London – Battersea Park

It is another of London’s lovely gardens. It takes its name from the old parish and manor of Battersea, a gradual corruption of the Patricesy or Peter’s Isle, by which it was known in Domesday Book as belonging to the Abbey of St. Peter at Westminster.

There is nothing very interesting historically about the park, as it was only laid out in 1852, on Battersea Fields, the scene of a duel in 1829 between the Duke of Wellington and the Marquis of Winchelsea, but it is one of the favourite parks of London and the only one that fringes the borders of the Thames. It has a lovely sunk garden, that is a dream of beauty in the summer time, and letters are always appearing in the papers about the birds that nest among its trees. Four of the 188 acres are laid out as a sub-tropical garden. There is a lake with rowing boats to hire, and arrangements are made for cricket and other sports.

If the park has no history, one can find curious bits of old London quite close to it by turning out of the west gate and asking the way to Church Road, off the Battersea Bridge Road, and near the river. First there is the old church of St. Mary’s, ugly enough in itself, but it was where William Blake was married, and where Turner used to sketch the wonderful effects on the Thames. Lovers of quaint epitaphs will find a delicious one composed by himself to the famous Henry St. John, Lord Bolingbroke, who ” was Secretary of State under Queen Anne and in the days of King George I. and King George II. something more and better.”

Lord Bolingbroke was a true Battersea man, for he was born there in 1678 and died in 1751. His second wife, who shares the honour of his monument, was a niece of Madame de Maintenon. Battersea has been closely connected with the St. John family for four hundred years, though they sold their manor to the Spencers in 1763. A bit of it may still be seen in the adjoining flour mills, where, I believe, it is possible to see the wonderful ceiling and staircase, and the lovely cedar-panelled room overlooking the river, where Pope wrote his Essay on Man.