Inventory Site Record

Burgess Park, including Chumleigh Gardens (Southwark)

Brief Description

Work began after WWII to provide the new public space that eventually became Burgess Park. It was the result of initiatives such as the Abercrombie Plan of 1943 and was created by demolishing numerous houses, streets, churches and factories, and infilling the disused Grand Surrey Canal. Existing green spaces were incorporated into the new North Camberwell Open Space, which by 1965 covered c.16 hectares. It was named Burgess Park in 1973 after Alderman Jessie Burgess, first lady Mayor of Camberwell. The fragmented open spaces were consolidated from 1982 onwards and in 1985/6 Southwark Council took over responsibility and began purchasing remaining properties and clearing the site, a process completed in 1995. Numerous projects have been undertaken, including planting 1000s of trees, provision of sports facilities, greening the canal route and creation of the lake. Within the park are the former Chumleigh Gardens Almshouses, which now house a café, meeting rooms as well as a World Garden and an English Garden.

Practical Information
Previous / Other name:
North Camberwell Open Space
Site location:
Albany Road/Old Kent Road/Chumleigh Street/Wells Way
What 3 Words:
Type of site:
Public Park, Community Garden
Open to public?
Opening times:
unrestricted (area around lake 7.30am - sunset; Chumleigh Gardens (check opening times)
Has taken part in Open Garden Squares Weekend 5 times, most recently in 2015.
Special conditions:
Tennis courts, football and cricket pitches, sports pavilion, cycle track, fishing (permits required) Chumleigh Gardens café (call 020 7525 1070 for opening times)
Chumleigh Gardens events programme includes summer jazz, activities
Public transport:
Tube/Rail: Elephant and Castle (Northern, Bakerloo) then bus. Bus: 12, 35, 40, 42, 45, 53, 63, 68, 78, 168, 172, 343, 363, 468, 453, 468
Research updated:
Last minor changes:

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

Full Site Description

Until early C19th the area had been fields, marshland and open space, but the building of the Great Surrey Canal in 1801 - 1811 led to factories and workshops being built, as well as housing for the middle and working classes, much of the building materials transported by canal. Among these industries was E R Burtt and Sons' lime works, which was set up in 1816 and operated until the 1960s; a lime kiln can still be seen in Burgess Park. The long-term plan for the Canal was to link the Thames at Rotherhithe with Mitcham in Surrey and eventually Portsmouth, but it only reached Camberwell Road in 1810 with a spur built in 1826 between Glengall Wharf to Peckham. The canal was used for recreation as well as industry, including swimming despite dangers from drowning. After Surrey Docks closed it was no longer commercially viable and was eventually filled in. By the 1880s North Camberwell was largely built up.

The Abercrombie Plan highlighted the lack of open space in London and posited that there should be 4 acres of open space per 1,000 head of population. Abercrombie had proposed a large park to the south of Albany Road as North Camberwell Open Space to act as a 'green lung' for the area and this was eventually agreed in 1951. The park was created by demolishing numerous houses, streets, churches and factories such as Robert White's famous lemonade factory, and by infilling the disused Grand Surrey Canal. At that time there were a number of green spaces already in existence and the LCC General Powers Act of 1952 contained provision for these to be transferred from the Metropolitan Borough of Camberwell to the LCC for incorporation into the North Camberwell Open Space.

These included a recreation ground adjacent to Addington Square (q.v.), land which had been the local authority refuse depot but which, through a grant from the Memorial Fund to King George V, became King George's Field in c.1938 and still retains the gate piers with stone plaques. Two other small open spaces included Woolcombe Garden at the corner of the former Calmington Road and Loncroft Road, created on a WWI bomb site as a memorial to Herbert Lois Woolcombe in 1927; and Rolls Garden created in 1936 as a result of slum clearance near the junction of Cobourg Road and Old Kent Road. Sumner Road Recreation Ground, which had opened in 1900 to the east was also incorporated. Adjacent to the park is St George's Church on Wells Way, redundant as a church from 1970 and now adapted for private housing. The churchyard, in use between 1825 and 1856, had been acquired for public open space in 1886 and laid out as a public garden by the MPGA for £366 with funds donated by Viscountess Ossington and formally opened by Mrs Gladstone in June 1887. It was incorporated into the North Camberwell Open Space in 1965 and re-landscaped in 1966. However when the church was vacated and became derelict, part of the garden was closed for safety reasons and eventually when the church was adapted for housing in 1994 it became a private garden. It is largely grassed, with some trees and a few gravestones against the boundary wall abutting Burgess Park. Adjacent to the church is a paved area created as Jubilee Plaza to celebrate the Queen's Silver Jubilee in 1977, using recycled granite setts from former industrial sites and roads within the park.

