The Borough of Lewisham owns and manages Fordham Park in New Cross. Back in 1619 James 1 owned the land. Today Clifton Rise leads from the main New Cross road into one side of the Park. This was Wolve Acre Lane’ in 1619 when the area was farmland.
In the 1840s John Avann gardened here, on land called ‘Parry’s Meadows’, supplying fruit and vegetables to Covent Garden. Then, from the 1850s, the Rev Robert Walpole and Augustus Hamilton started to develop working class housing in the area.
The Ordnance Survey map of 1965 still shows tightly packed urban streets. Heavy bombing during WWII might be the reason for the demolition of some of the housing. The Achilles Street Estate was built in the early 1950s and Sanford Street and Achilles Street still border the park. However, the roads inbetween, Snead Street and Vance Street, which date from 1875, were demolished in 1975. Was the housing unsafe? Or was there a pressing need for leisure facilities?
Clifton Rise in New Cross
It seems that Fordham Park began life in 1978 as a skateboarding park, designed by Patrick Brown, a member of the National Skateboarding Association, so I couldn’t resist this photograph! And at some point during the 1980s the park was redeveloped as a sports ground. A major regeneration project in 2010 added new lighting, trees, furniture and play elements (!). Local people use the Park. It offers variety and it is another delightful surprise behind the very busy main road in New Cross.
Fordham Park is quite open and there are many ‘entrances’. Childeric Road on the west is mid-Victorian housing and here railings enclose the park. Happily the old plane trees remain. Roses and hypericums flower at the ends of the road, and at the junction of Childeric Road and Sanford Street there are beautiful oak leaf hydrangeas. In the middle section of the railings the planting is messy, and even the hydrangeas are starting to disappear under weeds – where are the Friends…?
Public Memorial to New Cross fire
Angus Street, on the north of the park, also has some Victorian houses adjacent to the new Deptford Green School. The park between Angus Street and Childeric Street is very attractive – undulating, with crossing paths, large trees, and lots of cherry trees in a ‘wild’ area – it feels like a small country town! A public memorial and bench, installed in this area in 2012, is dedicated to the victims of the New Cross house fire of 1981. In the park side of Angus Street are wooden totem poles, sculptural poles, and an interesting dry garden. Some of the planting in the dry garden is perhaps unnecessarily neglected, which is a pity, because this could be one good example of cost-effective planting in a public space. The grasses will spread and there are no edges to cut!
The entrance from Pagnell Street in the east is somewhat spare, with borders which would benefit from more attention. The linear tree walk starts here, marked by an oak tree, but it is a feature of the park which didn’t really catch my attention – the plaques on the ground don’t really stand out. The new Community Centre, the Moonshot Centre, is on this side of the park.
Children’s play area
The ‘play elements’ in the park include a play area and sandpit for children under six, a large climbing frame, a youth shelter, table tennis tables, an area for ball games, a trim trail, an informal football pitch, a cycle route. VolkerHighways was the London Borough of Lewisham’s main contractor for the Fordham Park in New Cross urban regeneration project, which was highly commended at the 2012 Landscape Institute Awards.
The Moonshot Centre
The Moonshot Centre was built in 1981, after the New Cross house fire, specifically for the benefit of the African and Caribbean communities in New Cross. It closed in 1999 but a consortium of four partners (IRIE! dance theatre, Surestart Grinley Gibbons (Playhouse Nursery), Deptford Green School and the London Borough of Lewisham) came together to raise money and refurbish the building. The centre reopened in 2007 with a revitalised programme of events targeting younger people, and as the photographs below show it has clearly been a success.
Trees in the park
There are lots of trees in Fordham Park, both large and small, which are planted mainly along the edges of the park. The centre of the park is grassy and open.
Heather Burrell is a local artist who creates floral and foliage metalwork throughout the Borough of Lewisham. She was commissioned during the regeneration of the park. In Fordham Park in New Cross her work is in the underpass to Douglas Way and Margaret McMillan Park.
This is a wonderful green space, peaceful and calm behind a busy main road through New Cross, and then the underpass and its art work lead on to another park, the Margaret McMillan Park which I will visit next week – do come with me!