Southwark Park opened in 1869, designed by Alexander MacKenzie and covering 63 acres. Previous to this the land was in the Manor of Rotherhithe, owned by the Lord of the Manor, Sir William Gomm, and used for farming. I visited on two rather gloomy days and found a beautiful, and unexpected area opposite the Surrey Quays Shopping Complex.
The original bandstand was one of a pair designed for the Royal Horticultural Society gardens in South Kensington in 1861. When the Society closed in 1882 the London County Council bought the bandstands, placing one in Peckham Rye Park, the other in Southwark. However the Southwark Park bandstand was melted down during WWII and we are now looking at a reproduction.
The Ada Salter Rose Garden was built in 1936 as a place of peace and beauty in which mothers and the elderly could relax, and it remains a well-kept and interesting garden, although the ‘rose garden’ seems to be only a few rose bushes outside the actual garden.
There was an open-air swimming pool – a Lido – which opened in 1923 but closed in 1989 and all that remains is a fountain in the children’s play area. A new leisure facility in the area has an indoor swimming pool so there is continuity of purpose. The park was heavily used for sport – athletics and cricket – but that seems to be disappearing.
The Lake was built and opened in 1885 and Queen Victoria donated a pair of swans! It was expanded for boating and a children’s paddling pool later added. WWII damaged the park badly, resulting in a shrinking of the lake, amongst other things.
A swan was patrolling the lake, ensuring it was clear of geese – wings spread, head forward – and round the corner there were six reasons for his behaviour! Here he is, head lifted and looking smug as he has achieved his aim of terrorising the geese, and the coots.
And when the swans rest the geese take over!
You may be interested in
London Gardens Online
The Friends of Southwark Park
Images from history
The Southwark Park Act
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