Ravensbourne Park in SE London is a small green space in Lewisham which isn’t actually on the Ravensbourne River! The Ravensbourne Park Estate of high-class housing started developing in the early 19C. At the same time land for a park was set aside on the development. Today the park continues to provide an open space for the surrounding homes. With parking restrictions all round the park it certainly maintains a feeling of exclusivity for the neighbourhood!
History of the Gardens
‘…The development of the Ravensbourne Park Estate began in the 1820s north of Catford Bridge, but was only gradually built. A number of the early houses survive at the beginning of Ravensbourne Park and opposite Ravensbourne Park Gardens, which was originally a private green for the estate. A house called Ravensbourne Park House is shown on the 1870s OS map to the south of the site of the present gardens. After WWI the area became fully developed and the public gardens date from c.1960s/70s…’.London Gardens Online, April 2012
The Mid-Kent railway line was built in the mid-1800s and the station at Catford Bridge opened in 1857. The station house is quite a grand building, perhaps telling us something of the aims of the housing estate. However, very few buildings of the same age exist today, perhaps a sign of the slowness of the uptake, or the cost of the housing. Despite the opening of the railway housing development only picked up towards the end of the 19C as the cost of train travel into London decreased.
Ravensbourne Park Gardens today
Today the park is quiet and neat. There are some large, old London plane trees as well as some ornamental trees. There is grass under the trees and a set of swings for children.
Property developers in the 19C often set aside land for a park. Ravensbourne Park in SE London is one such example – Downham Fields was another – and it continues to provide a recreational space for surrounding houses today. It is a pretty space, with some impressive trees, but lacking in atmosphere, perhaps because it is so small?