The Battersea Fun Fair and The Staff Yard

My friend Sarah emailed me a few days ago to ask if she could have a copy of this ferris wheel image above. She said it made her feel nostalgic.


I thought that was interesting because that feeling is exactly what led my parents and I to a fun fair in Battersea Park over the bank holiday weekend. My dad remembered enjoying the Battersea Fun Fair as a kid. He wanted to see if there was still a theme park in the same area, but this ferris wheel is only part of a temporary bank holiday fun fair set up for a long weekend.

Curious about his comment that the park had closed because someone had died, I looked into it a bit more and found this:

“The fun fair’s most spectacular ride was a roller coaster called The Big Dipper, which opened in 1951. It was of wooden construction and suffered a major fire in 1970. It was permanently closed down after five children were killed and thirteen others injured in an accident on 30 May 1972 when one of the trains became detached from the haulage rope, before rolling back to the station (the anti-rollback mechanism having also failed) and colliding with the other train. This is the worst accident in the history of theme parks. The lack of a main attraction led to the decline in the popularity of the fun fair and its eventual closure in 1974.”

I had nearly forgotten about these photos of our day in Battersea Park until Sarah emailed me and I realised I hadn’t shared them here on the blog yet.


It was a beautiful day, the last weekend in August – bank holiday and sunshine all in one. We were looking for something relaxing to do, a low key way to spend the day.


Battersea Park was never really on my radar until I lived just over the bridge, but now I walk through every so often to enjoy the green space that runs along the south side of the river.


One of my favourite features of the park is the Peace Pagoda, which I’ve written about before along with a few other Battersea Park posts. It seems so out of place that you actually feel like you’re not in London anymore, similar to the feeling of driving by the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Neasden, only on a much smaller scale!

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We walked through the west side of the park, taking in the fountains and manicured flower beds. Everything looked tidy, bright and Summery.


We stopped for 99 Flakes before heading toward the Staff Yard.


The Staff Yard is bursting with herbs and veggies. It’s a bit hidden as it’s a walled garden so not so obvious unless you know to look for it or accidentally bump into it.


Though it’s called the “Staff Yard”, it is a community project that’s maintained by the charity Thrive.


It’s not a huge space but there’s a really wide variety of plants neatly organised and labeled. I also found a gnome.


In the 20 minutes or so that we spent exploring this space, not a single other person walked in so it’s definitely a relaxing place, a little hideaway, with a few benches dotted about in case you brought your book.


We spotted a garden for men’s health and women’s health with various herbs and why they are good for either.


We eventually made our way out and back to the river. I love walking over the Albert Bridge. It’s my new favourite. (My old favourite, in case you are wondering, was Blackfriars Bridge because I used to walk over it every day when I did my study abroad internship many years ago and it brought back fond memories every time I returned.)


We wandered slowly down King’s Road then, to Duke of York Square which is excellent for people-watching (and car-watching, even if you’re not a car person, which I’m not at all but it’s amusing to see all the show offs around here).


It was definitely a very relaxing way to spend the day. And the park looks very different now, just a month later, transitioning into Autumn.


Where’s your favourite London park to spend a crisp Autumn afternoon? Do you have any memories of the Battersea Fun Fair? I’d love to hear your stories if you do!

11 comments on “The Battersea Fun Fair and The Staff Yard

  1. Although I was brought up south of the river, we never really ventured towards Battersea as it wasn’t deemed to be a ‘nice’ area then. I didn’t know it had a park although most London towns have parks so I don’t know why I didn’t think it would have.

  2. Used to visit Battersea Park’s fun fair regularly until it closed. Though the fun fair didn’t close because of the Big Dipper accident, it stayed open until 1975/6. It closed down because Disney considered Battersea Park as a potential site for a European Disneyland, so Wandsworth Council had the fun fair cleared just in case. But as we know, it never happened and it was 20 years before Disneyland Paris opened.

  3. I wrote a post on Battersea not that long ago – it is one of my favourite parks partly because of a family history here (my parents met / dated while both working here during the Festival of Britain) and I find it less touristy. It is also historic in that the first ever football match under F.A. rules was held here, and it was home to Wanderers FC – the first winners of the F.A. cup!

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  5. Lovely photos! I remember the fun fair – one of my favourite places to go as a child, because my dad took me and my sister, and we rarely had time alone with him (he was always working). The park closed when I was 8, but I still have vivid memories of the bright colours, the Water Chute, the Dodgems, the windmill on the rectangular lake, and so much more. Thanks!

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  7. Spent most of mum youth in the funfair and park. Was a cadet in the St. John’s ambulance and we had first aid posts in the park and funfair. A great perk was that they let you on all the rides for free in the funfair if we were in uniform. Spent many and hour on the Big Dipper and rotor. (Could walk round this on the walls)
    Happy times. Such a shame that it was not modernised , would have been a great theme park in the centre of London.

  8. I enjoyed your post and photos 🙂
    I lived not far from Battersea Funfair when I was growing up, we visited it on a regular basis I absolutely loved it in there all the rides and the music week nights was better the rides lasted much longer heheh! my favourites were The Waltzer (Battersea one was called The Cavalcade Of Swing) and The Rotor was a must.

  9. As well as being a teenage visitor to the fun fair, in 1975 at the age of 21, I was manager of the closed fun fair site and the bar/restaurant by the river on behalf of THF. I’m fairly sure that Disney were considering the power station as a site for EuroDisney, not the old fair site. Leave a post here if you have any memories of my era.

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