What is Battersea Park?
Battersea Park is a vibrant 19th-century park with impressive views of the River Thames.
A History of Battersea Park
Before the creation of the park, this area (originally of low, fertile marshes next to the River Thames) was known as Battersea Fields. Now treasured as a haven of natural tranquillity, the Fields were renowned as an area for duelling. In 1843 Thomas Cubitt, a prominent master builder in Battersea, enlisted the help of the local vicar to propose the creation of a park, with the aim of ‘improving the metropolis’.
By 1846 an Act of Parliament was passed which authorised the plan. James Pennethorne and John Gibson, both of whom had worked on Victoria Park in Hackney, created the design. They elected to raise and level the ground on which the park was to be built, and so 750,000 tons of soil was excavated from nearby Surrey Docks. The park was finally finished in 1854, and was officially opened four years later by Queen Victoria, alongside its neighbouring Chelsea Bridge.
The park contains many features which still manifest Gibson’s initial designs. He had travelled to India on a botanic expedition and had brought back Asian orchids and other unfamiliar plants. Here in Battersea Park, he planted a shelter belt of trees and rocks (including palms, India rubber trees, and honeysuckle) to form a subtropical garden.
Alongside its horticultural features, Battersea Park was also considered an important area for sport. In fact, the first match under initial Football Association rules was played in here in 1863. (The FA’s ‘President’s XIV’ defeated the ‘Secretary’s XIV’ 2-0.) Battersea Park became the home of the Wanderers Football Club, who won the first FA Cup in 1872.