Danson Park * (Bexley)
* on The National Heritage List for England, Parks & Gardens
Danson Park was the private estate lands for Danson Hill, a mansion built between 1762-67 for wealthy merchant Sir John Boyd. The grounds were laid out at the same time, designed by Nathaniel Richmond in the manner of Lancelot 'Capability' Brown, with a large ornamental lake overlooked by the mansion. In 1924 the property was sold by the Bean family to Bexley UDC and in 1925 was opened by Princess Mary as a public park. The mansion, leased to English Heritage, is open occasionally. There are three ornamental gardens, an Old English Garden near the Mansion, a Rock Garden at the western end and a Peace Garden in the south-east corner.
- Previous / Other name:
- Danson Hill; People's Park
- Site location:
- Park View Road, Welling; Danson Road, Bexleyheath
- DA6 8HL
- Type of site:
- Public Park
- Open to public?
- Opening times:
- 7.30am - dusk Mon-Fri, 9am - dusk Sat/Sun/Bank Holidays. Splash Park open summer 10am-6pm, winter 10am-2pm weekdays/-3.30pm weekends.
- Special conditions:
- Admission fee for Danson House, open Thursdays 10am-4pm - please check for details: Dansonhouseheritage@kent.gov.uk
- Danson Splash Park. Car park, Boathouse Kiosk café, toilet; The Danson Stables restaurant in the old stables. 11 standard football pitches,1 junior football pitch, changing facilities; grass and hard tennis courts; 9 hole pitch and putt; 18 hole putting green; trim trail and orienteering course; 2 bowling greens (managed by local consortium); children’s playground (dog free zone); Sailing club.
- Numerous events including Fireworks, Danson Festival, Fun Run, Flower Shows, Craft Fairs, South East Counties Motor Show, Dog Shows. Danson House has opened for Open House London
- Public transport:
- Rail: Bexleyheath. Bus: 89, 96, B13, B14
The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/07/2010
Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news. www.bexley.gov.uk
Full Site Description
Site on The National Heritage List for England, Parks & Gardens, for Register Entry see https://www.historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list
Danson Park was once part of the private estate lands for Danson Hill, a mansion built between 1762-67 for Sir John Boyd, a wealthy merchant, although the Danson estate existed here from at least the C13th, with pasture, woodland and arable land. Sir John took over the lease in 1759 from the descendants of John Styleman, who was the first owner-occupier from c.1697, and gradually purchased additional land over the next 40 years. The estate at its most extensive was c.240ha. Danson Hill was designed by Robert Taylor, architect of the Bank of England and knighted in 1782, in the style of a Palladian villa, and its grounds were landscaped at the same time. The parkland was laid out in the manner of Lancelot 'Capability' Brown by Nathanial Richmond, who was a student of Brown's (or possibly designed by Brown himself), and included a large ornamental lake overlooked by the mansion, a winding gravel path and planting of cedars, chestnuts, poplars, beech, birch, oak and ash. The lake had been created by building a dam across the Danson Stream and covered the site of an older house. An existing small cottage was improved with the addition of a spire in order to provide a more interesting view from the house. This was later called Chapel House and is still visible at Blendon.
Sir John died in 1800 and the estate was inherited by his son, the second baronet, who then sold it in 1807 to John Johnston. Johnston lived here until his death in 1829 and the property was then purchased by engineer Alfred Bean, after whose death in 1890 his family remained here. Bean was Chairman of Bexley Local Board from 1880 and also of the Bexleyheath Railway Company and he conceived of the idea of transforming his substantial estate into a new residential suburb for London. His will provided for the estate lands to be sold for developing the land as squares and crescents, with streets, roads and sewers, but nothing came of these plans, and the Danson estate was only developed piecemeal from 1922 onwards, after the death of his widow in 1921. The family then sold the estate divided into 23 lots, Lot One of which was acquired for £15,000 in 1924 by Bexley Urban District Council comprising the manor house and 224 acres. In 1925 the grounds were opened by Princess Mary as a public park.
