built to pump water into the lake and its cascades, now converted as an art gallery. To the north and west or the lake were tree-clad earth mounds enclosing its famous Sub-tropical Garden laid out in 1863, and to the south of the lake was a deer enclosure. A small formal garden called The Rosary was later incorporated into the enlarged deer enclosure, but has now been restored. To the north of the lake was a smaller body of water, known as the Ladies Pond, on the north bank of which a sculpture by Henry Moore was erected in 1950, the site chosen by the artist. A lakeside café was built by the landing stage for hired boats in 1939. In addition to its horticultural displays, tree and shrub planting, the early park provided a bandstand, bowling green and children's gymnasium. In the north-west corner, masked by planting, was the park's service yard and its extensive range of greenhouses, where the sub-tropical and other plants were grown, now partly laid out as a herb garden.
New features were added after the park opened, including a Woodland Walk formed in c.1904 and the Old English Garden laid out in 1912 on the site of earlier botanical planting. From its early days it was known for its fine horticultural displays but later there was a greater emphasis on sports provision. During both WWI and WWII the park was dug for allotments and war-time use included a clothing depot, anti-aircraft sites, a barrage balloon station, an experimental radio station and a pig farm.
In 1951 the park was used for the Festival of Britain when an area of 15 hectares was requisitioned for the Festival Gardens, the fun-fair remaining as an attraction until 1974. The Festival Gardens, recently restored, comprised a Grand Vista, Upper and Lower Terraces linked by wide flights of steps to the Fountain Lake flanked by willows. The Russell Page Garden formed the central part of the Festival Gardens, which also contained a concrete amphitheatre. To the east of this is an aviary and children's zoo, which was enlarged and refurbished in the late 1990s. On the east side of the park, now the Athletics Ground, an open grassed area was originally provided for sports, enclosed to the north and east by the original American Ground, which was later created as a nature reserve. The Peace Pagoda was built in 1985 on the riverside, created by the Nipponzan Myohoji Order of Japanese Buddhist monks.
Discussions about restoring the park's C19th landscape and Festival of Britain gardens began in 1979 and it was finally undertaken through an HLF grant of £7.5 million awarded in 1998, with an additional £3.9 million making up the total restoration cost. Work commenced in 2000 and the park was re-opened by HRH the Duke of Edinburgh on 4 June 2004.
In the service yard is a garden created by Thrive Battersea. Thrive is a national charity using gardening as therapeutic activity for its work with disabled people from local communities. The garden was established in the early 1980s and is designed much like a physic garden with a large range of edible, medicinal, therapeutic and other plants that are attended through organic methods, designed and planted by disabled people. A Herb Garden was created in 2000 using a plot left vacant after greenhouses were demolished, and has won London in Bloom Awards since 2007.
See EH Register; Lt Col J J Sexby, 'The Municipal Parks, Gardens and Open Spaces of London' (1898); A Amhurst 'London Parks and Gardens' (1907), 'Gardens, their Form and Design' (1919); Brent Elliot 'Victorian Gardens' (1986; 'Battersea Park, Landscape Restoration Management Plan' (Colson Stone Partnership, 1995); LB Wandsworth, 'Battersea Park Conservation Area Character Statement'; LB Wandsworth parks website; Virginia Liberatore 'Restoration of the Festival of Britain Pleasure Gardens, Battersea Park', London Gardener, vol 7, 2001-02.