'FoBP is important as it gives park-users a real voice'
Friends of Brockwell Park is a charity made up of members, our committee and other volunteers who want to preserve and protect the park for the whole community.
It is there for local residents, communities and everyone else who lives, works and plays in London. We care about protecting it as an historic, landscaped, beautiful open space, a place of ecological and cultural interest. Brockwell Park is central to the lives of so many people and we want to make sure they are able to continue to freely enjoy its green hills and meadows, its tennis courts and BMX track, its walled garden and paddling pool. Here are some examples of the impact we continue to have on the ‘wellbeing’ of the park along with our partners.
Friends of Brockwell Park history
The Friends of Brockwell Park held their first public meeting at Brockwell Lido in January 1985. The Friends grew out of local groups setting up an action group to oppose Lambeth Council plans for an 1,000-seat athletic stadium within the park. In order to coordinate support for this opposition and to ensure the continued safekeeping of the park, it was decided there should be an amenity group that would draw its members from the park and this became known as the Friends of Brockwell Park. It was one of the first friends groups for Lambeth parks and open spaces.
The Friends became a charity in 2004 with a written statement of its objective namely: ‘For the benefit of local residents and communities, to seek to preserve and protect as a historic, landscaped public space the whole curtilage of Brockwell Park. To seek to maintain its beauty history and ecological interest , to enhance and promote the park and to ensure its free enjoyment by all sections of the community and enhance the quality of life’.
The Friends have been involved in campaigns to not only support the eco-system of the park and to ensure it is well looked after for both the present and future generations but also to defend its amenities and the principles on which the park was originally established as a public open space in 1895.
‘I joined the Friends more than a decade ago and have been Chair since 2009, both events thanks to the silver tongue of my wonderful predecessor as Chair, Laura Morland. But I have lived around the park and loved it for more than 30 years. I slept soundly through the dreadful storm of 1987, opening my bedroom curtains next morning on to the devastation of the park’s trees. The Friends’ involvement with planting new trees every year dates from that disaster.‘I wrote a brief history, ‘Ways Into Brockwell Park’, published by Lambeth Archives in 2006, and every year, I lead the Friends’ Spring History Walk. I swim every day in Brockwell Lido, even when the water is down to two degrees, and wrote its history too: ‘Out of the Blue’, published by Brockwell Lido Users, in 2007.
‘There are so many parts of the park that I love, perhaps most of all the Walled Garden and its ‘top secret garden’ accessible only from the Community Greenhouses. Brockwell Park is a stunning place all year round, but glorious in my favourite season, autumn.
‘It is a privilege to be a member of such a great committee, not because we always agree, we don’t, but because we each bring our own perspective, knowledge, talent and hard work to contribute to preserving and promoting this wonderful park.
'The Friends are enduringly important. For more than 30 years, they have provided a knowledgeable, practical, independent, membership-based approach to a major community asset. With tough financial times ahead, the doughty campaigning skills of the Friends are needed more than ever.’
Laura Morland, Committee Member
Laura has been a Friend of Brockwell Park and involved with the committee for nearly 25 years. While she was Chair, the Friends began the bench donation scheme to celebrate their twentieth birthday in 2005. Laura has managed the tree donation scheme for the last decade, liaising with the Parks Department to oversee the planting of many new park trees during that time.
In 1991, Laura trained as a garden designer and she brings her expertise and experience to the choices of planting (where it can be influenced) in the Walled Garden. She leads the volunteers of the Walled Garden gardening group, which strives to enhance the planting in that peaceful place. You may have seen the appearance of new perennials there, such as the beautiful drooping dierama and the lushly architectural Melianthus major.
In addition, Laura continues to support the bench donation scheme (run by Sandra Watts) and is involved in biodiversity projects with Brockwell Park Community Partners and other groups.She says, ‘Friends of Brockwell Park is important for the park because our sole interest is the good of the park and we will always put the park first.’
Adam Steinhouse, Vice-Chair
‘I am a member of Friends of Brockwell Park because I think that it's important to preserve public services and the public good in this era of austerity measures. Our recent survey of park users highlighted the sense of community which Brockwell Park brings to South London. I grew up in Canada, opposite a park and I love the uninterrupted green views of Brockwell Park and the diversity of park users: they are worth fighting for!’
‘I have been a member of Friends of Brockwell Park for over 20 years and the treasurer for much of that time. I have lived near the park for over 30 years and first joined when my daughter was four and we played football in the park near where we lived at that time in Trinity Rise.
‘I was concerned with the number of cars that often drove in the park and thus inspired to join a group that worked to minimise this and make sure the park remained a welcome respite from busy daily life. This remains one of my main interests in Friends of Brockwell Park: to work with others to ensure Brockwell Park will always be a place for quiet reflection, play, writing poetry, meeting friends, conversation and supporting nature.
