Lewisham Park in SE London hides away behind a busy main road but is surprisingly quiet and peaceful. It is very different from the park I visited last week, Telegraph Hill Park, which is in a quiet residential area. But, like Telegraph Hill Park, it has a history!
History of Lewisham Park in SE London
William Walter Legge, the 5th Earl of Dartmouth (1823-91) owned land in Lewisham and set out to develop housing for affluent city business people who wanted to live in rural surroundings, with easy access to their work in the City. Lewisham Park started in the 1840s and developed slowly. Building finally ended in 1906. Large houses curve around a park which is for the use of the residents alone. In 1878 the Earl of Dartmouth handed maintenance and care of the park to Trustees in 1878. In 1965 the Trustees gave the land to the London Borough of Lewisham for use as a public park
Access to Lewisham Park
There are several gates into the park, set into attractive railings. Sometimes the railings are also planted with hedges. The Council locks the gates overnight.
Layout of Lewisham Park in SE London
…The park once had a lake, which was formed as a result of gravel extraction during building work, and this was emptied within living memory, although it was not shown on the Stanford Map of 1862. Its site is now a circular sunken area ringed with plane trees…
…The sunken area in Lewisham Park is bounded with modern railings, hedges, shrubberies and horse chestnuts. [However], the original path layout in the park has altered, although perimeter walks remain as originally laid out and the park’s structure, principally of London plane trees, is still discernible, including the complete ring around the site of the lake and one notable oak... more much recent planting of cypress, flowering cherry, birch, rose beds, rhododendron etc., has rather obscured the original coherence. ‘
But there are no railings around the sunken area. And neither is there a complete ring of London Plane trees around the sunken area. This might have been true in 2012 but today the ring is more a half-circle. Finally, the gravel pit is still marked on the Ordnance Survey map published in 1872, although by 1897 it had become a lake, with a complete ring of trees. The ring was still complete in 1934 and I think the changes may have been a result of WWII. Ring-necked parakeets are very active in the park, in and out of the nesting holes in the plane trees!
And there is plenty of encouragement for other birds to visit, and linger!
Trees in Lewisham Park
The Council has planted a number of new trees but apart from the Gingko I couldn’t identify them. In addition to the London Plane Trees I also found oak trees, junipers, pines, holly, horse chestnuts, and acers.
The perimeter walk around Lewisham Park is an easy and level surface. I saw walkers, mothers pushing prams, and runners doing circuits.
Play area, roses, and shrubs
As LGO points out, the layout of the internal paths in the Park has changed since 1897 – to accommodate a children’s playground and to facilitate access across the park to the surrounding streets. However, I feel that the sense of an open park has been retained. There are a few rose beds near the children’s playground and a single bed of perennials in the middle of the park, and these do not compromise the feel of space.
There are shrubs around the perimeter of the park and around some of the trees, but it was hard to identify them with few leaves!
I was again surprised and delighted to find yet another attractive, quiet, well-tended green space – Lewisham Park in SE London.