Kelsey Park (Bromley)
A municipal park that opened in 1913, featuring lakes and watercourses, Kelsey Park has much earlier origins. Elaborate formal gardens including a lake are recorded on John Roque’s plan of 1741-45. The park is named after the Kelsey family who owned the estate in the C15th. The last house to occupy the site was built in the late C18th at which time the estate belonged to the Burrell family. In the C19th the estate was held by the Hoare banking family until 1908.
- Previous / Other name:
- Part on eastern boundary: Cedars Lawn
- Site location:
- Stone Park Avenue/Manor Way/Wickham Road/access from Beckenham High Street via Kelsey Park Road
- BR3 3LH
- Type of site:
- Public Park
- Open to public?
- Opening times:
- 7.30am weekdays/9am Sat/Sun/BHs - half hour after dusk (see Friends of Kelsey Park website for seasonal closing times)
- Special conditions:
- dogs not permitted in central part of the Manor Way side of the park
- Café, toilets, children’s play area, tennis courts; mini golf course, tree walk, children's nature walk
- Various events throughout the year organised by Friends of Kelsey Park
- Public transport:
- Rail: Beckenham Junction. Bus:162, 352, 358 (to south), 54, 227, 354, 367 (to north)
- Research updated:
Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news. www.bromley.gov.uk; www.fokp.org
Full Site Description
From the C12th-C14th much of the Kelsey area was owned by the Lord of the Manor of Beckenham. The origins of the Kelsey estate appear to date from 1408 when William Kelsiulle, a fishmonger and citizen of London, acquired two meadows and built a house. In 1472 the estate was acquired by William Brograve, a draper and also citizen of London, whose family lived here for over 200 years. The earliest map showing a house at Kelsey (what became known as the 'Lower Lake' mansion) dates from 1623, and in 1664 Mr Brograve is recorded as paying tax on 12 hearths.
In 1690 Peter Burrell I, another London merchant, purchased the Kelsey estate and extended it to Elmers End. After his death in 1718 Peter Burrell II (1692-1756) inherited and undertook landscaping both sides of the River Beck, which was a fast-flowing river well-stocked with fish from the Thames until the water table was lowered by digging wells in the C18th and C19th. An MP and Sub-Governor of the South Seas Company, Peter Burrell II was caught up in the scandal of the South Sea Bubble and fined £35,000 for defrauding shareholders although he was not considered the main offender and was able to retain £30,000. John Rocque's map of 1741/5 shows the river flowing into the lower lake, but no upper lake or main waterfall are shown although there is extensive landscaping. His son Peter Burrell III (1724-1775), who was MP for Totnes, also owned Holwood House, Keston (q.v).'Upper Lake' mansion was built for his eldest daughter Elizabeth Amelia, who married Richard Bennett in 1766 and the Kelsey estate was divided north to south, with a new driveway constructed. Peter Burrell IV (1754-1820), a very wealthy man, became Lord Gwydyr but moved to his wife's estate at Carmarthen. He also owned Langley Park (q.v.), which the family had acquired in 1733. It is believed that Humphry Repton (1752-1818) was responsible for redesigning the landscape, including forming the main upper lake with waterfall and some of the present trees and possibly the ice-well may date from that time.
The Kelsey estate of some 60 hectares was sold by auction in 1820 on the death of Lord Gwydyr and from this time was rapidly reduced in size. The Lower Lake mansion had evidently fallen into disuse by then and was not mentioned in the 1820 sale documents, which refer to its 'beautiful scenery', 'ornamental timbers', 'handsome long strip of water through grounds' and 'shady walks'. The estate was purchased by Edward Gross Smith. From 1835-1909 the estate was owned by the Hoare banking family when Peter Hoare the elder purchased 60 acres in 1835, followed by a further 82 acres. The lake and its waterfall were improved, the house was reconfigured into a 'Scottish baronial style' mansion and two lodges were built. The Hoare family also contributed to the local area, providing the people of Beckenham with a fire station and pump, and a cottage hospital. Peter Hoare the younger (1803-77), who was deeply religious, had an ornate chapel built, designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott. A keen cricketer, he allowed Beckenham Cricket Club to use the private cricket ground at Kelsey. Charles Hoare (1846-1908), another good cricketer, probably entertained many sportsmen at Kelsey. However, by 1894 he appears to have lost interest in Kelsey, which was leased out as a convent and subsequently a boarding school for gentlemen's daughters.
After Charles Hoare's death, the estate was sold for development, with plans for an up-market gated housing estate. By 1911 the house was empty and the estate awaiting redevelopment. However in 1912 Beckenham Urban District Council purchased 9.72 hectares of the park for open space after pressure from Tom Thornton, the owner and editor of the Beckenham Journal, who mounted a vigorous campaign. The land was acquired with a loan of £8,800, and Kelsey Park was opened to the public on 31 May 1913 by a Government Minister. An oak tree was planted by Mrs Sutton, and the ornate spade used for this operation is now in Bromley Archives. A new lodge was built at the High Street entrance.
In WWI the house, which was not part of the UDC's acquisition, was used as an army hospital and Army Service Corp base, but it was demolished in 1921, and new housing built on Manor Way.
In 1933/34 the Cedars Lawn estate, located between the eastern boundary of Kelsey Park and Wickham Road, was acquired of which c.2.83 hectares were added to Kelsey Park in 1936, with a new park entrance opposite Tudor Road. A former pond in this garden area was probably filled in during the 1960s.
The park today is laid out with two interconnecting lakes, serpentine walks, herbaceous borders, a rose garden, and lawns backed by specimen trees that include cedars and Wellingtonia. Alongside the trees are shrubs, with gardens and beech woodland on either side of the water. Several earlier trees include a possible oriental plane, some larger London planes and a row of sweet chestnuts. Built features include the ice well, a mid C20th brick shelter, café, modern footbridges (one at least built on earlier footings), and a rockwork cascade at the north end of the main lake. The main entrance is in Manor Way, at the Kelsey Park Road end, with secondary entrances in Wickham Road and Stone Park Avenue. An area is designated dog-free. An Information and Education Centre run by the Friends of Kelsey Park is situated on the dog-free side of the park and is open at weekends and some Bank Holidays from 1.30 -3.30pm in winter and 2 -4pm during British Summertime. Access is through the park or from the entrance in Manor Way..
See History section on Friends of Kelsey Park website: www.fokp.org/history.html. H Jordan 'Public Parks 1885-1914', AA dissertation 1992 p135; J Bellamy, York Inventory Form I, 1984; GW Tookey, 'The History of Kelsey Park', 1975, (MS Bromley Local Studies Library): Andrew Crowe, 'The Parks and Woodlands of London', (Fourth Estate, 1987); An A to Z of Bromley's Parks, Local Open Space & Woodlands, LB Bromley, 2007?
Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
- Grid ref:
- TQ376689 (537643,168840)
- Size in hectares:
- Site ownership:
- LB Bromley
- Site management:
- Parks & Green Spaces; Friends of Kelsey Park
- C15th; 17th; C18th; C19th; C20th (1913)
- Humphry Repton (?)
- Listed structures:
- On National Heritage List for England (NHLE), Parks & Gardens:
- 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:
- Conservation Area name:
- western part borders on Manor Way CA
- Tree Preservation Order:
- Nature Conservation Area:
- Green Belt:
- Metropolitan Open Land:
- Special Policy Area:
- Other LA designation:
- Urban Open Space
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.