Inventory Site Record

Brockwell Park * (Lambeth)

Brief Description

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

Brockwell Park was once part of a medieval estate owned by the Hospital of St Thomas, later in private ownership. It was subdivided in the early C19th when the eastern part was sold to glass merchant John Blades, for whom Brockwell Hall, now the park café, was built. The extent of the old estate is mirrored in the park boundary today. The last private owner planned to sell the land for housing but with the support of the MPGA a first portion of land was purchased by the LCC. Brockwell Park opened in June 1892, later expanded with further land purchase. An Old English Garden was laid out in the early C19th walled garden, and the park's features included ornamental ponds and formal bedding. Brockwell Lido was built in 1937 and has been restored, a survivor of London's once more common open air swimming pools.

Practical Information
Site location:
Norwood Road/Brockwell Park Gardens/Dulwich Road
SE24 9BJ
What 3 Words:
Type of site:
Public Park
Open to public?
Opening times:
7.30am - 15 minutes before sunset
Special conditions:
no dogs, no cycling in walled garden
Brockwell Lido, children's play area, One O'Clock Club, paddling pool, café, dog free area, sports facilities, toilets
Events include annual Lambeth Country Show, and numerous activities organised by the Friends of Brockwell Park
Public transport:
Rail: Herne Hill. Tube: Brixton (Victoria). Bus: 2, 3, 37, 57, 68, 196, 322, 432, 468
Research updated:
Last minor changes:

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

In the Middle Ages much of the area belonged to the Hospital of St Thomas, which was once a monastic order. As a result of the Dissolution of the Monasteries, in 1537 the Brockwell estate was taken by Henry VIII and subsequently had a number of private owners, and by the 1650s was owned by the Tulse family. In 1789 the old Manor of Brockwell Hall was owned by Thomas Cole, and later sold to John Ogbourne. In 1807 the estate was subdivided; the area to the west was developed as Tulse Hill, and the eastern part was sold to wealthy City glass merchant John Blades. Brockwell Hall was built for Blades as the centrepiece of his Brockwell Park Estate in 1811-13, designed by the architect D R Roper and replaced a C16th building sited near Norwood Road. Alterations were made to the mansion in 1824-29 by J B Papworth, and it remains on the ridge of the hill in the middle of the park. Blades also built houses on Brixton Water Lane in 1815 to house staff of his estate, and in 1825 he built Clarence Lodge, today the site of the BMX track. He started work on Brockwell Terrace in 1828, now the site of Brockwell Lido, but development ceased on his death in 1829. The estate passed to the Blackburn family by marriage and Blades' grandson Joshua Blackburn, who inherited the estate in 1860, also undertook some development of housing near Herne Hill station in 1862.

After Joshua Blackburn's death in 1888, his eldest son Joshua John Blades Blackburn initially planned to sell the estate for housing development. In order to avoid this and to preserve the land as public open space, a first portion of around 32 hectares was purchased for £120,000 by the LCC, with the support of the Metropolitan Public Gardens Association. This followed a campaign led by Thomas Lynn Bristowe, MP for Norwood, to raise funds for acquiring the site for a public park. It was opened on 6 June 1892 by Lord Rosebery, Bristowe unfortunately dying of a heart attack on the steps of the Hall during the ceremony. Brockwell Hall has been used as the refreshment rooms since 1892; badly damaged by a fire in 1990, it has since been restored, most recently in 2006. Surviving buildings from the time pre-dating the public park also include the former coach house, stable block, and early C19th walled garden, and there are two C19th lodges on Dulwich Road and one lodge on Norwood Road. In 1895 the LCC acquired further land for the park to the east of the walled garden, and in 1901 a further 17 hectares were purchased following Joshua Blackburn's death in 1898. This enabled the Old English Garden to be laid out, designed by the LCC's Head of Parks, Lt Col J J Sexby, 'a formal but exuberant scheme of massed bedding, rose beds and topiary around a central pool' (EH Register).

The park is mainly open parkland with grass, scattered mature trees, some of which remain from the earlier landscape, and paths are laid out between the main features. Other features in the park include the Tritton Clock Tower of 1908, which was erected to commemorate Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee on 1897. Various areas of bedding, borders and terraces are to the south-east of the house. The walled garden has been the site of artists' projects and site-specific works in recent years. To the east of the walled garden is a water garden with a chain of pools, and flowering shrubs and exotic trees.

In July 1937 an open-air swimming pool was built on the site of an older bathing pond near the Dulwich Road boundary both to provide work for the local community and as a response to the campaign to promote 'A Healthy Nation'. Designed by architects H A Rowbotham and T L Smithson in the LCC Parks Department, Brockwell Lido was one of the four lidos built by the LCC in the late 1930s, the others being those at Parliament Hill, Charlton Playing Fields (now called Hornfair Park), and Victoria Park in East London (q.q.v.). It was a pair to the latter, which had opened in 1936, sadly no longer extant. 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 cafés 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. Brockwell Lido Users Group was set up in 2001. For a time it was renamed the Evian Lido after the sponsors who in 2001 had agreed to provide £100,000 a year for two years, although in 2002 this was cut to only £10,000. In 2003, there were Council proposals to demolish and grass over the lido but it was listed in August of that year and a 25-year lease was then given to Fusion, an organisation that manages health and leisure centres in Southwark and Lambeth as well as working with schools. Refurbishment of the lido began in 2005 following a Heritage Lottery Fund grant in 2004, the work carried out by architects Pollard Thomas Edwards, and Brockwell Lido re-opened in March 2007.

Friends of Brockwell Park were formed in 1985 and in 1995 the Management Advisory Committee was formed. Brockwell Park Community Greenhouses working in partnership with Lambeth Council manages the old greenhouses near the walled garden.

Sources consulted:

EH Register: E Cecil 'London Parks and Gardens' 1907; Bridget Cherry & Nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England: London 2: South (Penguin) 1999; J J Sexby 'The Municipal Parks, Gardens and Open Spaces of London', 1898. Brockwell Park Friends website; Marie Draper 'Lambeth's Open Spaces, An historical account', LB Lambeth 1979; Ian Yarham, Michael Waite, Andrew Simpson, Niall Machin, 'Nature Conservation in Lambeth', Ecology Handbook 26 (London Ecology Unit), 1994. Peter Bradley et al 'Out of the Blue: a celebration of 1937-2007' (2007); 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

Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
Grid ref:
TQ316740 (531650,174050)
Size in hectares:
Site ownership:
LB Lambeth
Site management:
Environment Directorate, Parks and Greenspaces Unit (Team Lambeth). Brockwell Park Management Advisory Committee; Friends of Brockwell Park.
C18th, 1891-1901
LCC: Lt Col J J Sexby
Listed structures:
LBII*: Brockwell Hall. LBII: Tritton Clock Tower; Brockwell Lido; Walls and Former Coach House and Stable Block, south-west of Brockwell Hall; Walls of Walled Garden and Shelter on south-east side of Walled Garden
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:
Conservation Area name:
Brockwell Park
Tree Preservation Order:
Not known
Nature Conservation Area:
Yes - Borough Importance I
Green Belt:
Metropolitan Open Land:
Special Policy Area:
Other LA designation:
Historic Parks and Gardens

Brockwell Park *

Brockwell Park - Brockwell Hall - Photo: Colin Wing
Date taken: 23/06/20 10:14

Click a photo to enlarge.

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