|Hammersmith Park||Hammersmith & Fulham|
Hammersmith Park was built on land reserved for open space when the former White City Exhibition Grounds, created for the 1908 London Olympics, were redeveloped in the 1940s and '50s. The park was laid out with tennis courts and a playground in 1954, the remainder of the park opening in September 1955. The water garden in the south of today's park was once part of the much larger lagoon created for the Exhibition Grounds in 1908, known as the Court of Honour. Until WWI the Exhibition Grounds were used for a series of international exhibitions, including the Japan-British Exhibition of 1910. The Japanese Garden of Peace created for that event survived, although it became dilapidated in later years and was eventually restored in 2010. An important feature within Hammersmith Park, it is considered to be the oldest traditional Japanese garden found in a public place in Britain.
The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/10/2013
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The White City Exhibition Grounds with its pavilions, exhibition halls, stadium and other amenities such as railway and artificial waterways had been created for the Olympic Games held in London in 1908. The buildings were used for the Franco-British Exhibition of 1908 and thereafter for a series of international exhibitions until WWI when they were requisitioned to accommodate troops. For the massive Japan-British Exhibition of 1910, which brought awareness of Japan to the general public and ran for 6 months, a Garden of Peace was created by a group of Japanese and British gardeners in 1909, one of two gardens on the site for the exhibition and visited by the royal family in 1910. The other, a larger Garden of Floating Islands, no longer exists but the Garden of Peace survived and remains as a feature within Hammersmith Park although in intervening years it became overgrown, reduced in size and lost a number of the original features, including two ponds. In 2001 Hammersmith & Fulham Council undertook improvements to the Japanese garden with support from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Nippon Club Anglo-Japanese Friendship Committee to mark the Japan 2001 Festival. However, in 2008 a project to restore the Garden of Peace to its traditional aesthetic was instigated, and a large team of volunteers took part, including Yoshihiko Uchida, Japanese landscape architect, and Satoru Izawa, an engineer and expert in traditional Japanese gardens. Funded by the Japan-British Exhibition 100 Committee, the local council, and numerous other supporters, the restoration was completed in 2010, the centenary of the original Garden of Peace. Set among bamboo and pagoda trees, it consists of two large ponds connected by a stone bridge with rocks forming a small waterfall; some of the original plants and trees brought from Japan in 1909 are still present. In addition a dry, rock garden was laid out in 2010 to provide a children's play area. A plaque on the site explains the design of this garden was inspired by dry gardens found in Zen temples: 'All dry gardens have a story behind them and each group of rocks plays a part in the story. Ours is a story of the Crane and the Turtle in their voyage to the Island of Shagri-La, a place of eternal happiness floating in the Ocean which takes the shape of the Chinese character for 'heart'. The ocean is 'Magatama' a symbol for good luck. The Crane lives for 1000 years and the Turtle walks the world for 10,000 years. They both symbolise long life. This garden is a metaphor of a child’s journey though life, a materialisation of a desire for it to be happy and that is why it is a playground.'.
Between the wars the White City Exhibition Grounds and pavilions had some usage but the land became derelict and in 1935 part was purchased by the LCC for housing development of the White City Estate (q.v.). The remainder was requisitioned for military purposes in WWII after which it was acquired for housing and open space with part acquired by the BBC for its Television Centre. In November 1954 Hammersmith Park was laid out with tennis courts and a playground, and in September 1955 the park was officially opened by the Chairman of the LCC, although the Japanese garden had become merely a rock garden. The park today occupies a slightly curved site running from north to south and divides into two sections. The area to the north is given over to sports, which included all weather sports area, paddling pool, and children’s play area. In the south is the restored Garden of Peace with its water feature consisting of a waterfall over a rock outcrop and an informal pool crossed by a rustic bridge; this was once part of the much larger lagoon created for the Exhibition Grounds in 1908, known as the Court of Honour. Although geologically impossible, the general impression is quite natural. The transition from one part of the park to the other was achieved by using screening hedges and some formal planting between the hard lines of the sports area to the garden. When the park was refurbished in 2000 an abstract sculpture by Tim Fortune, 'Three Arches' was installed, consisting of three interlocking black-painted arches.
Since the refurbishment of the historic Japanese Garden a new Japanese-themed natural and adventurous play area has been installed to provide a continuous play trail across the whole site. Other attractions included a hedge maze, a climbing forest and three large play mountains. In 2011 plans to improve the sports facilities in the park were announced, leading to the loss of the park's old bowling green, which for some years had been used by the Metro Blind Sport Club, since relocated to Ravenscourt Park (q.v.). However, plans to lease part of the park for a private football facility were quashed in the High Court in 2014.
Hammersmith Park won the Green Flag Award for the first time in 2012/13.
LB Hammersmith & Fulham Archives Dept, 'A note on the open spaces of Fulham and Hammersmith', 1974 p11 John Archer, Daniel Keech 'Nature Conservation in Hammersmith & Fulham', Ecology Handbook 25, London Ecology Unit, 1993 p 52; William Hollingworth, 'London's 1910 Japan garden spruced up'; The Japan Times online, 2 September 2008. http://sequinsandcherryblossom.com/2013/10/16/hammersmith-park-japanese-garden/. See Hammersmith Council website Historical Sculptures Search.