Inventory Site Record

Pasley Park

Pasley Park (Southwark)

Brief Description

Pasley Park is on part of the former site of the Royal Surrey Gardens, which were set up in 1831 by Edward Cross for his new Surrey Zoological Gardens with animals from his existing menagerie at Exeter Exchange on The Strand. In addition to the animals there were ornamental gardens with a large lake and numerous entertainments, which proved very popular with the public. The gardens had declined by 1856 and the animals were sold. Surrey Music Hall was erected on part of the gardens, another popular attraction until 1872. In 1877 the site was sold for development, and terraces of houses built here. In the 1980s part of the former site was laid out as Pasley Park, where in 2010 a Fun Day celebrated the former history of the zoological gardens.

Practical Information
Previous / Other name:
Royal Surrey Gardens; Surrey Zoological Gardens; Surrey Music Hall
Site location:
Chapter Road
SE17 3ES
Type of site:
Public Park
Open to public?
Opening times:
Special conditions:
community events
Public transport:
Tube: Kennington; Elephant & Castle (Northern). Bus: 3, 159, P5

The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/06/2017
Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news.

Full Site Description

The instigator of the Surrey Zoological Gardens was Edward Cross (1774-1854) who had founded the Surrey Literary, Scientific and Zoological Society in 1831 at a meeting in Horns Tavern in Kennington. Cross offered to sell animals from the menagerie he had established at Exeter Exchange in The Strand, which had closed in 1829, and Lord Holland leased him c.6 ha of the grounds of Walworth Manor House to the east of Kennington Park Road for the purpose. The pleasure gardens had a 1.2ha lake and Cross erected a large domed glass conservatory to house cages for his animals, which included lions, tigers, giraffes and a rhinoceros. In the early days the Surrey Zoological Gardens rivalled the Royal Zoological Gardens in Regent's Park (q.v.), but as a private enterprise the Surrey Gardens needed to charge a shilling entrance fee and to provide other attractions.

The grounds were laid out under the supervision of Henry Phillips (1779-1840),botanist and horticultural author, who had written 'Sylva Florifera' (1823). Edward Walford, writing in the 1880s, described the gardens: ‘The principal walks and avenues were planted with every description of native and exotic forest trees that would endure the climate; whilst the beautiful sheet of water […] was spotted with islands, shrubberies, and plantations of great richness’ (Walford, Old and New London, vol 6 p266). A number of pavilions were constructed in the gardens, which J C Loudon in the Gardeners’ Magazine compared favourably to those in Regent’s Park: ‘Mr Cross has not only proceeded more rapidly than they have done, but has erected more suitable and more imposing structures than are yet to be found in the gardens in the Regent’s Park’ (quoted in Walford). Among the public entertainments offered were firework displays, concerts and flower shows as well as extravagant re-enactments of events such as the eruption of Vesuvius, Great Fire of London, the storming of Badajoz.

Cross had retired in 1844 and the zoological gardens later went into decline, particularly when competition from Crystal Palace proved too strong. The animals were sold by auction in 1856 and with part of the proceeds Surrey Music Hall was built in the gardens, which became known as Royal Surrey Gardens. Surrey Music Hall was designed by Horace Jones, and constructed in cast iron like the Crystal Palace. With capacity for 12,000 people, it was the largest such venue in London. Numerous events and festivals were held here, such as celebrations for the end of the Crimean War, and also concerts and religious services.. The Music Hall was rebuilt after a fire in 1861 and although the gardens continued to be used for large public events they closed in 1862. The site was used for a time in 1868 by St Thomas's Hospital while the new hospital on the Albert Embankment (q.v.) was being constructed. The music hall housed 200 beds, the pavilion was used as a laboratory and the elephant house was used as a dissecting room. The Music Hall was eventually demolished in 1872 and the site was sold for building development by 1877. Local builders Frederick Sutton and John Dudley built the Surrey Gardens Estate, laying out terraced housing over the gardens, one of the streets being named Pasley Road.

In the 1980s Pasley Park opened on part of the former site of the zoological gardens. Friends of Pasley Park was set up in 2010 and since then improvements have been made to the park as a result of funds from LB Southwark and others. Two ostrich sculptures in the park recall its past history. Nearby Lorrimore Square Gardens (q.v.) also has a number of wooden animal sculptures, installed in 2002. A special community festival took place on 9 September 2016 to celebrate the park’s past history as the Royal Surrey Zoological Gardens. Opened by the Mayor of Southwark, events included a lantern procession with local school children, and performances by actors from the People’s Company as part of the Walworth Society’s Animated History tours.

Sources consulted:

Ben Weinreb, Christopher Hibbert, Julia Keay, John Keay 'The London Encyclopaedia' (3rd edition, 2008, Macmillan); Edward Wolford, 'Old and New London: a Narrative of Its History, Its People, and Its Places' The Southern Suburbs, volume VI (Cassell & Company, c.1885/6); John Goodier, 'A wander through time with Tallis', London Landscapes (LPGT Newsletter); History of Royal Surrey Gardens on;;

Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
Grid ref:
Size in hectares:
Site ownership:
LB Southwark
Site management:
Parks; Friends of Pasley Park
1831; 1980s
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 - Local Importance
Green Belt:
Metropolitan Open Land:
Special Policy Area:
Other LA designation:
Borough Open Land

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