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Inventory Site Record

Betts Park (Bromley)

Brief Description

The land here was once part of Penge Common, dating back to at least the C10th. Betts Park was opened in 1928 when a large Victorian villa and its gardens, including a remnant of the former Croydon Canal, were donated to the people of Penge in perpetuity by local landlord and businessman Frederick Betts for use as a library and park. Additional land was later purchased with funding from the King George's Fields Foundation in 1936 and provided horticultural features and recreation facilities. The park slopes to the south and is almost entirely surrounded by residential housing. Trees include mature oaks, false acacia, holm oak, London plane and a mulberry, and there are remains of a shrubbery with holm oak, laurel and yew. Horse chestnut trees line a tarmac walk from Betts Way south-west across the park. The brick base of an armillary sundial survives to the north and from this point there are views across the surprisingly wooded landscape of Croydon.

Practical Information
Previous / Other name:
King George Memorial Fields
Site location:
Anerley Road/Betts Way/Seymour Villas/Croydon Road, Anerley
Postcode:
SE20 8TQ
What 3 Words:
lame.chins.maybe
Type of site:
Public Park
Borough:
Bromley
Open to public?
Yes
Opening times:
unrestricted
Special conditions:
Facilities:
Children’s play area, football pitch, multi-use sports courts, outdoor gym, skateboard area, picnic area
Events:
Public transport:
London Overground: Anerley. Bus: 75,157, 197, 354, 356, 358, N3
Research updated:
04/07/2023
Last minor changes:
19/07/2023

Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news. www.bromley.gov.uk; www.bettspark.com

Full Site Description

In 1928 Frederick Betts (1859-1944), a local landlord and businessman, donated a large Victorian villa named Oak Lawn and its gardens, which bordered the Croydon Canal, in perpetuity to Penge Urban District Council in memory of his late mother Sarah Betts. Oak Lawn villa became Anerley Public Library, the gardens a recreation ground and the canal provided a water feature. Up until the 1970s the park had an extensive rose garden, which is now no longer in place. The library and its outbuildings were demolished in the 1960s as a result of subsidence, and a pre-fabricated library building was erected. 

In June 1936 additional land to the south-east of the park was purchased through the auspices of the King George's Fields Foundation, which had been set up to provide a living memorial to King George V following his death in January 1936, through the provision of playing fields. The King George Memorial Field at Betts Park was officially opened in 1939, and gates with the King George's Fields insignia used to stand at the entrance on Croydon Road. Known as the Mitre Gate, this is no longer in place but it is hoped this historic feature may one day be reinstated. In 1965 the Urban District of Penge was amalgamated into the London Borough of Bromley, which became the landowner and the deeds of perpetuity passed to Fields in Trust for administration on behalf of the Crown and the people. 

The main entrance to the park is in Anerley Road with modern railings and a section of cast-iron railing dating to the 1870s at the site of the old canal bridge. There are four other entrances from surrounding streets. In the park are the remains of rockwork from the 1930s, largely made up from slag and broken concrete, and a tarmac walk down to and along the towpath of the last remaining section of the Croydon Canal, which is separated from the park by iron railings. The Croydon Canal was built to link Croydon with the Thames and opened with much fanfare in 1809 with bands, large crowds attending and a 21-gun salute. The canal was 9 miles long and had 28 locks, with two reservoirs dug at Sydenham and South Norwood; 22 barges transported their goods along the canal, mainly timber but also lime, chalk and agricultural produce. However, the cost of maintaining the locks led to financial failure and the canal closed in 1836, the owners selling it to the London and Croydon Railway, which opened its line in 1839. Much of the railway from London Bridge follows the old canal route, with West Croydon station on the site of the former canal basin. Sections of canal not used for the railway were used for pleasure boating; the section in Betts Park was well-maintained in the early days, with swans nesting here.

There are small areas of woodland and large single trees in the park, some dating back over 200 years to when the site of the park was known as Clay Copse on Penge Common, an area of ancient woodland and grazing first recorded in deeds in 957AD when it was gifted by King Eadwig to thane Lyfing as part of the Manor of Battersea. On the south side of the common the coppice known as Clay Copse was used by commoners to provide firewood for their daily needs. Penge Common remained relatively unchanged until 1827 when it was enclosed by Act of Parliament, divided and sold in lots for development.

In the centre of the park stands a small plinth that once housed an ornate armillary sundial erected in 1960 to commemorate the diamond jubilee of Penge Urban District Council, established in 1900. The sundial has since disappeared. In 1999 a boulder known as the Bromley Millennium Rock was installed in the park, with an explanatory plaque: 'This boulder of Lewisian Gneiss from Lochinver in North West Scotland was presented to the people of Bromley by The Highland Council to commemorate the Millennium year.' The children’s playground is enclosed within iron railings and a pavilion houses a private pre-school play group. The demolition of villas along Anerley Road since 1965 has exposed the park to the east. All parts of the park are accessible to those with restricted mobility.

Betts Park is now managed by idverde UK, which in June 2015 was contracted by Bromley Council for the management of the borough's parks, green spaces and countryside service, a relationship that was extended in April 2019 for a further 16 years. The Friends of Betts Park was established in 2019 with the aim of creating a more engaged community, bringing the community of Anerley together, and of encouraging the local authority to maintain this valuable asset. 


Sources consulted:

Inventory file 1995; Friends of Betts Park: https://www.bettspark.com; 'Betts Park In Common On the Common' published by the Friends of Betts Park, 2023; https://www.fieldsintrust.org/FieldSite/Penge-Betts-Park; Penge Heritage Trail.

Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
Grid ref:
TQ347694 (534719,169524)
Size in hectares:
12.5
Site ownership:
LB Bromley
Site management:
idverde (https://bromleyparks.co.uk/); Friends of Betts Park
Date(s):
1928, 1936
Designer(s):
Listed structures:
None
On National Heritage List for England (NHLE), Parks & Gardens:

No
Registered common or village green on Commons Registration Act 1965:

No
Protected under London Squares Preservation Act 1931:

No

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:
No
In Conservation Area:
No
Tree Preservation Order:
No
Nature Conservation Area:
Yes - Local Importance
Green Belt:
No
Metropolitan Open Land:
No
Special Policy Area:
No
Other LA designation:
Urban Open Space
Betts Park, June 2012. Photograph Sally Williams
2012
Remnant of Croydon Canal bordering Betts Park, June 2012. Photograph Sally Williams
2012
Remnant of Croydon Canal bordering Betts Park, June 2012. Photograph Sally Williams
2012
Betts Park: children's play area, June 2012. Photograph Sally Williams
2012
Betts Park: plinth of armillary sundial, June 2012. Photograph Sally Williams
2012
Betts Park: Bromley Millennium Rock, June 2012. Photograph Sally Williams
2012

Click a photo to enlarge.

Please note the Inventory and its content are provided for your general information only and are subject to change. It is your responsibility to check the accuracy.