Inventory Site Record

Dulwich Park * (Southwark)

Brief Description

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

Dulwich Park opened as a public park in 1890. It was formerly part of the Manor of Dulwich, purchased by theatre impresario Edward Alleyn in the early C17th, who founded almshouses and a school here, now Dulwich College. The Dulwich Estates' Board of Governors, set up in 1882, donated land to the MBW for the public park in 1885. It was laid out by the newly formed LCC in 1889/90 and much of its original layout is still intact.

Practical Information
Previous / Other name:
Dulwich Court Farm; Ruston's Fields
Site location:
College Road/Dulwich Common/Court Lane, Dulwich Village
What 3 Words:
Type of site:
Public Park
Open to public?
Opening times:
7.30am - sunset
Special conditions:
Pavilion Café, boating lake (weekends, school holidays, bank holidays), playground, cycle hire, sports pitches, tennis courts, outdoor gym, outdoor table tennis, bowling green (members only), toilets
Various, including activities organised by Friends Group; regular organised walks
Public transport:
Rail: North Dulwich then bus. Bus: P4, P13
Research updated:
Last minor changes:

Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news. www.southwark.gov.uk/parks; www.dulwichparkfriends.org.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.

First mention of the Manor of Dulwich was in 967 when land was granted to a follower of the Saxon King Edgar the Peaceful. It was subsequently owned by Bermondsey Abbey until the dissolution of the monasteries. In 1605 (Dulwich College gives date as 1613) Edward Alleyn, the actor/impresario, bought the estate and later founded his College of God's Gift as a school and almshouses for the poor in 1619, now Dulwich College (q.v.). The Master and Warden of the College continued to oversee the affairs of Dulwich Village until 1882, after which separate Boards of Governors were set up by Act of Parliament for the Estates and for the College. In 1885 by special Act of Parliament the Estates Governors donated 'Five Fields' of the Dulwich College estate from Dulwich Court Farm and Rushton's Fields, to the Metropolitan Board of Works for the creation of a public park. The Governors had already requested Charles Barry Jnr, Surveyor to the Dulwich College Estates, to prepare a report and plan for a 29-hectare park, and his proposals were presented to the MBW. The park layout by Lt Col JJ Sexby was probably developed from Barry's 1884 plan, and was approved in 1888. The MBW with the newly formed London County Council laid out Dulwich Park in 1889/90. It was opened to the public in 1890 by Lord Rosebery, first Chairman of the LCC, after whom one of the park gates is named. There were various entrances and two Lodges, one by Rosebery Gate, the other at Old College Gate.

An article in the Gardeners Chronicle in 1891 praised the park for providing 'exactly what was wanted - wide lawns, old oaks, cricket grounds, ample spaces for lawn tennis and football, a delightful smooth road for cyclists, and a lounge with seats for young couples who have negotiations to carry on'. The layout had an emphasis on symmetry, with four imposing gates giving access to an encircling pavement for pedestrians within which a carriage circuit encloses a horse ride. The central mass of the park is occupied by a lake with a wooded island, shrubberies and games area, and originally the park had a dense planting of shrubs. Some of the original field boundary trees remain but many elements of the original park planting suffered during the gales of the 1980s and much of the peripheral planting was removed, partly to assuage fears of adjoining residents that it provided cover for burglars and partly to provide a circuit for dog walkers. Part of the carriage circuit and some of the gates have been closed to prevent it from becoming a commuter rat-run and some lengths of pavement have been removed to provided parking bays and cycling. The horse ride has been reinstated.

Lt Col. Sexby's plan included American Gardens planted with rhododendron and azalea, which became very popular. It was regularly visited in its May flowering season by Queen Mary, wife of George V, who is commemorated in the Queen Mary Gate. Some renovation works have taken place in the late C20th, including herbaceous borders, and a dry garden near the café. Some of the early park buildings have survived and new buildings include a pavilion. There are various areas of massed bedding such as those near the Lodge at Old College Gate.

Until 1965 the park was the responsibility of the LCC, then transferred to the GLC and later, in 1986 to the London Borough of Southwark. The Friends of Dulwich Park was established to safeguard the park, working alongside Southwark Council. Among projects was the provision of a new playground in 1999, a Winter Garden created in 2001 near the Court Lane entrance, designed by Professor Isaac Marks and planted by the Walworth Garden Farm. The park was refurbished in 2006 through an HLF grant. The Friends' 'Dig the park' project is a volunteer programme on the first Saturday of the month. Located near the lake a bronze sculpture by Dame Barbara Hepworth, 'Two Forms (Divided Circle)', installed in the park in 1970, was stolen in December 2011.

Sources consulted:

EH: E Cecil, London Parks and Gardens, 19907; J J Sexby, The Municipal Parks, Gardens and Open Space of London', 1898 pp80-89. Joyce Bellamy Parks of the Dulwich Area notes, 2000; John Archer, Bob Britton, Robert Burley, Tony Hare, Ian Yarham, 'Nature Conservation in Southwark' Ecology Handbook 12, London Ecology Unit, 1989;John Beasley, 'Southwark Remembered', Tempus, 2001; In and Around Dulwich: A Guide to South London's Green Oasis (no date); Southwark Listed Buildings data; Liz Johnston, 'Dulwich Park: a park for the people forever

Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
Grid ref:
TQ335736 (533550,173650)
Size in hectares:
Site ownership:
LB Southwark
Site management:
Parks; Friends of Dulwich Park
Lieut. Col. J J Sexby, LCC
Listed structures:
LBII: Old College Gate and railings; Park Lodge; Court Lane Gate and railings; Queen Mary Gate; Roseberry Gate and Park Lodge on Dulwich Common
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:
Dulwich Wood
Tree Preservation Order:
Not known
Nature Conservation Area:
Yes - Borough Importance II (lake/American Gardens
Green Belt:
Metropolitan Open Land:
Special Policy Area:
Other LA designation:
Major Park, Tier One

Dulwich Park *

Dulwich Park - Boating Lake - Photo: Colin Wing
Date taken: 05/09/19 11:13

Click a photo to enlarge.

More photos

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