Inventory Site Record

Cannon Hill Common (Merton)

Brief Description

Cannon Hill Common was not commonland as such but part of the former extensive holdings of Merton Priory, founded in the C12th and later part of Cannon Hill Estate. In estate sale documents in 1613 it was described as 'a wood called Cannondowne Hill containing 60 acres'. The land was farmed for many centuries until Cannon Hill House was built, probably shortly after 1773. By 1880 the house was empty and the surrounding land farmed. In 1924 developer George Blay purchased the estate as well as part of the Rayne Estate and built over much of it, but in 1925 offered the present site to Merton and Morden UDC for a public park, which opened in 1927, named Cannon Hill Common. The house was demolished and its site at the edge of the lake and woodland was first designated a bird sanctuary in 1927/9, since 1998 it has been managed as a nature reserve. The ornamental lake was created in the C18th and is a remnant of the former landscaped grounds of Cannon Hill House.

Practical Information
Site location:
Cannon Hill Lane/Parkway
What 3 Words:
Type of site:
Public Park, Garden Feature Remnants
Open to public?
Opening times:
unrestricted. (8am - dusk weekdays/9am - dusk weekends)
Special conditions:
Fishing in Cannon Hill Common lake (licence required)
Various events organised by Friends of Cannon Hill Common
Public transport:
Rail: Raynes Park, South Merton then bus. Bus: 413
Research updated:
Last minor changes:

Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news. www.friendsofcannonhillcommon.co.uk. / www.merton.gov.uk/environment/openspaces/

Full Site Description

William Taylor, who built Cannon Hill House in c.1773, was in the military,for many years in the 32nd Regiment, later becoming a Major-General in the 14th Regiment. His house, referred to as 'an impressive stuccoed mansion with surrounding parkland adjoining Cannon Hill Farm' was further described by James Edwards in his Companion from London to Brighthelmston in 1789/1801: 'It is a white house situated on an eminence commanding a pleasant and extensive prospect to the east, over a small park or lawn. On the west are suitable gardens, shrubberies etc. and the soil is a stiff black clay.' Between 1832 and 1865 the owner of Cannon Hill House was Richard Thornton, a wealthy trader, but after his death it appears the house was not much used and in 1880 was referred to as being empty. It was probably demolished in the late C19th although early C20th maps still show buildings.

In 1924, when George Blay purchased the Cannon Hill Estate, as well as part of the Rayne Estate, his intention was to develop the land for housing. However as a result of local pressure against the loss of public open land he later offered part of the Cannon Hill House parkland to Merton and Morden UDC, who purchased 53.5 acres for £17,610, naming the new park Cannon Hill Common. Adjoining the public park an area of 5.5 acres was set aside for allotments and the Paddock Allotments (q.v.) were established in 1926, now managed by the Paddock Horticultural Society.The site of the house was designated a bird sanctuary in c1929, and remains fenced off as a nature reserve. 

In 1974 angling on the ornamental lake was banned in order to protect the wildlife but was re-introduced in 2001 under the auspices and control of the Merton and Cheam Junior Angling Club. Cannon Hill Common has largely been managed for nature conservation since the mid 1970s and is on undulating ground with meadows and woodland areas; among the trees are fine mature oak, a number of which are around 200 years old. Other trees include horse chestnut, lime, ash, willow, holm oak and there is a fine cedar of Lebanon on the ridge of a hill, a remnant of parkland planting. The two meadows are managed for ecological value and allowed to grow long, the South Meadow since 1976 and the North Meadow since 1990. There are good views from the higher ground. At one time there was a pavilion below the woodland near the nature reserve but this later burnt down. Immediately to the north beyond a strip of woodland is the Joseph Hood Recreation Ground, which has a children's playground, bowling green and tennis courts.

The Friends of Cannon Hill Common was formed in 1995, a group of local residents who work closely with Merton Council and its maintenance contractor to maintain and add to the Common's amenities. Over the years, successful bids have been made to the Norland Trust for new paths, to the Heritage Lottery Fund for a grant to renew the lake and the area around it, and to the BBC Breathing Places Fund for funding a variety of improvements to encourage community use.


Sources consulted:

Ian Yarham, Dave Dawson, Martin Boyle, Rebecca Holliday 'Nature Conservation in Merton, Ecology Handbook 29', London Ecology Unit, 1998, p73. See History on Friends of Cannon Hill Common website: https://www.friendsofcannonhillcommon.co.uk/history

Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
Grid ref:
TQ236682 (523928,168376)
Size in hectares:
Site ownership:
LB Merton
Site management:
Leisure and Culture Services - maintenance contractor idverde. Friends of Cannon Hill Common
C18th; 1925-7
Listed structures:
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:
Nature Conservation Area:
Yes - Borough Importance I
Green Belt:
Metropolitan Open Land:
Special Policy Area:
Yes - Archaeological Priority Zone (part)
Other LA designation:
Local Nature Reserve. Public Open Space. Green Corridor

Cannon Hill Common

Cannon Hill Common, June 2012. Photograph Sally Williams

Information plaque at site of Cannon Hill House, Cannon Hill Common, June 2012. Photograph Sally Williams
Woodland near Paddock Allotments, Cannon Hill Common, June 2012. Photograph Sally Williams

Click a photo to enlarge.

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.