Inventory Site Record

Parliament Hill Fields (Camden)

Brief Description

It is not known why Parliament Hill is so-called. In 1884 George Shaw-Lefevre MP, a key player in preserving Hampstead Heath, began fund-raising to extend the Heath. Parliament Hill, then part of the Kenwood estate and used for grazing, was valuable for its development potential. It became public open space under the Hampstead Heath Enlargement Act of 1886 and in 1889 was acquired by the Metropolitan Board of Works. A tumulus excavated in 1894 popularly thought to be the tomb of Boadicea is more likely an early Bronze Age burial mound. Ponds had facilities for bathing, fishing, model yachting and skating and level ground was used for sports. Other facilities included a bandstand, refreshment house and The Lido in c.1938, one of 13 built by the LCC in the 1920s and 30s.

Practical Information
Previous / Other name:
Parliament Hill
Site location:
Highgate Road/Parliament Hill/Nassington Road
What 3 Words:
Type of site:
Public Park
Open to public?
Opening times:
Special conditions:
Café open Tues-Sun - 9pm summer/dusk winter. Tennis, playground, bowls, lido, information centre, sports pitches
Public transport:
London Overground: Gospel Oak, Hampstead Heath. Bus: C2, C11, 214
Research updated:
Last minor changes:

Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news. www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/openspaces

Full Site Description

In 1884 George Shaw-Lefevre, an MP who was a key player in preserving Hampstead Heath (q.v.) and who had established the Commons Preservation Society in 1866, began fund-raising to extend the Heath. One of the desired extensions was Parliament Hill which was at that time part of the Kenwood (q.v.) estate, the land enclosed and used for grazing, but it was very valuable due to the development potential. As a result it commanded a high price and it took five years for Shaw-Lefevre and Octavia Hill to raise the money and negotiate for its use as public open space. This was eventually achieved under the Hampstead Heath Enlargement Act of 1886 and in 1889 the site was acquired by the Metropolitan Board of Works as an extension to Hampstead Heath. The cost of purchase was £301,000 of which £150,000 was paid by the Council, £20,000 by the Hampstead Vestry, £30,000 by St Pancras Vestry, £5,000 by St Marylebone Vestry, £50,000 by Charity Commissioners and £46,000 by voluntary subscriptions including contributions by owners of the surrounding houses. In 1889 the London County Council took over from the MBW. In 1890, 2.25 acres were purchased for £6,500 of a disused reservoir in Highgate Road paid for out of money received from Midland Railway Co. as compensation for open space taken in construction of their railway line. The undulating ground has numerous scattered trees and a network of paths, with good views from the summit.

One theory as to why Parliament Hill is so called is due to the site's use in the past though this is not substantiated or even probable. A tumulus on Parliament Hill was excavated in 1894 by Charles H Read for LCC as it was popularly thought to be the tomb of Boadicea but he found no evidence although surmised it might be a burial mound of early Bronze Age.

Ponds on Parliament Hill Fields had facilities for bathing, fishing, model yachting and skating. The Viaduct Pond, so called due to the road built over it, was planted with waterlilies. Level ground was used for sports such as cricket, tennis, football, hockey, golf, lacrosse and other sport. There was a bandstand in a hollow and a refreshment house and lavatories provided. The Parliament Hill Lido, also sometimes called Hampstead Heath Lido, was constructed in 1938, the 12th and at £34,000 the most expensive of the 13 Lidos built by the LCC in the 1920s and 30s. It opened to the public on 20 August 1938, and from the first was provided as a free facility for 2 full-day sessions a week for females and 5 morning sessions for males, a tradition that survived into the C21st. It was one of four built in the late 1930s, the others being those at Brockwell Park, Charlton Playing Fields (now called Hornfair Park), and Victoria Park in East London (q.q.v.). All four were built of red brick and were architecturally and structurally similar although each had its own unique character. The pools had diving boards and slides, with symmetrical wings for male and female changing facilities, and later cafes and areas for sun bathing were provided. The Lidos were surrounded by walls to keep non-customers out and to provide a windbreak and suntrap. In the mid-1970s the LCC's successor, the GLC had to make budget cuts and safety measures led to most of the diving boards being removed. In 1989 following the earlier demise of the GLC in 1986, the lido was taken over by the Corporation of London along with the whole of Hampstead Heath. Further investment has enabled new facilities to be provided including a new paddling pool, and it has remained open for early morning swimming all year round as well as a long summer season. It was closed for refurbishment but reopened in May 2005.

The undulating ground has numerous scattered trees and a network of paths, with good views from the summit.

Sources consulted:

Victoria County History; Michael Waite, Daniel Keech, Meg Game, 'Nature Conservation in Camden', Ecology Handbook 24 (London Ecology Unit), 1993; Bridget Cherry & Nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England: London 4: North (Penguin, 1998); 'The London County Council and what it does for London: London Parks and Open Spaces' (Hodder & Stoughton, 1924); Website 'Lidos in London - open for swimming' compiled by Oliver Merrington with assistance of Andy Hoines and other members of the Lido History Society www.lidos.org.uk; Andy Hoines, 'Some additional notes on Parliament Hill Lido' (2005)

Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
Grid ref:
TQ282861 (527715,186429)
Size in hectares:
(included in Hampstead Heath)
Site ownership:
City of London Corporation
Site management:
Open Spaces Dept
Listed structures:
LBII: Parliament Hill Lido
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:
Tree Preservation Order:
Not known
Nature Conservation Area:
Yes - Metropolitan Importance
Green Belt:
Metropolitan Open Land:
Special Policy Area:
Yes - Area of Special Character: Hampstead & Highgate Ridge
Other LA designation:

Parliament Hill Fields

Parliament Hill Fields, View towards Highgate with temporary art installation, 'The Writer' by Giancarlo Neri, June 2005. Photo: S Williams

Pond, Parliament Hill Fields, June 2005. Photo: S Williams
Parliament Hill Fields, View towards the south, June 2005. Photo: S Williams

Click a photo to enlarge.

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