Inventory Site Record

Potters Fields Park

Potters Fields Park (Southwark)

Brief Description

Potters Fields Park is on a site that includes the former burial ground of St Olave's Church to the south, converted into a recreation ground in the late C19th, and riverside wharves and warehouses near the foot of Tower Bridge. When the riverside area became derelict, an ecology park was created here in 1977, remaining until 1985. The park combining these two areas was laid out in 1988 and opened as Potters Fields Park, recalling the pottery works that had existed here in the C17th. The park was re-designed in 2007

Practical Information
Previous / Other name:
St Olave's Burial Ground; Tooley Street Garden; William Curtis Ecological Park
Site location:
Tooley Street
Postcode:
SE1
Type of site:
Public Park
Borough:
Southwark
Open to public?
Yes
Opening times:
unrestricted
Special conditions:
Facilities:
Events:
Used for numerous events
Public transport:
Tube: Tower Bridge (District, Circle); London Bridge (Northern, Jubilee) then bus. DLR: Tower Gateway. Rail: London Bridge. Bus: 42, 78, 47, 381, 188.

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.pottersfields.co.uk

Full Site Description

When it first opened as a recreation ground in the late C19th, the park was known as The Tooley Street Garden, but it was re-named Potters Fields Park in 2006. The name appears on William Morgan's Map of 1682 where land adjacent to St Olave's burial ground is marked as 'Potts Fieldes'. Excavations in 1965 have revealed that it was the site of the earliest delftware kilns in England, which were established here in c.1618. St Olave's Church was by London Bridge, now the site of St Olaf house, and dated from the C11th; there are records that in 1327 its churchyard was flooded and bodies were swept into the river. An additional burial ground to serve St Olave's was opened at the east end of Tooley Street in 1586 and was in use until c.1853. In 1733 the new parish of St John Horselydown was created, its churchyard now public gardens, St John's Churchyard (q.v.), taking over St Olave's parish and probably sharing the burial ground here, which became the responsibility of St John's in the 1790s. It is this burial ground that Potters Fields Park now covers, as well as the site of C19th wharves and bonded warehouses by Tower Bridge.

The disused burial ground was laid out as a public recreation ground in 1888 by St Olave's Board of Works and was known as The Tooley Street Garden. By 1920 there were a children's playground and a netball pitch in the park. Following closure of the docks in the 1960s the wharves ceased to be used and the derelict land was later the site for a riverside ecology park, which opened in 1977 to commemorate the Queen's Silver Jubilee. Named the William Curtis Ecological Park after the well-known C18th botanist, it remained until 1985 when the land was handed back to the owners, St Martin's Property Corporation.

In 1982 a masterplan for development of the riverside between London Bridge and Tower Bridge was put forward, and came into being as London Bridge City, the first phase completed by 1987. It was then agreed that the development should include a riverside walkway and new park, which was then laid out, although the name proposed, London Bridge City Park, was opposed by local people. The park opened in 1988, named Potters Fields Park, combining the old recreation ground to the south and the riverside land to the north. The park layout consisted of a grassy bank nearest the river, with landscape features in the older section towards Tooley Street including various ornamental beds and shrubberies, with mature plane trees along the west boundary. A number of gravestones remained in the park, largely hidden behind shrubbery along the east wall towards the south of the gardens. The new GLA City Hall, designed by Foster Architects, opened adjacent to the park in 2000. It was used for various events, best known of which was probably the suspension of David Blaine in a Perspex box in 2003, which brought such vast crowds that the park suffered considerable damage.

Potters Fields Park was closed in 2006 and re-designed as part of the public open space adjoining the river between the south-west foot of Tower Bridge, of which it provides excellent views, and City Hall. In May 2007 the park re-opened following completion of extensive re-landscaping designed by Gross Max with plantsman Piet Oudolf, which consists of a new layout of paths, lawns, planting of trees and beds and fixed seating. The gravestones from the old churchyard are now exposed to view, and new gate screens are erected on Tooley Street. The park continues to be a venue for numerous outdoor events including Toby Paterson's Powder Blue Orthogonal Pavilion as part of Portavilian in summer 2008. It is managed by Potters Fields Park Management Trust, which includes representatives from GLA, Southwark Council, More London Development Ltd, Team London Bridge, Shad Thames Residents Association and Fair Street Community Housing Services.

Sources consulted:

LB Southwark leaflet on Allotments; Ron Woollacott, 'Southwark's Burying Places, Past and Present', Magdala Terrace Nunhead Local History publication, 2001; Lt Col J J Sexby 'The Municipal Parks, Gardens and Open Spaces of London', 1898; 'The London County Council and what it does for London: London Parks and Open Spaces' (Hodder & Stoughton, 1924)

Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
Grid ref:
TQ334801
Size in hectares:
1.362
Site ownership:
LB Southwark
Site management:
Potters Field Park Management Trust. Friends of Potter's Field Park, St John's Churchyard and Alfred Salter Playground
Date(s):
1888; 2007
Designer(s):
2007: Landscape architects: Gross Max with plantsman Piet Oudolf
Listed structures:
None
On National Heritage List for England (NHLE), Parks & Gardens:

No
Registered common or village green on Commons Registration Act 1965:

No
Protected under London Squares Preservation Act 1931:

No

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:
No
In Conservation Area:
Yes
Conservation Area name:
Tower Bridge
Tree Preservation Order:
No
Nature Conservation Area:
No
Green Belt:
No
Metropolitan Open Land:
Yes
Special Policy Area:
Yes - Archaeological Priority Zone
Other LA designation:
Special Site, Tier Two. Regeneration Area. Thames Path. Strategic Views Backdrop Consultation Zone
Photos

Potters Fields Park

Photo: London Gardens Trust

Click photo to enlarge.

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