Inventory Site Record

Peckham Rye Park *

Peckham Rye Park * (Southwark)

Brief Description

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

Peckham Rye Common was for centuries used as a deer park although local people had common rights. It was purchased for public open space in 1868 by Camberwell Vestry and transferred to the MBW in 1882. In 1890 the adjacent Homestall Farm was acquired by the Vestry, the LCC and the Charity Commissioners for a public park and Peckham Rye Park was laid out in 1894. The park had an artificial lake with island and bankside walks, rock and water gardens; an American garden, Japanese garden, and an English Garden, also known as the Sexby Garden.

Practical Information
Site location:
Peckham Rye/Homestall Road/Colyton Road/Strakers Road
Type of site:
Public Park
Open to public?
Opening times:
Park: 7.30am - sunset. Park Rangers Visitors Centre 9.30-4.30 daily
Special conditions:
Bowling Green; Tennis Courts; 2 Children's Playgrounds; Adventure Playground; Grass Football Pitches; Gaelic Football Pitch Changing Rooms; Trim Trail; One 'O' Clock Club; Lake; Visitor Centre (Toilets).
Various, including Music Galas
Public transport:
Rail: Peckham Rye then bus, Nunhead then bus. Bus: 12, 37, 63, 78, 312, 343, 484, P12.

The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/07/2005
Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news.

Full Site Description

Site on The National Heritage List for England, Parks & Gardens, for Register Entry see

'Pecheham', which may have been 'Peche's Home' was referred to in the Domesday Book of 1086 and at that time was owned by Bishop Odo of Bayeux; it is alleged that Queen Boadicea committed suicide here following her defeat by the Romans. By the C14th this area was known as Peckham Rye, which originally only referred to the River Peck, 'rye' meaning watercourse in Old English; traces of this stream are in the park although it largely flows underground. Peckham Rye Common was for centuries used as a deer park although local people had common rights here. William Blake claims to have seen a vision of angels in an oak tree on Peckham Rye Common as a child of 8 in 1765. In 1865 the Lord of the Manor of Camberwell Friern claimed ownership of Peckham Rye Common and planned to build on it but local objections resulted in his claim being rejected and the Vestry of Camberwell bought the land in 1868 so that it would remain public open space. Responsibility transferred to the Metropolitan Board of Works when it was acquired under the Metropolitan Board of Works Act 1882.

In the C19th it was much used for sports and recreation, as well as fairs and other events. In 1889 a bandstand was erected on the Common by the LCC, one of two previously sited in the Royal Horticultural Society's Garden in Kensington in 1861; the other was erected in Southwark Park (q.v.), and a replica made for Clapham Common (q.v.). The one on Peckham Rye Common was damaged during WWII and was subsequently demolished.

Peckham Rye Park was formerly Homestall Farm adjacent to the Common. In 1890 the Vestry purchased the farm for £51,000; the impetus to create the park was largely in order to provide more public open space, since the Common became dangerously crowded particularly on Saturdays and Bank Holidays. Peckham Rye Park was formally opened on 14 May 1894 when a huge procession marched from Camberwell Vestry Hall, now Southwark Town Hall, to the park and some 100,000 people attended that day. Its layout included an artificial lake with wooded island and wooded bankside walks as well as rock and water gardens, an American garden with rhododendrons, a Japanese garden with various bamboo, an English Garden with a symmetrical geometrical layout with paved paths radiating from a small central pond, with trellises and axial pergola, also known as the Sexby Garden as it was created as a memorial to J J Sexby, LCC's Chief Officer of Parks. This garden has rose beds, ornamental shrubs, climbing roses, perennials. Other areas have significant bedding displays and lawns. A drinking fountain was donated to the park by Edwin Jones, an important local resident and member of the LCC and who with George Randell Higgins founded a large department store in 1867 in Peckham High Street which by 1923 was employing 1,000 people.

An early feature of the park were whalebone arches, provided by a local resident of Homestall Road whose garden featured these, probably originating from a relative in the whaling industry. The storms of 1987 resulted in loss of mature trees from the arboretum and throughout the park. Elsewhere in the park are areas of playing fields.

Friends of Peckham Rye Park was set up mid 1990s. Park improvements undertaken by LB Southwark from 1998 (£275,000) included restoration of Japanese garden and shelter, as well as restoration of other areas, new signage and creation of keep fit trail. A nature reserve has been created to the north of the park. An old keeper's lodge was on the corner of Colyton Road and is now privately owned. Peckham Rye Common abutting the north boundary of the park, is open grassland with mature trees such as London plane, predominantly along the perimeter. Paths run through the Common, and at its northerly point it is bisected by the main road to a triangular area where there was a Lido. A villa, The Elms built c.1842, originally known as Sydney House, is on the east boundary of the Park.

Sources consulted:

EH: Lt Col J J Sexby, The Municipal Parks, Gardens and Open Spaces of London (1898); E Walford 'Old and New London' vol vi, (Cassell & Co., c.1885/6) p290. LB Southwark 'Allotments and Park Gardens' (n.d.); 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; The Parks Agency 'Commons, Heaths and Greens in Greater London. A short report for English Heritage', 2005. See also Hazelle Jackson, 'What a Difference a Year Makes', London Landscapes, No. 11, Autumn 2005.

Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
Grid ref:
Size in hectares:
Site ownership:
LB Southwark
Site management:
Parks; Friends of Peckham Rye Park
Listed structures:
LBII: The Elms
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:
Tree Preservation Order:
Not known
Nature Conservation Area:
Yes - Borough Importance II
Green Belt:
Metropolitan Open Land:
Special Policy Area:
Other LA designation:
Major Park, Tier One. Green Chain Walk

Peckham Rye Park *

Peckham Rye Park - Lake - Photo: Colin Wing
Date taken: 05/09/19 11:50
Click photo to enlarge.


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