Inventory Site Record

Southwark Park *

Southwark Park * (Southwark)

Brief Description

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

Prior to becoming a public park, the site was used for market gardening and was owned by the Lord of Rotherhithe Manor. Pressure for a public park in the area began in the 1850s and in 1857 the new Metropolitan Board of Works was persuaded that Bermondsey and Rotherhithe, as well as Finsbury, were most in need and a site was approved. Southwark Park was laid out by the MBW and opened on 19 June 1869. The original layout had a wide carriage drive around the perimeter, part of which survives; various facilities were added by 1885, including a new lake and a bandstand, and in the early C20th a lido and the Ada Salter Rose Garden were among the new facilities. Rundown in the latter C20th, it was very well restored by 2001 with HLF funding, the works including a replica bandstand and bowling pavilion, and the lake restored to its original pre-WWII size and the main gates repaired. Other facilities include a cafe, visitor’s centre, art gallery, sports track and wildlife area.

Practical Information
Site location:
Jamaica Road/Lower Road/Southwark Park Road/Gomm Road
Type of site:
Public Park
Open to public?
Opening times:
7.30am - an hour before dusk although central pedestrian access is unrestricted
Special conditions:
Café Gallery, children's play room, café, toilets, Sports Centre, boating lake, bowling green and football (seasonal, check details), tennis courts, Park Rangers Office
Numerous events including educational activities
Public transport:
Tube: Bermondsey, Canada Water (Jubilee). London Overground: Canada Water, Surrey Quays, Rotherhithe. Bus: 1, 47, 188, 199, 225, 381, 395, P13.

The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/04/2011
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

Although in Rotherhithe, Southwark Park was so-called after the parliamentary constituency in which it stood when first created; an attempt in 1921/2 to change its name to Rotherhithe Park failed. Prior to its purchase for the park by the Metropolitan Board of Works, the site was used for market gardening and was owned by the Lord of the Manor of Rotherhithe, Sir William Maynard Gomm. Pressure for a public park in the area began in the 1850s and in 1857 the Metropolitan Board of Works, set up in 1855, were persuaded by the Rotherhithe Vestry that Bermondsey and Rotherhithe, as well as Finsbury, were most in need of a public park and a site was approved, but delayed by lack of funds. In April 1864 the Southwark Park Bill received Royal Assent and the land was purchased from Sir William. The layout was planned by the MBW's superintending architect Mr Vulliamy with fine-tuning by Alexander McKenzie who had designed Alexandra Park in 1863; work was carried out landscape gardener Murray Anderson. The park opened on 19 June 1869, with attendance by thousands and among the celebratory events 4 trees were planted in commemoration of the opening.

The original layout had a wide carriage drive around the perimeter, part of which survives; land was initially left for building plots between this and the park boundary but in 1872 this was successfully prevented, and in 1874 the drive was narrowed to a footpath with double avenue of trees. The main entrance with a lodge was on Lower Road with five other entrances made to provide access from the surrounding neighbourhood. By the 1870s facilities included a cricket oval in the south, double ovals in the north, and a central spine of planting. The cricket ground, formerly called The Oval, opened on 12 July 1871 with a match between the Metropolitan Police and Southwark Park Cricket Club. One of the members of the Club was Robert Abel, a famous cricketer of the time who played in 13 test matches until his retirement in 1904. Cricket declined by the 1970s when the oval ceased to exist.

From 1870-1885 numerous facilities were added, including a gymnasium in 1881, which was enlarged in 1914; drinking fountains, that to Jabez West reputedly the first public memorial in London to honour a working man; refreshment pavilions, the first in 1870; toilets and the bandstand in 1884. This was one of two previously sited in the Royal Horticultural Society's Garden in Kensington in 1861; the other was erected on Peckham Rye Common (q.v.), and a replica made for Clapham Common (q.v.). The lake in the centre of the park, once much larger than today, was constructed and opened in August 1885. Queen Victoria donated a pair of swans, and other waterfowl were provided by the Friends and the Working Men's Committee. The lake was later expanded in 1908 for boating purposes, in 1922 a paddling pool was added and in 1923 the lido opened, built through an unemployment relief scheme, but was eventually closed in the 1980s.

In 1889 the newly created London County Council took over responsibility for the park and further sporting provision was made with football pitches in 1890 and a bowling green in 1903. The park was used not only for sporting activities but also entertainment with band concerts and dancing, as well as other events. Dr Alfred Salter, MP for Bermondsey for 20 years and a great proponent of the Temperance Movement, participated in events promoting drinking of fruit juices, held at various venues including Southwark Park. The memorial fountain erected in 1884 commemorates another well-known Temperance supporter, Jabez West (1810-1884), a famous speaker in his day and one of the early members of the first Southwark Liberal Association. In 1934 the English Rose Garden was created and it was opened in 1936, originally named the Sexby Garden after the LCC Parks Superintendent but renamed in 1942 the Ada Salter Rose Garden in honour of Dr Alfred Salter's wife Ada, like her husband a pioneer for social reform.

During WWII the park suffered, the lake was bombed, the bandstand removed along with park railings for the war effort. Due to the proximity of the docks, artillery was stationed on the cricket ground. A horse chestnut tree was planted in 1953 for the Coronation. In 1961 the boathouse was removed and the lake largely filled in, reduced in size again in 1985 when the lido closed. In 1975 Jamaica Road was widened encroaching the park. The sports stadium was opened in 1980. The Bermondsey Artists Group, set up in 1983, opened the Café Gallery on the former café of the lido in 1984.

The Friends of Bermondsey and Rotherhithe Parks was set up in 1996 to work towards restoration of park, £2.5m funding was raised from the Heritage Lottery Fund in 1998/9, and the park re-opened in 2002. Improvements include restoration of the Carriageway Drive, reinstatement of the lake to its full size, recreation of the cricket oval as a general sports field, upgrading of gates, improvements to the Ada Salter Rose Garden, repairs to the Jabez West memorial fountain, reinstatement of the bowling green pavilion, conversion of the old children's playground into a wildlife area and creation of new children's play area.

Sources consulted:

EH: E Cecil, 'London Parks and Gardens', 1907; B Cherry and N Pevsner 'London 2: South', 1983; Lieut. Col J J Sexby, 'The Municipal Parks, Gardens and Open Space of London (their History and Associations)', Elliott Stock (London), 1898. John Beasley, 'Southwark Remembered', Tempus, 2001; Pat Kingwell, Andrew Harris, Paul Harrison, Andrew Wikeley, 'Southwark Park: a brief history', LB Southwark 1999

Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
Grid ref:
Size in hectares:
Site ownership:
LB Southwark
Site management:
Parks; Friends of Southwark Park; Young Friends of Southwark Park
1864-69; 1980s
Mr Vulliamy, MBW Superintendent Architect / Alexander McKenzie
Listed structures:
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:
Nature Conservation Area:
Yes - part
Green Belt:
Metropolitan Open Land:
Special Policy Area:
Other LA designation:
Major Park, Tier One/ Strategic Views Protected Viewing Corridor/Backdrop Consultation Zone. Green Chain Walk

Southwark Park *

Southwark Park - Ada Salter Garden - Photo: Lydia Maroudas
Date taken: 29/06/18 18:35
Click photo to enlarge.


Page Top