The cost of laying out the park was c.£3500 and an application was made for a government loan for the purpose. The house was made into a museum and the new park had facilities for football, tennis, cricket and hockey, as well as a miniature golf course. Boats were provided for use on the lake and on 25 July 1936 an open air swimming pool was provided, known as Bexley Open Air Pool. Designed by G A Joy, it had a main pool 165ft x 90ft with diving boards at one end and two children's pools, with a raised terrace with a café. A popular and well-used facility, the pool eventually closed following the 1979 summer season, the site badly vandalised before it was demolished in 1982 and grassed over. In 1929 the Morris Wheeler Gates were opened, and the Boathouse and Café were opened in 1964. In the centre of Mid Park is the Charter Oak, a large oak tree some 200 years old. It is so called because it was under this tree that Bexley's Charter as a Municipal Borough was presented by Lord Cornwallis on 30 September 1937. There are three ornamental gardens, an Old English Garden near the Mansion, a Rock Garden at the western end of the park, and a Peace Garden in the south-east corner. A nature reserve has been established on an area previously known as the Bog Garden. The 7.8-hectare Danson Lake today provides for fishing, boating, sailing and other water-based sports including use by clubs such as Erith Rowing Club and Meridian Canoe Club. Recent improvements to the park comprise four 'all purpose' fishing platforms and a cycle route to the south of the lake, with funding received from the Environment Agency and Transport for London. The park now has a Splash Park, a free wet and dry play area with refreshment kiosk and seating area, toilets and baby changing facilities.
The mansion was leased to English Heritage in 1997 on a 999 year lease and is open to the public as a heritage attraction on certain days, including for London Open House, which described the Mansion in 2000 as 'an outstanding example of a mid Georgian Neo-Palladian villa'. In 2004 a Heritage Lottery Fund grant enabled the mansion and its immediate surroundings to be restored and the house was re-opened by the Queen in July 2005. Danson House is now the official Register Office for LB Bexley, on whose behalf it is run by Kent Council Council, and it is used for ceremonies including weddings, citizenship, renewal of vows, notice of marriage appointments, and the registration of births and deaths. Two locations in Danson Park are suggested as suitable for wedding photography, the English Garden opposite the mansion and by the Lake. There is a separately managed tea room at the back of the house.
The Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission for England was established in 1984 and was commonly called English Heritage. In April 2015 it split into 2 separate entities, Historic England (HE), which continues to champion and protect the historic environment, and the English Heritage Trust, whose role is to look after the 400+ historic sites and monuments owned by the state. HE manages the National Heritage List for England (NHLE) that includes over 400,000 items ranging from prehistoric monuments to office blocks, battlefields and parks, which benefit from legal protection.
Country Life 6 July 1967, pp123-125; Cherry B & Pevsner N, The Buildings of England, London 2: South, 1983, pp137-138; Jacques D, Georgian Gardens, 1983 pp84-85; Stroud D. Capability Brown, 1975, p222. Bexley Local Studies Note No.6 'Danson House', 1996 rev 2005; Bexley Local Studies Note No. 53 'John Boyd's Danson Estate' (nd). See also Mrs Ruth Hutcherson, 'The History of Danson'; www.ideal-homes.org.uk/bexley/danson estate; Website: 'Lidos in London no longer open' compiled by Oliver Merrington and Andy Hoines, with additional details and photographs from Ian Gordon, www.lidos.org.uk
Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
- Grid ref:
- TQ475751 (547150,175032)
- Size in hectares:
- Site ownership:
- LB Bexley
- Site management:
- Parks and Open Spaces; Friends of Danson Park
- 1762-67; C19th; 1925
- Nathanial Richmond (possibly Lancelot 'Capability' Brown)
- Listed structures:
- LBI: Danson House
- On National Heritage List for England (NHLE), Parks & Gardens:
- NHLE grade:
- Grade II
- Registered common or village green on Commons Registration Act 1965:
- Protected under London Squares Preservation Act 1931:
Local Authority Data
The information below is taken from the relevant Local Authority's planning legislation, which was correct at the time of research but may have been amended in the interim. Please check with the Local Authority for latest planning information.
- On Local List:
- In Conservation Area:
- Tree Preservation Order:
- Nature Conservation Area:
- Yes - Borough Importance I
- Green Belt:
- Metropolitan Open Land:
- Special Policy Area:
- Other LA designation:
- Danson Park Bog Garden: Local Nature Reserve
Danson Park - Photo: Colin Wing
Date taken: 11/10/18 12:38
Click a photo to enlarge.