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Beckenham Place Park Lewisham
   

Beckenham Place Park

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Beckenham Manor has mediaeval origins; the estate passed through various owners, some with royal connections. For a time divided, by the C17th the whole estate was owned by Walter St John in whose family it remained until 1773 when John Cator of Bromley bought the manorial rights. Cator built Beckenham Place Mansion, near which is the Stable Block, and behind it the walled garden with cottage. Among Cator's friends were the Swedish botanist Linnaeus and he was son-in-law of Peter Collinson, who approved his planting and may have influenced his introduction of exotic trees and the lake (now dry). There are reputedly 60 species of tree on the estate and areas of ancient woodland. The estate was purchased by the LCC in 1927 and the golf course opened in 1929, the Mansion becoming the clubhouse; much of the land had been used for farming before the golf course was laid out. The park retains much of the form of a landscape park in terms of plantations, but parkland standards are reduced and blurred by golf course planting.
   
Previous / Other name:
Site location: Beckenham Hill Road/Old Bromley Road/Foxgrove Road/Westgate Road/Crab Hill, Beckenham
Postcode: BR3 1UL (Clubhouse)
Type of site: Public Park 
Date(s): Late C18th, 1929
Designer(s): John Cator, possibly advised by Peter Collinson
Listed structures: LBII*: Beckenham Place Mansion, LBII: Stable Block and Homesteads, Southend Lodge
Borough: Lewisham
Site ownership: LB Lewisham
Site management: Greenscene Department, Glendale Grounds Management/Beckenham Place Park Working Party & Friends of Beckenham Place Park
Open to public? Yes
Opening times: unrestricted (Visitors Centre 12-3pm Sat/Sun)
Special conditions:
Facilities: Children's playground with a splash pad, 18-hole golf course; Café/bar in the Mansion, toilets; tennis and ball courts, cycle way, football pitches; Nature trails
Events: Friends of Beckenham Place Park: walks, talks and other events
Public transport: Rail: Ravensbourne/Beckenham Hill. Bus: 54, 136, 208, 181, 351, 361.
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.lewisham.gov.uk; www.beckenhamplaceparkfriends.org.uk

Fuller information:

Beckenham Manor is listed in Domesday as belonging to the Bishop of Bayeux and worth £9 in the time of Edward the Confessor. The estate passed through various owners, some with royal connections and Henry VIII is reputed to have been a visitor. For a time divided, by the C17th the whole estate was owned by Walter St John in whose family it remained until 1773 Shortly after John Cator of Bromley bought the manorial rights, he built Beckenham Place Mansion. Cator, a Quaker, was MP for Wallingford and later Ipswich, and became Sheriff for Kent in 1781. He was the developer of Blackheath Park, in 1784 purchasing Wricklemarsh, the extensive property of Sir Gregory Page Turner, which he resold in building lots. Wricklemarsh House was demolished in the process, its front portico added to Beckenham Place Mansion in 1787. Near the house is the stable block whose wooden clock turret may also have come from Wricklemarsh, behind it the walled garden with timber garden cottage. Other buildings in the park include Homesteads and Southend Lodge at the entrance on Beckenham Hill Road.

Among Cator's friends were Dr Samuel Johnson and the Swedish botanist Linnaeus. He was also the son-in-law of botanist Peter Collinson, who recorded his approval of Cator's planting of "cedars, exotic firs, linodendrons, and many large North American Shrubs" and he may have influenced the introduction of many of the exotic trees, and the lake. There are reputedly 60 species of tree on the estate, which contains areas of ancient woodland, including mature oaks, swamp cypresses, planes, Scots pine, wild service, Californian spruce, Spanish chestnut. An ancient Turkey Oak, reputedly the second largest in Britain and which survived an arson attack by vandals in 1998/9, and an old mulberry tree stand near the 18th hole of the golf course. At one time the estate covered an area from Shortlands to Sydenham Hill. Cator died in 1806 and is buried in Beckenham churchyard.

Although it remained in the Cator family until 1927 it was tenanted in later years, the Mansion becoming a school for boys in the late C19th and then a Sanatorium before it was purchased by the LCC in 1927. The golf course opened in 1929, the first municipally owned, and reputedly the largest, golf course in England, and the Mansion then became the golf clubhouse. Up until then a proportion of the park had been used for farming, which included the home farm that supplied the Mansion, but much of the land was lost when the golf course was laid out and the last farm buildings were demolished in c.1933. The park retains much of the form of a landscape park in terms of plantations, but the lake is now dry; parkland standards are reduced and blurred by golf course planting. Areas of ancient woodland include Summerhouse Hill Wood and Ash Plantation divided by the railway line, which was constructed in 1892, and the River Ravensbourne runs through the eastern area, which largely consists of playing fields, including Summerhouse Field. In World War II the park was used as a prisoner of war camp, the site of anti-aircraft battery and barrage balloons, grazing land and allotments.

In 1965 the newly formed GLC took control of the estate, and since 1971 it has been the responsibility of LB Lewisham. Until 1995 it fell within two boroughs of Lewisham and Bromley, and former boundary markers can be seen in Summerhouse Hill Wood; boundary changes then brought it entirely within Lewisham. The Friends of Beckenham Place was set up in 1995.

Sources consulted:

John Archer, Ian Yarham, 'Nature Conservation in Lewisham', Ecology Handbook 30, London Ecology Unit, 2000 and Lewisham Walk 4 leaflet; South East London's Green Chain pack, 1998; Bridget Cherry & Nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England: London 2: South (Penguin) 1999 p428-9; J Bellamy, York Form I, 1985; 'Beckenham Place Park, a brief guide', LB Lewisham n.d..
Grid ref: TQ376707
Size in hectares: 96
   
On EH National Register : No
EH grade :
Site on EH Heritage at Risk list:
Registered common or village green
on Commons Registration Act 1965:
No
Protected under London Squares
Preservation Act 1931:
No
 
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: Yes
Conservation Area name: south-west part
Tree Preservation Order: Not known
Nature Conservation Area: Yes - Metropolitan Importance
Green Belt: No
Metropolitan Open Land: Yes
Special Policy Area: Yes - Area of Archaeological Priority (part)
Other LA designation: Green Chain (Green Chain Walk)
   

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