By 1965 the park of c.16 hectares had become the responsibility of the Greater London Council. The area was named Burgess Park in 1973 after Alderman Jessie Burgess, first lady Mayor of Camberwell from 1945-47 who at one time lived in Wells Way and served a total of 44 years on Camberwell then Southwark Council. The fragmented open spaces were consolidated from 1982 onwards and in 1985/6 Southwark Council took over responsibility following the demise of the GLC and began purchasing remaining properties and clearing the site, a process that was not completed until 1995. Groundwork Southwark was established in 1995 with the specific aim of completing the park. The park has adopted the symbol of the Camberwell Beauty butterfly, which had also been the logo for the Samuel Jones factory in Peckham whose ceramic tile mural dating from c.1920 and created by Royal Doulton was re-installed onto the walls of the early C20th Public Library and Baths building in Wells Way in 1982.

In the 1990s numerous projects have been undertaken to create the park, including planting of thousands of trees, provision of sports facilities, greening the canal route and creation of the lake. The cascade that serves the lake is a memorial to young GLC officers involved in the design of the park who were killed in a plane crash at Biggin Hill Airport when taking off for a flight to make aerial photographs of the park. Other recent projects include enhancement of a derelict wall with planting and mosaics by children from Michael Faraday School working with Art in the Park, based on old C18th and C19th maps.

Within the area of Burgess Park are the former gardens of Chumleigh Almshouses. In 1821 the Friendly Female Society, founded 1802 'for the relief of poor infirm aged widows and single women of good character who have seen better days' had opened its almshouses for 20 occupants in Chumleigh Gardens, the north and south side built in the early C19th, the west side in c.1840. They were occupied until WWII when they suffered bomb damage. After remaining derelict for many years the almshouses were renovated and now house a café, meeting rooms as well as a World Garden with 4 different styles of gardens, Oriental, Mediterranean, African and Caribbean and Islamic, and also an English Garden and offices for Park Rangers and the Art in the Park team of artists. There are also raised beds for community gardeners and school groups to grow their own plants.

In March 2009 it was announced that Burgess Park had won £2 million from the Mayor of London. This received match funding of a further £4 million from the Aylesbury New Deal for Communities. In November 2009, LDA Design was awarded the contract to undertake the major renovation project.

Sources consulted:

Tim Charlesworth, 'The Story of Burgess Park, From an intriguing past to a bright future', Groundwork Southwark, 2000; Joyce Bellamy notes, 2001; John Beasley, 'Southwark Remembered', Tempus Publishing, 2001; John Archer, Bob Britton, Robert Burley, Tony Hare, Ian Yarham, 'Nature Conservation in Southwark' Ecology Handbook 12, London Ecology Unit, 1989; Southwark Listed Buildings data; Ron Woollacott, 'Southwark's Burying Places, Past and Present', Magdala Terrace Nunhead Local History publication, 2001

Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
Grid ref:
TQ331777 (533146,177734)
Size in hectares:
Site ownership:
LB Southwark
Site management:
Parks; Groundwork Southwark; Friends of Burgess Park; Young Friends of Burgess Park
1950s - 2002
Listed structures:
LBII: Lime Kiln; Chumleigh Gardens Almshouses; St George's Church Wells Way; 113 Wells Way (former vicarage); Public Library/Baths and Washhouses
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:
Not known
Nature Conservation Area:
Yes - Borough Importance II (lake)
Green Belt:
Metropolitan Open Land:
Special Policy Area:
Yes - (small part) bordring Old KentRd - Archaeological Priority Zone
Other LA designation:
Major Park, Tier One; London Squares Preservation Act (part). Community Facilities Site. Green Chain Walk

Burgess Park, including Chumleigh Gardens

Wildflower meadow, Burgess Park, July 2020. Photograph Helen Monger

Click a photo to enlarge.

More photos

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.