Inventory Site Record

Horniman Museum and Gardens * (Lewisham)

Brief Description

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

The Horniman Museum and Gardens were donated to the LCC in 1901 by Frederick Horniman, an avid collector who had first opened his house here as a private museum in 1888. As his collection grew he also opened the adjacent grounds, which form the basis of the present park. By 1890 Horniman's house was so full that he had moved to nearby Surrey Mount, and when his collection outgrew Surrey House in 1897 he commissioned a new museum on its site, now the Horniman Museum. In 1901 he gave the museum and contents, and 8.5 hectares of gardens to the LCC. Surrey Mount was demolished in 1960 following WWII bomb damage. The gardens were extended in 1911, c.1930 and in the 1950s, and in 1988 the conservatory from another house owned by the Horniman family was rebuilt here.

Practical Information
Previous / Other name:
Surrey Mount, Surrey House
Site location:
100 London Road/Horniman Drive, Forest Hill
SE23 3PQ
Type of site:
Public Gardens
Open to public?
Opening times:
7.15am (8am Sun/BH) - dusk (Railway Trail 9am-4pm; Museum 10.30-5.30/Sun2-5.30; CUE as Museum)
Special conditions:
dogs on lead
Play area, animal enclosure; CUE; café, shop, toilets
Exhibition programme, educational activities, artist in residence programme
Public transport:
Rail: Forest Hill. Bus: 176, 185, 312, 352, P4, 63, 122, P13.
Research updated:
Last minor changes:

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

Full Site Description

Site on The National Heritage List for England, Parks & Gardens, for Register Entry see

Forest Hill was known as 'The Forest' due to the fact that it bordered the Great North Wood and Westwood Common and Victorian suburbs grew up as a result of the hill's 'extensive prospects'. The Horniman site used to belong to Frederick J Horniman, traveller, collector and tea merchant, who was the son of John Horniman the founder of Hornimans tea business in c.1844, the first company to sell tea in sealed packets. A keen collector from his childhood onwards, Frederick Horniman was able to commission his agents to collect artefacts from all over the world for his collection, which particularly contained items of anthropology and natural history. Horniman was later chairman of Hornimans Tea and MP for Falmouth. In 1868 he had moved to Surrey House in Forest Hill and from 1888 and through the 1890s he opened his collection in his house to the public on 3 days a week as a free museum. In 1895 he also opened the adjacent grounds, which form the basis of the present park. By 1897 there were some 90,000 visitors a year.

By 1890 Horniman's house was so full of his collection that he had moved to nearby Surrey Mount, and when his collection outgrew Surrey House in 1897 he commissioned Charles Harrison Townsend to build a new Museum, demolishing Surrey House. This was completed in 1901 and has a mosaic by Anning Bell on the façade on the theme of 'Humanity in the House of Circumstance'. In 1901 he gave the museum and contents and 8.5 hectares of gardens of Surrey Mount to the LCC. It was later owned by the GLC and in 1986 passed to an independent charitable trust. An extension to the Museum was added in 1911.

In Horniman Gardens opposite the Conservatory entrance is a Coadestone group with pelican and figures by John de Vaere, which was made at the Coade factory in Lambeth in 1797 for Pelican Life Insurance Co. in Lombard Street, where it was a pediment over their offices until 1915. When the Phoenix Insurance Co. took over the company, the Coadestone group was presented to the LCC in 1934 and erected here in 1956. The Victorian Conservatory had been built in 1894 for Horniman in Coombe Cliffe in Croydon, another Horniman family house, and was reconstructed here in 1990. The Dutch Barn was brought by Horniman from Holland and was later used as a centre for educational work in the gardens.

The gardens have lawns, shrubberies, a rose garden and sunken formal garden, and a water garden with streams, cascades and pools. From the summit are fine views to the north-west and west, and the garden boundaries are screened by belts of trees. The old house, Surrey Mount, used to be in the north-east corner and its site is marked by the Analemmatic Sundial designed by Barry Small/Angela Hodgson in March 1994. This is one of eight sundials located in the museum and gardens. Mature trees include dawn redwood, snake bark maple, corkscrew willow, ginkgo, catalpa, swamp cypress, silver birch, ash, weeping willow and poplar and a 100m chestnut avenue leads from the main entrance to rising ground in the centre. The bandstand was designed by Harrison Townsend in 1903 and is still used for concerts. Nearby is a miniature zoo/menagerie.

The Centre for Understanding the Environment (CUE), an internationally acclaimed design by Jonathan Hines of Architype, was built in 1995 attached to the Museum, and provides an educational centre in an environmentally friendly building, with natural history exhibitions and an observation beehive. Its green roof is a meadow and it is surrounded by ponds on 3 sides. In front of CUE is a totem pole erected by the GLC in 1985. Trees, hedges and shrubberies provide a good nature habitat and the Horniman Nature Trail is the oldest in London. This was formed along 700m of disused railway track of the original Crystal Palace and South London Junction Railway. The Nunhead to Crystal Palace High Level line was built in 1864/5 but closed in 1954. The land was left unmanaged until 1972 and the railway embankment became a wild woodland. It was owned by the LCC and then the GLC, who in 1970 offered to turn it into a trail to complement existing trails in the gardens, the new trail opening in June 1974.

A £13.4m Lottery funded re-development project was completed in 2002, providing a new extension and main entrance for the Museum, new shop and café and new entrance linking the Museum and gardens. A new musical instruments gallery opened in Autumn 2002 and projects in the gardens included a new meadow area and increased educational usage linked to the Museum collections. During 2011 another major £2.3m redevelopment is taking place in the gardens, due for completion in Spring 2012. The Bandstand and the Dutch Barn are being restored and a new Gardens Learning and Community Centre and a new Greenhouse are being built. Re-landscaping will provide quiet areas, improvements to paths, facilities and access, and greater diversity of planting as well as providing activity areas including a musical play area and better picnic spaces. There will be better interpretation designed to take advantage of the links between the Museum's collections and the new and existing planting. The new horticultural facilities will provide more opportunities for volunteering, training and public educational events. The landscape will be reshaped and rejuvenated to bring the park back to life and encourage an even greater number of visitors. During these works the Bandstand Terrace and Sunken Garden will be closed until September 2011 and the Animal Enclosure closed until Spring 2012 but by June 2011 new paths will be open.

Sources consulted:

EH: E Cecil 'London Parks and Gardens', 1907; Bridget Cherry & Nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England: London 2: South (Penguin) 1999. John Archer, Ian Yarham, 'Nature Conservation in Lewisham', Ecology Handbook 30, London Ecology Unit, 2000; Ben Weinreb & Christopher Hibbert, 'The London Encyclopaedia' (Macmillan, revised ed. 1993); Darrell Spurgeon 'Discovering Sydenham and Catford', Greenwich Guide-Books, 1999.

Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
Grid ref:
TQ347731 (534750,173150)
Size in hectares:
Site ownership:
Horniman Museum and Gardens
Site management:
Horniman Museum and Gardens; Friends of the Horniman
Listed structures:
LBII*: Horniman Museum
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:
Forest Hill
Tree Preservation Order:
Nature Conservation Area:
Yes - Borough Importance II
Green Belt:
Metropolitan Open Land:
Special Policy Area:
Other LA designation:
Public Open Space; Green Corridor (Green Chain Walk; local view)

Horniman Museum and Gardens *

Horniman Gardens - bandstand - Photo: Colin Wing
Date taken: 29/09/20 14:39

Click a photo to enlarge.

More photos

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