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Site on English Heritage Register of Historic Parks and Gardens, for Register Entry see http://list.english-heritage.org.uk
Danson Park was once part of the private estate lands for Danson Hill, a mansion built between 1762-67 for Sir John Boyd, a wealthy merchant, although the Danson estate existed here from at least the C13th, with pasture, woodland and arable land. Sir John took over the lease in 1759 from the descendants of John Styleman, who was the first owner-occupier from c.1697, and gradually purchased additional land over the next 40 years. The estate at its most extensive was c.240ha. Danson Hill was designed by Robert Taylor, architect of the Bank of England and knighted in 1782, in the style of a Palladian villa, and its grounds were landscaped at the same time. The parkland was laid out in the manner of Lancelot 'Capability' Brown by Nathanial Richmond, who was a student of Brown's (or possibly designed by Brown himself), and included a large ornamental lake overlooked by the mansion, a winding gravel path and planting of cedars, chestnuts, poplars, beech, birch, oak and ash. The lake had been created by building a dam across the Danson Stream and covered the site of an older house. An existing small cottage was improved with the addition of a spire in order to provide a more interesting view from the house. This was later called Chapel House and is still visible at Blendon.
Sir John died in 1800 and the estate was inherited by his son, the second baronet, who then sold it in 1807 to John Johnston. Johnston lived here until his death in 1829 and the property was then purchased by engineer Alfred Bean, after whose death in 1890 his family remained here. Bean was Chairman of Bexley Local Board from 1880 and also of the Bexleyheath Railway Company and he conceived of the idea of transforming his substantial estate into a new residential suburb for London. His will provided for the estate lands to be sold for developing the land as squares and crescents, with streets, roads and sewers, but nothing came of these plans, and the Danson estate was only developed piecemeal from 1922 onwards, after the death of his widow in 1921. The family then sold the estate divided into 23 lots, Lot One of which was acquired for £15,000 in 1924 by Bexley Urban District Council comprising the manor house and 224 acres. In 1925 the grounds were opened by Princess Mary as a public park.
The cost of laying out the park was c.£3500 and an application was made for a government loan for the purpose. The house was made into a museum and the new park had facilities for football, tennis, cricket and hockey, as well as a miniature golf course. Boats were provided for use on the lake and on 25 July 1936 an open air swimming pool was provided, known as Bexley Open Air Pool. Designed by G A Joy, it had a main pool 165ft x 90ft with diving boards at one end and two children's pools, with a raised terrace with a café. A popular and well-used facility, the pool eventually closed following the 1979 summer season, the site badly vandalised before it was demolished in 1982 and grassed over. In 1929 the Morris Wheeler Gates were opened, and the Boathouse and Café were opened in 1964. In the centre of Mid Park is the Charter Oak, a large oak tree some 200 years old. It is so called because it was under this tree that Bexley's Charter as a Municipal Borough was presented by Lord Cornwallis on 30 September 1937. There are three ornamental gardens, an Old English Garden near the Mansion, a Rock Garden at the western end of the park, and a Peace Garden in the south-east corner. A nature reserve has been established on an area previously known as the Bog Garden. The 7.8-hectare Danson Lake today provides for fishing, boating, sailing and other water-based sports including use by clubs such as Erith Rowing Club and Meridian Canoe Club. Recent improvements to the park comprise four 'all purpose' fishing platforms and a cycle route to the south of the lake, with funding received from the Environment Agency and Transport for London.
The mansion was leased to English Heritage in 1997 on a 999 year lease and is open only on certain days, including for London Open House, which described the Mansion in 2000 as 'an outstanding example of a mid Georgian Neo-Palladian villa'. In 2004 a Heritage Lottery Fund grant enabled the mansion and its immediate surroundings to be restored and the house was re-opened by the Queen. In 2000 Danson received the Green Flag Park Award and has continued to do so in subsequent years. The park now has a Splash Park, s free wet and dry play area with refreshment kiosk and seating area, toilets and baby changing facilities.
Country Life 6 July 1967, pp123-125; Cherry B & Pevsner N, The Buildings of England, London 2: South, 1983, pp137-138; Jacques D, Georgian Gardens, 1983 pp84-85; Stroud D. Capability Brown, 1975, p222. Bexley Local Studies Note No.6 'Danson House', 1996 rev 2005; Bexley Local Studies Note No. 53 'John Boyd's Danson Estate' (nd). See also Mrs Ruth Hutcherson, 'The History of Danson'; www.ideal-homes.org.uk/bexley/danson estate; Website: 'Lidos in London no longer open' compiled by Oliver Merrington and Andy Hoines, with additional details and photographs from Ian Gordon, www.lidos.org.uk