Inventory Site Record

The Woodlands Park (Ealing)

Brief Description

The Woodlands Park was created on part of the grounds of an C18th villa 'The Woodlands', which was purchased in 1903 by Acton UDC, largely for educational purposes, the remainder for a small public park. The existing layout of the grounds was retained in part, which had significant numbers of trees planted in belts and as specimen trees with a network of paths around the perimeter and through the shrubberies. There was a large circular pool on lower ground to the east and an ice-house. Municipal layout included retention of some paths, use of the ice-house as a gardener's hut but the pool eventually ceased retaining water and disappeared. A restoration project in 2006 enabled the ice-house to be restored and the round pool to be recreated.

Practical Information
Previous / Other name:
The Woodlands Recreation Ground
Site location:
Crown Street, Acton
Type of site:
Public Park
Open to public?
Opening times:
Special conditions:
Public transport:
Tube: Acton Town (District, Piccadilly) then bus. Bus: E3, 70, 207, 266, 607, H40
Research updated:
Last minor changes:

Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news. www.ealing.gov.uk

Full Site Description

Now known as The Woodlands Park, the Woodlands Recreation Ground was created on part of the grounds of 'The Woodlands', a substantial house on the south side of Acton Hill. The C19th owners were the Briggs family, who have a vault in the nearby Acton parish churchyard of St Mary (q.v.). By 1868 the owner was R S Mansel, first Chairman of Acton Local Board and General Manager of the North London Railway; he was succeeded by George Barton Kent, and the last private tenants were the Walker family. The grounds of The Woodlands probably extended to Mill Hill Road in the south, Gunnersbury Lane in the west and High Street in the east, and they were bounded by a high wall. The layout was in the English Landscape style with significant numbers of trees, including conifers, planted in belts and as specimen trees set in the grass. There were shrubberies either side of the villa, and a network of paths ran around the perimeter and through the shrubberies. A large pool was on lower ground to the east, and views from the house over the landscape were created by cutting a broad swathe through the shrubberies. The Stamford Brook appears to have formed the eastern boundary of the property and a bank at the southern end of the gardens probably pre-dated the villa, with a line of large trees from the western corner of this into an adjacent field and a circular group of trees beyond that created a visual stop to the view from the villa. The southern boundary was screened by a plantation with paths through it, and in the eastern corner was a fenced field enclosed by a rectangular pattern of paths and evenly spaced trees that may indicate an orchard, now built over. The grounds remained largely intact while the surrounding area was developed from the 1860s and '70s onwards.

In 1903 the villa and its gardens, which comprised 6 acres, were bought jointly by Acton UDC and the Middlesex County Council for £7,736 5s. Acton UDC was the first local council in Middlesex to take advantage of the Act of Parliament that was passed to enable local and county councils to co-operate financially for the purchase of land for educational purposes. Four acres of the land were used for the new Acton County School for Boys, later replaced by other educational buildings such as Acton Technical College Annexe, Brunel University and Ealing Tertiary College. The remainder of the land was made into a public recreation ground, which retained the name of the house, and had previously been part of the wooded shrubbery to the east of the house. In 1909 a new road, Crown Street, was constructed to link the High Street with Mill Hill Road, and in 1912 a row of shops was built on the site of the demolished Woodlands villa. Adjacent to this the Acton Hill Methodist Church was built in 1907 by Gordon and Gunton on the far side of Woodlands Avenue, on the site of another villa, The Oaks. The new public park contained the late C18th/early C19th circular brick ice-house and the round pool, and had an existing network paths running through it. Entrances were made for the park and two of the paths were adopted, one becoming the main thoroughfare, with most of the other paths becoming overgrown. Low ornamental railings were installed to edge the paths and benches were provided, and the ice-house was put to use as a gardener's hut. The pool's paved surround may have pre-dated the municipal park, but it was later provided with steps and a new path. By the 1960s it was leaking and no longer retaining water, and at some point thereafter it disappeared and was filled in.

Soon after it became a public amenity, the park was praised for its fine trees, a contemporary account stating that 'Judging by the variety and the many fine specimens, they were evidently selected with care hundreds of years ago, and were probably the best that Acton possessed, and it is a matter of satisfaction that only a part had to be taken down.' However, gradual loss of trees, not replaced by new planting, meant that the park eventually lost the secluded atmosphere it once had, exacerbated by the 1960s architecture of Ealing Tertiary College overlooking the park. The park today contains a few fine mature trees, including oak, sweet chestnut, holly and acacia, plus sycamore. A particularly fine sweet chestnut tree that was probably a hedge tree pre-dating the layout of the formal grounds of The Woodlands is retained in the grounds of Ealing Tertiary College. There is a similar tree adjacent to the ice-house, whose roots may have been the cause of the deterioration of the structure.

In 2006, the ice-house was restored and the former pond recreated in its previous location as part of a restoration project funded from a £50K Heritage Lottery Fund grant and £200K from the Parks Liveability programme. Paths were also re-surfaced and bordered by new ornamental railings replicating those of the early C20th.

Sources consulted:

LB Ealing Conservation Area Appraisal (April 1999); LB Ealing Parks and Countryside website; EDA Environmental Design Associates, 'Churchfield Road Old Burial Ground and The Woodlands Park Acton Historic Landscape Report for LB Ealing', 1999

Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
Grid ref:
TQ198801 (519830,180140)
Size in hectares:
Site ownership:
LB Ealing
Site management:
Parks & Countryside Service
C18th; 1903
Listed structures:
LBII: Ice-house, Acton Hill Methodist Church
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:
Acton Town Centre
Tree Preservation Order:
Not known
Nature Conservation Area:
Green Belt:
Metropolitan Open Land:
Special Policy Area:
Yes - Area of Archaeological Interest
Other LA designation:
Green/environmental Project

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