The Garden Guide

Book: London Parks and Gardens, 1907
Chapter: Chapter 7 Municipal Parks in South London

Battersea Park

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No fresh'ning breeze-no trellised bower, No bee to chase from flower to flower; 'Tis dimly close-in city pent- But the hearts within it are well content. -ELIZA COOK. OF the South London Parks Battersea is the largest and most westerly, and the best known to people outside its own district. Battersea is entirely new, and has no history as a Park, for before the middle of last century the greater part was nothing but a dismal marsh. The ground had to be raised and entirely made before the planting of it as a park could begin at all. The site was low-lying fields with reeds and swamps near the water, and market-gardens famous for the asparagus, sold as "Battersea bundles," growing around it. In the eighteenth century three windmills were conspicuous from the river. One ground corn, another the colours, and the third served to grind the white lead for the potteries. This was during the time when Battersea enamel was at its height, and snuff-boxes were being turned out in quantities. On the banks of the river stood a tavern and Tea Garden, known as the Red House for many generations. It was much resorted to, but latterly its reputation was none of the best. Games of all kinds took place in its gardens, and pigeon-shooting was one of the greatest attractions there, during the first half of the nineteenth century. Although for long, crowds enjoyed harmless amusements there-"flounder breakfasts," and an annual "sucking-pig dinner," and such-like-towards the end of the time of its existence, it became the centre of such noisy and riotous merrymakings that the grounds of the Red House became notorious. The Sunday fairs, with the attendant evils of races, gambling, and drinking, were crowded, and thousands of the less reputable sections of the community landed every Sunday at the Red House to join in these revellings. It was chiefly with a view to doing away with this state of affairs, that the scheme was set on foot, for absorbing the grounds of the Red House, and other less famous taverns and gardens that had sprung up round it, and forming a Park.