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Battersea Park

From Academic Kids

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Battersea Park peace pagoda
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The bandstand in Battersea Park
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The cover of 's 2001 box set, Meet me in Battersea Park

Battersea Park is a 200 acre (0.83 km²) green space in Battersea, London, situated on the south bank of the River Thames opposite Chelsea.

The park occupies a mix of marshland reclaimed from the Thames, and land formerly used for market gardens serving the growing London population.

Battersea fields' as it was once known 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 wide and Winchilsea fired into the air. Winchilsea later wrote the Duke a grovelling apology.

Original designs for the park were laid out by Sir James Pennethorne between 1846 and 1864; albeit the park as opened in 1858 varies somewhat from Pennethorne's vision.

Battersea Park hosted very first exhibition game of football 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.

In 1951 the park was transformed into the "Festival 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.

Another part of the transformation was the addition of Battersea Fun Fair: rollercoasters, swings, roundabouts and general fun for all the family. It was this element that drew the Park to be immortalised 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. It was also the title of a 2001 boxset focusing on this early part of Petula's career.

The song's lyrics are:
If you're a Londoner just like me, meet me in Battersea Park
If you are young or you'd like to be, meet me in Battersea Park
We'll strong along by the riverside in sunshine or after it's dark
There's music and dancing, place for romancing so meet me in Battersea Park

See the people riding on the roundabouts and swings
Children so delighted at the puppets on the strings
Cheer at planes a-whirling as they fly through the air
Take a holiday, have a jolly day, come to the fair

[repeat chorus, then last two lines of chorus]

Written by Joe Henderson, Leslie Clark and David Valentine

The fun fair's most spectacular ride, The Big Dipper, was permanantly closed down in 1972 after five children were killed an accident when one of the cars broke loose and collided with another. The lack of a main attraction led to the decline in the popularity of the fun fair and its eventual closure in 1974. The former site of the fair was levelled and became a site for travelling fairs and exhibitions.

The park is home to a small zoo, all-weather outdoor sporting facilities including tennis courts, a running track and football arena; a boating lake, as well as being the site of the London Peace Pagoda, erected amidst some controversy during Ken Livingstone's tenure as leader of the now abolished Greater London Council.

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 erected in this park.

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 the 4th June 2004 by Prince Phillip.

Nearby train stations:

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