‘I am part of the team on the committee who, with volunteers, run the car boot sales we put on in the summer months and where all the profits are returned to the park.’
’Much have I travell’d in the realms of gold,/ And many goodly states and kingdoms seen,’ said Keats. And so have I. But I have also seen the ravages of human activity, and echo poet Gerald Manley Hopkins who wrote: “And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil,’.
‘At first sight, there seems little the individual can do in the face of the huge forces operating. However, William Blake writes, ‘He who would do good to another, must do it in minute particulars / For Art and Science cannot exist but in minutely organized particulars”
‘And I am encouraged by Hopkins, again: “Yet for all this, Nature is never spent / There lives the dearest freshness deep down things.”
‘Individually, we can focus on our local patch and do something to improve it. Always the experience is that if Nature is given the slightest chance, it springs back with alacrity, whether you look at Chernobyl or the bird population on an Island freed of rats. Or, as in Brockwell Park, a stony slope by the Lido was prepared by a few dedicated volunteers and seeded for wild flowers and it flourished! And not only that, the slope suddenly became a whole new ecosystem supporting numerous insects of one sort or another.
‘In the light of the above, and valuing the beauty of the natural environment in Brockwell Park, I’m on the committee of Friends of Brockwell Park to help preserve and nurture it.’
Antonia Gross, Membership Secretary
Antonia has lived in Lambeth and enjoyed using Brockwell Park as her ‘back garden’ for almost 30 years. She has been a Friend on and off during that time, believing strongly in the restorative and enriching benefits that green spaces provide in the city.
When she gave up fulltime work in buildings and site management, Antonia was keen to give back with hands-on involvement in the park and so began helping with the Friends of Brockwell Park Tree Donation Scheme under the tutelage of Laura Morland. Now an official member of the Tree Team, she and Laura manage the donation, planting and aftercare of 20 trees in the park each year.
Antonia became a committee member in 2015 and our membership secretary in the same year. She is also a trustee at the Brockwell Park Community Greenhouses. She says, ‘Friends of Brockwell Park is important as it gives park-users a real voice – a forum in which they can air their concerns, share their ideas and make suggestions for improvement and change. It is truly for friends of the park.’
Noshir Patel, Secretary
Noshir has been a long-time supporter of the park and realises how important it is for the mental and physical wellbeing of people of all ages to have an open green space in a dense urban area. He has been involved with the car boot sale and the winter fair, which both help to raise funds for the park. He is deeply involved with the local community and apart from his interest in Brockwell Park, he participates in the the Norwood Forum, a volunteer organisation that seeks to regenerate and improve all of Norwood.
Michael Boyle, Committee Member
Michael is a member of the committee.
Alice Playle, Committee Member
‘As a Friend of Brockwell Park, I have enjoyed volunteering in the beautiful Walled Garden since 2015. I was co-opted on to the committee in June 2017, having been invited to sit in on a few meetings to test the water.
‘The natural environment and biodiversity are topics close to my heart and I am using my membership of FoBP's committee to further these causes whenever possible. For example, I instigated covering the well in the Walled Garden with fine mesh to prevent amphibians drowning in there in the spring. I have also sourced biodegradable paper cups instead of plastic ones for us to use on our tea stall at our car boot sales. It's been satisfying to be able to make a difference, even if only in a small way.
‘Budget constraints on local authorities are causing parks to be threatened by underfunding and by commercial exploitation, such as squeezing in as many gated events each summer as possible. We are working hard to resist this trend. Our park is a peaceful, unspoilt haven for everyone to enjoy and we want to keep it that way.’
Until 1807, Tulse Hill and Brockwell Park formed a single estate. It originated from the three manors of Bodley, Upgrove and Scarlettes which were first recorded in the 13th Century. Between 1352 and 1537, the whole land was owned by St Thomas' Hospital, in those days a monastic establishment in Southwark. After Henry VIII seized the monastic estates, the land changed hands several times and by the 1650s was in the hands of the Tulse family. (Sir Henry Tulse was Lord Mayor of London in 1684.)
The original Brockwell Hall stood near Norwood Road, roughly opposite Rosendale Road. A surviving account of a court hearing held there in 1563 describes it as "Brockalle" and other Tudor records refer to Brockholds or Brockholle Lane as the road past it. In 1807, the estate was split in two and the western portion was developed as Tulse Hill.
In the next few years, most of the eastern portion was bought by John Blades, a wealthy Ludgate Hill glass merchant. Between 1811 and 1813, he demolished the old hall and built a new house at the top of the hill. His friend and landscape gardener, J.B. Papworth, laid out most of the original fields as the private park of the new Brockwell Hall. Some of the houses in Brixton Water Lane were built from 1815 for estate staff.
