The London Inventory of Historic Green Spaces

Nine Years of Research come to Fruition
Launch Report by SALLY WILLIAMS

AFTER nine years of research, the London Inventory of Historic Green Spaces was finally presented to the public at a well-attended conference held at London's Guildhall, on 10th April 2003. There was an impressive range of speakers from the world of garden history.

Instigated in 1994

The Inventory is the culmination of a research project first instigated in 1994, very soon after the Trust was founded, with the aim of identifying and celebrating the wealth of historic green sites across the 610 square miles that comprise Greater London.

Its ambitious remit was to identify London's public parks, gardens, squares, cemeteries and churchyards of local historic interest, not forgetting historic greens and commons.

Initial research was undertaken by a prestigious group of garden history consultants which included Hazel Conway, James Edgar, Ruth Guilding, David Lambert and Todd Longstaffe-Gowan. By 1995 around 1,250 sites had been identified, some of which were successfully submitted to English Heritage for inclusion in the National Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest.

Making Boroughs Aware

One of the primary purposes of the London Inventory was to ensure that each London borough, as the planning authority, was aware of the parks, gardens and open spaces in their area - and their value - to assist in the preservation of the historic landscape, encourage restoration (where appropriate) and to engender a wider interest in the historic and heritage of London's green open spaces.

However, the fruits of this work initially remained largely unknown, tucked away in files in the Trust's picturesque office in Duck Island Cottage in St James's Park. Then in 1998 further funding was secured from English Heritage, Historic Royal Palaces and the Pilgrim Trust to review and update the Inventory, with the aim of one day making it more publicly accessible.

Transport for London also supported the project through provision of an annual travel pass and the review, completed in 2003, was largely carried out by researcher Sally Williams with Lesley Howes undertaking research in four South London boroughs. The Inventory now stands at some 2,250 sites, but additional sites keep emerging

Publishing the Inventory

Discussions are continuing within the Trust on how best to make this information more widely available through publication in various forms. When funding is secured, the Trust plans to make the core data freely available on-line, with the full version being accessible via an annual subscription system. It is also hoped that one day the Inventory will be published in book form.

A limited Conference Edition of the London Inventory was produced for delegates to the Guildhall conference in April, in the form of individual borough gazetteers focusing on publicly accessible sites. While this publication was a limited edition for the conference, there remain a number of these available and interested members may purchase them at £5.00 each. Please contact the Trust for information.

Sally Williams is Keeper of the London Inventory of Historic Green Spaces.