Friendly Gardens in Lewisham

The Lewisham Council site tells me these gardens have a dog exercice area and a playground, and that the two parts of the gardens are separated by the railway line, while LGO does not list the gardens at all. The Brockley Central Blogspot describes this in 2014 as ‘…Perhaps the most mistreated of the Brockley parks, Friendly Gardens is a pleasant slope of grass running parallel with Friendly Street and Lucas Street. A little too small and vertiginous for many people to spend much time in and often blighted by litter, it is a pretty spot which nonetheless sometimes has a touch of Kes about it…’. Fortunately there is now a Friends of Friendly Gardens and obviously I needed to take a look!

There are two old houses in this area: Brunswick House, built in 1789 for Captain Thomas Slade, and Stone House, built 1771-73 by George Gibson the Younger as his home.

The park is in an area which was known as ‘Deptford New Town’ and it was a ‘boom town’ at the end of the 18C because of its dockyards, shipbuilding, industry, and market gardening. Jonathan Lucas owned the majority of the land in this area (Lewisham Way, Tanners Hill, Brookmill Road, Deptford Broadway) and built his own home, Lucas Villa, alongside St John’s Church (built in 1855 in the garden of the Villa). The family had previously lived in Hatcham Grove House. Lucas wanted to created good living conditions for working class people, and, like the Haberdashers in Hatcham, controlled the standard of the buildings. The Villa became the vicarage, and today it is a nursery school. Some houses were built in Albyn Road in 1795 but it was between 1805-15 that new streets were created around the railway in Deptford and the area became known as ‘Deptford New Town’.

Lucas Villa today

St John’s Church

The 19C school on Lucas Street

The oldest surviving homes in the area – the terrace of 1806 on Friendly Street

The gardens between Thornville Street and Lewisham Way (the larger area on the left of the plan below) were well-used on both occasions that I visited: filled with schoolchildren and parents in mid-afternoon, and then, later in another afternoon, groups of people just enjoying the sunshine, or perhaps taking a short cut home, away from the traffic on the busy Lewisham Way. There are some wooden ‘structures’ but for a playground the equipment seemed quite limited to me.

Friendly Gardens on Google Maps

Friendly Gardens

Friendly Gardens

Just chilling at the end of the day

The trees are mainly around the edges of the gardens, and some new trees have been planted. There are also a few shrubs, but on the whole these gardens look a little sad and the borders would benefit from ‘gardening’!

There are several entrances into the gardens: from Lewisham Way, Lucas Street, Thornville Street, and Friendly Street.

The entrance from Friendly Street

Glendale manages the gardens and seem to visit regularly; the overflowing bin on my first visit had been cleared two days later. Perhaps there should be larger bins? Or even bins which are closed? The park sign needs replacing too – perhaps that is the responsibility of the Council?

The Railway Meadow over the railway separates the two sections of the park and is locked. But alongside the lower edge of the meadow is a narrow path alongside the houses and this has been gardened – really pretty!

The Deptford Railway Meadow in Friendly Gardens

The lower section of the park, between Oscar Street and Friendly Street, is for dog walkers and this is the peaceful area. Clean, and filled with large and beautiful trees, it was very unexpected. I have driven past here numerous times but it feels quite different when you walk through the park.

The lower section of Friendly Gardens

The dog-walking area in Friendly Gardens

Horse chestnut tree

The lower section of Friendly Gardens

The lower section of Friendly Gardens

Cherry trees in Friendly Gardens

Pin oak tree

Pin oak trees alongside Oscar Street

The Prince Alfred pub in Albyn Street, at one entrance to the park, has now been converted to flats. There used to be numerous pubs in the area: The Flower of Kent at the top and the Royal Albert at the bottom of Florence Road, The Royal George in Tanners Hill, The Royal Standard (also in Albyn Street), the Brookmill, and various others in Deptford High Street.

At the entrance from Albyn Street a former pub has been converted to flats

The Royal George (permanently closed)

I don’t think the rather downbeat descriptions of Friendly Gardens are justified anymore. I found the Gardens, particularly in the lower section, well-used. The upper section could be further developed as a playground, with better planting, particularly around the edges of the gardens. Perhaps a task for the Friends?

Further information
The development of the area

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