Inventory Site Record

Finsbury Park * (Haringey)

Brief Description

* on The National Heritage List for England, Parks & Gardens

Finsbury Park is situated on what used to be Brownswood, a sub-manor of the vast manor of Hornsey and part of the ancient Forest of Middlesex, used for hunting. The public park was created following The Finsbury Park Act of 1857 in order to provide a much-needed municipal park for local residents and was officially opened in 1869. Although much of the original design was lost over the years, many of the park's original features have now been restored including the re-landscaping of the American Gardens and Alexander McKenzie’s historical flower gardens.

Practical Information
Previous / Other name:
Hornsey Wood
Site location:
Seven Sisters Road/Green Lanes/Endymion Road
What 3 Words:
Type of site:
Public Park
Open to public?
Opening times:
dawn to dusk
Special conditions:
Tennis and basketball courts, bowling green, skate park, playgrounds, boating lake, Track and Gym, Café, toilets, parking
Various; venue for major pop concerts; community/art projects
Public transport:
Train/tube (Victoria/Piccadilly): Finsbury Park. Tube: Manor House (Piccadilly). Bus: W3, W5, W7, 29, 141, 210, 253, 254, 259, 279, 341
Research updated:
Last minor changes:

Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news. www.haringey.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. 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.

Finsbury Park is situated on what used to be Brownswood, a sub-manor of the 3000-acre manor of Hornsey and part of the ancient Forest of Middlesex which was largely owned by the Bishops of London who hunted there. By 1548 Brownswood lands consisted of 122 acres, and in the C17th a manor house, Copt Hall, was built on a site to the south of the present lake. By the mid C18th this building was replaced by a house known as Hornsey Wood House, a popular Tea House with pleasure gardens and woods for sport and recreation, including a bowling green and shooting range. It was also known as a centre for duelling. In 1786 the house was enlarged and the wood reduced to provide larger pleasure grounds and a lake for fishing and boating. In 1866 Hornsey Wood House was demolished when the house and grounds became part of the new Finsbury Park, which also took in farmland to the south, west and east.

The Park was created under the auspices of the Metropolitan Board of Works following The Finsbury Park Act of Parliament of 1857 in order to provide a much-needed municipal park for Finsbury residents, and became London's second municipal park after Victoria Park (q.v.). Although the Act had specified that 250 acres of parkland should be retained free of development, when work finally began in 1866 it was reduced to an area of 115 acres, purchased at £472 per acre. Discussions around creating a park here had arisen prior to the Act when a plan for what was proposed as Albert Park had been drawn up in the early 1850s by James Pennethorne, the designer of Victoria Park in Hackney and Battersea Park (q.q.v.). The structure of the park, including its five entrance gates and the Lodge at Manor Gate, the perimeter carriage-drive and main paths, was designed by Frederick Manable, Superintending Architect to the MBW. Various areas of formal planting were set within open parkland, this 'ornamental portion of the park', which included the American Gardens and network of curving paths within the perimeter drive, was designed by Alexander Mackenzie, MBW's landscape designer.

The park was originally laid out in zones but these later became no longer distinct. There were horticultural features to the south-east and east of the lake and in the north-west corner; recreational features, the lake and refreshment room in the centre; and sporting features around the edge. Finsbury Park opened to the public in August 1869. When the London County Council was formed in 1889 the park became the responsibility of the LCC and later that of the Greater London Council between 1965 and 1986, whereupon it passed to the London Borough of Haringey. In 1874 it was enclosed to the north by Endymion Road but apart from the addition of a bandstand, chrysanthemum house, bowling green and cricket pavilion, the layout changed little until the 1930s and then 1950s when new works were carried out. In the late C19th there was extensive carpet bedding bordering the perimeter drive and paths west of Manor Gate, and between this Gate and the centre of the park a number of horticultural features including a Rosery, and groups of trees and shrubs, with glasshouses and a conservatory used for renowned chrysanthemum displays. By the late 1940s these buildings had been demolished, and, although small areas of bedding and a rectangular flower garden south-east of the lake remain, the formal beds are in a much reduced form than in the 1860s when mention was made of 60 beds of different shapes and sizes. The 1860s features around the lake also largely disappeared but these had included an octagonal pavilion on the island, a boathouse on the southern edge, a refreshment room with verandas, and extensive planting around the lake, on the island and in the surrounding area. Much of this layout had been developed from the woods, lake and pleasure gardens attached to Hornsey Wood House.

An Open Air Theatre, which was built in the mid C20th in a semi-circular hollow on the site of an earlier bandstand that had been destroyed by an elephant, has now become The Pit, a nature reserve. A section of the New River, constructed in 1613 to bring water from Hertfordshire to London, still runs through the north of the park. It separates the cricket pitch, used in 1866 by Islington Albion Cricket Club, from the American Gardens, which were originally laid out with numerous trees and informal groups of shrubs, predominantly rhododendrons and azaleas, some of which remain. During the C20th numerous additions have been made to the park's facilities and buildings, including the bowling green and pavilion, athletics track and sports complex, children's playground and café.

Finsbury Park has now undergone a £5m restoration project funded through an HLF grant and many of the original features have been restored, including re-landscaping of the American Garden and Mackenzie's flower gardens. A new outdoor gym has been completed opposite the American Garden and other new facilities include an enclosed, dog-free play area with a water feature designed by children for children, a new and improved café building housing public toilets, and two Victorian-styled seating shelters.

Sources consulted:

EH: the Hon Mrs E Cecil, London Parks and Gardens, 1907; Gardeners' Chronicle ii 1889 pp184-185; A MacKenzie, the Parks, Open Spaces and Thoroughfares of London, 1898 pp3-8; JJ Sexby, the Municipal Parks, Gardens and Open Spaces of London, 1898; R O Sherington The Story of Hornsey, 1904; Victoria County History of Middlesex Vol 6. See also https://londongardenstrust.org/features/finsbury.htm: Hazelle Jackson, 'Rising from the Ashes: The Resurrection of Finsbury Park', London Landscapes, No. 11, Autumn 2005.

Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
Grid ref:
TQ316874 (531680,187470)
Size in hectares:
Site ownership:
LB Haringey
Site management:
Parks Service (Finsbury Park Neighbourhood) / Friends of Finsbury Park (Chair: Alistair Brinkley, 020 8800 0946)
mid C18th; 1866-1869; C20th
Frederick Manable and Alexander Mackenzie
Listed structures:
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:
Not known
Nature Conservation Area:
Yes - Boro Importance II
Green Belt:
Metropolitan Open Land:
Special Policy Area:
Other LA designation:

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.