Fairy Hill Park lies just inside the Sidcup bypass and alongside the Dartford Loop railway line, rather hidden away behind the houses and quite secluded. It is one of the Green Flag sites in Greenwich, but where does the name come from?
Why Fairy Hill Park?
Henry Bathurst, a barrister and judge in the court of common pleas, owned Fairy Hall in the 1770s as his country villa. He was also the first Baron Apsley and the second Earl Bathurst. Apsley House was his London home and Fairy Hall was one of this country retreats. By 1857 the owner was James Hartley, a shipowner, who rebuilt the mansion.
In 1889 the Royal Navy bought Fairy Hall as their original school in New Cross (today’s Goldsmiths) had become too small. In 1910 the RN sold the school to the London Missionary Society for its School for the Sons of Missionaries. Today the building continues as an educational institution, Eltham College.
The park is named after Fairy Hall.
A connection to Eltham Lodge?
The avenue of trees leading south from Eltham Lodge known as The Chase. Is the large oak tree in the corner of the park, near to the entrance from Broad Lawn, one of the trees from The Chase? There is also a very old yew tree – could this have been in the avenue?
The Great Park and Eltham Palace
Fairy Hill Park was once fields on Chapel Farm.
In the Middle Ages Chapel Farm was part of the enclosed Great Park of Eltham Palace. Sir John Shaw leased the Manor of Eltham in 1660 and part of the Great Park was set aside to create Chapel Farm. Originally forested, the land was stripped of trees during the Civil War and so could then be used for farming. In 1801 this was curiously called Whitechaple Farm but it was Chapel Farm by the 1860s. Chapel Farm had tenant farmers – was this crown estate or just privately owned land?
The farm land shrank as the need for housing grew in the 20th century and the park opened in 1938.
The park today
The small woodland areas on the western and southern boundaries are attractive walks but very muddy in the winter, or after heavy rain. Wood chipping on the path might help? The trees are horse chestnuts, oaks, willows, birches and hazel and there is an undergrowth of ivy and the inevitable bramble. The Little Quaggy skirts the western edge of the park but it is in a culvert underground and only appears again in the south east corner of The Tarn.
Recreation in the park
The Green Chain Walk crosses the park which is mainly grass sports pitches, but there are also new tennis courts, an outdoor gym gear and a playground for children. The grass can be very muddy indeed during the winter!
This curiously named park is a very pleasing green space in Eltham in south east London.