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The creation of Battersea Park was first mooted in 1843 when the property developer Thomas Cubitt, and the local vicar, the Honourable Reverend Robert Eden, reported to Queen Victoria's Commission for Improving the Metropolis. In 1846 an Act of Parliament was passed which authorised the formation of a park on a part of Battersea Common and Battersea Fields which included the pleasure grounds of the Red House inn.

A preliminary layout plan was produced by James Pennethorne in 1845, the basic principles of the design including a perimeter carriage drive, an embanked river frontage, and perimeter housing. The main development of the park took place however after 1854 under the direction of Parks Superintendent John Gibson who had worked on Victoria Park, Hackney with James Pennethorne. The park opened to the public in 1854 and was formally opened along with neighbouring Chelsea Bridge by Queen Victoria in 1858. In 1889 management of the park became the responsibility of the newly formed London County Council and under their management there was a slow change away from a park noted for its horticultural displays to one that was increasingly managed for sport. By 1919 the once-famed shrubberies were described as 'undefined and straggling', forming the boundary of the 'long-grassed, windswept plain' (Amhurst 1919).

During the First World War allotments were laid out in the park, an anti-aircraft station was set up on the croquet field, and a clothing depot on one of the cricket fields. The gravel carriage drives were damaged by heavy vehicles and after the war all the drives and paths were tarmacked.

During the Second World War 13 hectares were laid out as allotments and a piggery, a barrage-balloon site and an experimental radio station were introduced into the park, and the running track became an anti-aircraft gun site. A children's day nursery was built near the south boundary. By 1950 the Ordnance Survey plan shows some of the large beds of mixed trees and shrubs as just trees in grass. In 1951 the Festival of Britain was based on the south bank of the Thames and a 15 hectare site which included a large part of the riverside was requisitioned from Battersea Park and laid out as the Festival Gardens. Whilst it was intended as a one-off, year-long exhibition, the funfair remained a permanent attraction until it was closed in 1974.

In 1966 responsibility for the management of the park passed to the GLC; plans to rejuvenate the park were drawn up and consultations started in 1979. These were finally approved in 1984. Following the abolition of the GLC in 1986, responsibility for the management of the park passed to the London Borough of Wandsworth and a management plan was completed in 1987. This was updated in 1995 (Colson Stone) and a programme of restoration and upgrading is now (1998) in progress, aided by a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

People associated with this site

Botanist: John Gibson (born 1815 died 1875)

Sculptor: Dame Barbara Hepworth (born 10/01/1903 died 20/05/1975)

Sculptor: Henry Spencer Moore (born 30/08/1898 died 31/08/1986)

Architect: Sir James Pennethorne (born 04/06/1801 died 01/09/1871)