In between, Clarence Lodge was built in 1825 (where the BMX track is today). In 1828, work started on a street of houses, Brockwell Terrace on the site of the present lido, but development came to a halt with Blades' death in 1829. Blades' grandson, Joshua Blackburn Jr, inherited the estate on his mother's death in 1860 and building in the area resumed to take advantage of the opening of Herne Hill Station in 1862. A new building, Brockwell House, was added near the site of the present changing rooms and a line of houses was built along the south side of Dulwich Road. Joshua Blackburn contributed to the cost of the new St Jude's Church in their midst, doubtless with one eye on further development, with the church at the centre of a new neighbourhood, but in his later years development was frustrated when he was confined to a lunatic asylum, and died in 1888.
In the same year, the Lambeth Vestry had obtained consent to make a new public park on the east side of Brixton Hill. But when it became apparent that the Brockwell estate would come on the market, Thomas Bristowe, Norwood's MP, led a campaign to divert the funds to secure the larger and more attractive site. Bristowe took a Bill through Parliament to create the park, led the committee to negotiate the price and raised the funds from contributions from local authorities and the community. Tragically, Bristowe, who had done most to establish the park, collapsed and died on the steps of Brockwell Hall just after the formal opening ceremony on 6 June 1892.
Efforts continued over the next 10 years to add the remainder of the estate to the new park. Another three and a half acres were bought in 1895 to provide access from the Brixton direction via Arlingford Road. J.J.B. Blackburn, Joshua's son, had died in 1898 and the remaining 43 acres were bought from his trustees by the LCC in 1901, and opened formally in 1903, but until the leases expired on the four remaining houses, only about half were actually available. The last house was demolished in 1923 and its site incorporated in the park.
Beauties of nature
J.J. Sexby, the Chief Officer of Parks of the LCC, designed the conversion of the estate into a public park. He described the estate as displaying ‘a wildness … the beauties of Nature unadorned … long stretches of undulating grassland dotted here and there with fine specimen trees … When it was bought for the people of London, it was already a park - not a park site.’ Sexby introduced recreational activities, a swimming pond, lakes and cascades, a rustic bandstand and floral carpet bedding near the Hall. Tea rooms operated in the hall from the beginning and a children's gymnasium was installed in the stable yard between the hall and the stable block.
His real masterpiece and our jewel in the crown was the conversion of the estate's kitchen garden into a stunning old English walled garden.
The lido opens
The lido open air swimming pool opened in 1937, leaving the old pond to model boats and geese. A children's playground, all-weather football pitches and tennis courts were also added. While building the first phase of the Tulse Hill Estate in 1939, the LCC added access on to Tulse Hill itself, with a way through the new estate to the Brixton Hill area beyond.
Today Brockwell Park is as important and valuable as ever. It is our green lung, our daily contact with the natural environment, a place of active recreation, a haven of peace and tranquillity and a respite from the urban environment.
Friends of Brockwell Park is a member of Brockwell Park Community Partners (the working name of the Brockwell Park Management Advisory Committee). Brockwell Park Community Partners are an umbrella organisation for the stakeholders in the park. They work with Lambeth Council on the long-term management and development of Brockwell Park. For more details of all park groups, please go to the website of Brockwell Park Community Partners.
Questions you've asked (or FAQs)
Q: Can I drive my car into the park?
A: Cars are strictly discouraged in the park, and only those on essential business are allowed in. There is a car park by the lido for park users, where the first two hours of parking are free.
Q: How can I book the Bowling Green?
A: Please contact Luke or Heather who run the Bowling Club - firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Q: Is there a Lost Property Office?
A: Sadly, no. There is nowhere official for lost property. However, some people do leave items up at Brockwell Hall Cafe.
Q: Is it possible to book Brockwell Hall for functions?
A: Not at the moment. But, Lambeth are applying for Heritage Lottery funding to refurbish the Hall. If the bid is successful, function rooms will be available in the future.
Q: Can I get married in the park?
A: The Park itself is not licensed for marriages, but it provides an ideal backdrop for photographs after the wedding.
Once the heritage lottery bid for the renovation of the hall is successful we hope to have it licensed for weddings.
Q: Can I have a party in the park?
A: There is nothing to prevent you from having a party in the park, provided you do not inconvenience other park users. The Walled Garden,however, is a haven of peace and quiet and parties are not allowed in that space.
Q: Do I need permission to film in the park?
A: Yes, you do. You will need to contact Lambeth Film Unit at firstname.lastname@example.org
Q: Who organises the BMX Training?
A: You need to contact the Brixton BMX at email@example.com
Q Would it be possible to have a small commercial event on Brockwell Park, such as a tai chi class or participative performance, where a fee would be charged?
A: Some commercial events are permitted in the park but you will need to complete an event application form which is available from Lambeth Council Events Team.
Q: Is cycling permitted through Brockwell Park or is it a no-cycle zone?
A: There may be a bye-law against it but it is not enforced. So you are allowed to cycle through the park, provided you show consideration to other park users.