Kingswood House Gardens (Southwark)
The Kingswood Estate dates back to the C16th, but in the 1890s it was purchased by John Lawson Johnston, a businessman who also invented Bovril, who rebuilt the house that later became known as Bovril Castle. During WWI the house was sub-let as a hospital for Canadian troops, and after the war it was briefly used as a nurses' home. It was purchased by Sir William Vestey in 1919, who became Lord Vestey of Kingswood in 1922. During WWII it was used as offices and the RAF had a barrage balloon in the grounds. After WWII Kingswood House deteriorated but in 1956 it was opened as a community centre and library for the LCC estate that was built over most of the grounds. Remnants of the earlier landscaping survive, and The President John F Kennedy Rest Garden was created
- Previous / Other name:
- King's Coppice; Kingswood Lodge
- Site location:
- Seeley Drive/Lyall Avenue/Kingswood Drive, West Dulwich
- SE21 8QR
- Type of site:
- Public Gardens
- Open to public?
- Opening times:
- Special conditions:
- Various events. Has opened for London Open House
- Public transport:
- Rail: Sydenham Hill; Gipsy Hill then bus. Bus: 3, 322, 450.
The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/04/2012
Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news. www.southwark.gov.uk; www.kingswoodcommunity.org.uk
Full Site Description
The name Kingswood may refer to Edward King who had lived at Dulwich Manor in 1535, and from 1576 it was known as King's Coppice. In 1811-12 a house called Kingswood Lodge was built here by William Vizard, famous as the solicitor advising Queen Caroline in the divorce case brought against her by George IV in 1820. In the 1890s the estate was purchased by John Lawson Johnston, a successful businessman and the inventor of Bovril, hence the house's sobriquet 'Bovril Castle'. Johnston effectively rebuilt the earlier house in 1892, commissioning a much larger new mansion from H V Lanchester, which cost £20,000. Additions were made in 1897 and the terrace extensions to the rear date from the early C20th. The stone-faced building is rather severe and has a projecting entrance porch and battlements. On the garden side are two projecting rooms, the east one domed. Some fireplaces and other fittings in the house were previously in St Cloud Palace, which was destroyed in the Franco-Prussian War, and the fine interior has oak panelled walls, machine tapestry friezes in the hall, marble floors and polished oak floors, and rich handwork plaster ceilings.
During WWI the house was sub-let to a Canadian tractor manufacturer as a hospital for Canadian troops, and after the war it was briefly used as a nurses' home. A visit to the recuperating soldiers by the wife of Sir William Vestey resulted in the purchase of the house by Sir William in 1919, who became Lord Vestey of Kingswood in 1922. It was at one time the refuge for a Russian Countess fleeing the Bolsheviks. During WWII it was used as offices and the RAF had a barrage balloon in the grounds. After WWII Kingswood House deteriorated but in 1956 it was opened as a community centre and library for the LCC estate that was built over most of the grounds.
The Ballroom and Great Hall are now used for a public Library by LB Southwark. At the entrance on Kingswood Drive are fine late C19th ornamental gates with stone piers, with pedestrian archways on either side. The remains of the grounds to the front of the house are now largely lawn with a number of trees but there are some traces of the earlier landscape in the form of various outcrops of rockwork set into the grass. Facing the house, along the boundary hedge that separates the garden and the housing estate, is the remains of a raised stone terrace with a strip of grass along it, railed to the front and accessed by flights of steps at either end as well as either side of a central stone feature into which a semi-circular niche with lion's head relief is set. Behind the house and along its width is a balustraded terrace with short flights of steps leading down to a lawn, railed to the footpath on one side. Adjacent to this a rose garden was created as The President John F Kennedy Rest Garden, consisting of rectangular rose beds set into grass, which is entered through an open decorative metalwork archway, now missing a number of its letters. The Friends of Kingswood House was set up in 1998 to encourage the use of the house and maintain the house and grounds.
John Beasley, 'Southwark Remembered' (Tempus Publishing, 2001); Bridget Cherry & Nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England: London 2: South (Penguin) 1999; In and Around Dulwich: A Guide to South London's Green Oasis (n.d.); Southwark Listed Buildings data
Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
- Grid ref:
- Size in hectares:
- Site ownership:
- LB Southwark
- Site management:
- Parks; Friends of Kingswood House
- 1890s; 1950s
- House: H V Lanchester
- Listed structures:
- LBII: Kingswood House; Gates on corner of Lyall Avenue
- 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:
- Green Belt:
- Metropolitan Open Land:
- Special Policy Area:
- Other LA designation:
- Tier Three