|Ravenscourt Park||Hammersmith & Fulham|
Ravenscourt Park opened as a public park in 1888, laid out on the former grounds of the Ravenscourt estate, formerly known as Pallenswick. The moated manorhouse passed through numerous owners including Edward III's mistress Alice Perrers. From 1812 it was owned by George Scott who may have sought Humphry Repton's advice on landscaping of the grounds. In 1887 the house and remaining grounds were acquired by the MBW and Hammersmith Vestry and opened as a public park in 1888. Until it was destroyed by WWII bombing, the house was used as a public library. The park contains remnants of earlier planting, and the lake was once part of the moat.
The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/09/2011
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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.
Ravenscourt Park Walled Garden - Photo: Colin Wing
Click photo to enlarge.
By the late C18th Hammersmith had grown to be an important settlement on the Great West Road, originally a Roman road, which led west from London towards Bath. There were a number of small hamlets including those at Paddenswick Green and Starch Green, and grand houses had been built by wealthy people who were attracted to the healthy reputation of the area. It otherwise remained largely rural, with pasture and arable land, nurseries and orchards, until the mid to late C19th when house building began in earnest. In 1869 the London and South Western Railway constructed the line from Waterloo to Richmond with stations at what is now Ravenscourt Park (originally known as Shaftesbury Road) and Turnham Green.
Ravenscourt Park was laid out on land that was once part of the estate of Pallenswick (variously spelt Palingswick, Palyngwyk) in the Manor of Fulham, and at its greatest extent covered around 100 acres. Owned in the C14th by Alice Perrers, Edward III's mistress, the estate went through various private owners. The moated manorhouse was demolished in 1648/50 by its then owner Maximilian Bard who had the new mansion built to the west of it. In 1747 the estate was sold to Thomas Corbett, Secretary to the Admiralty, who changed its name to Ravenscourt, a pun on his own name, 'corbeau' being French for raven, which featured on his coat of arms. When he died the estate consisted of the mansion, 'outhouses, gardens, lands and farms [. . ;] the gardens elegantly laid out'. A plan of 1754 shows the park in roughly its present form including the long avenue from the south to the house, and a moat that may be the basis of the present lake. In 1812 the house and estate of 60 acres was sold to George Scott (1778-1859), who according to Thomas Faulkner employed Humphry Repton to advise on landscaping the grounds. At that time much of the estate consisted of fields and meadows. The previous owner, John Dorville, had begun selling off parts of the estate land for development and Scott, who already owned brickfields, did the same. Scott was responsible for laying out St Peter's Square (q.v.). A philanthropist as well as a builder Scott endeavoured to ensure that new housing on his land was well-designed and well built. By the 1850s there were flower gardens, lawns and orchards, and a variety of trees had been planted, and an ice house was located east of the house.
After the death of Scott's widow in 1884, the house and 32 acres that remained of the estate were eventually bought in 1887 by the Metropolitan Board of Works from Richard Birkin, who had acquired the property in c.1885. The MBW had paid £58,000 for the property, requesting Hammersmith Vestry to contribute half of this cost, for which it provided a loan. The park was laid out by the LCC, which had by then succeeded the MBW, under its Head of Parks, Lieut. Col J J Sexby. It opened to the public on 19 May 1888 and soon attracted visitors. The house was leased to the Vestry and became Hammersmith's first public library, opening in 1890. An Old English Garden, later known as the Scented Garden, was created on the former walled kitchen garden, and in ensuing years the park was provided with additional facilities such as a bandstand, Teahouse, toilets and tennis courts. The empty lake was filled and provided with boats that very soon became popular. The Sir William Bull Memorial Gates in King Street at the southern park entrance date from 1933 and commemorate Sir William who had died in 1931. He was MP for Hammersmith from 1900-1929, became its first Honorary Freeman for services to his local constituency and was a keen supporter of the park. During WWI the park was the venue for fundraising and other events, and during WWII trenches were dug in the park and the house was for a time closed. On 21 January 1941 incendiary bombs destroyed the house, although throughout the war the park continued to be the venue for entertainments and concerts, and was also used for allotments. After the war new attractions and events were added to the park.
The great early C18th avenue of elm and chestnut trees remained until the 1920s, but the elms became dangerous and had to be cut down by the LCC, and have now been replaced with flowering cherries. However, there are still many good remnants of earlier planting including a clump of London plane trees west of the avenue, and a grotesque old (or possibly pathological) plane. South of the railway, which had been constructed in 1869 taking a small area of the grounds, are more mature planes and VE Day commemorative carpet bedding. Perimeter planting includes lime and plane and there are Cedars on the former lawn of the house, whose former site is visible as a mound by the lake. The large lake of c.0.5 hectares was once part of the Stamford Brook system and is the largest body of water in the borough, with an island covered with dense hawthorn and elm. The pond is home to a flock of Canada geese, swans and various species of duck. In the north-east of the park are yew, holm oak and butcher’s broom that was probably remnants of a shrubbery. C18th ornamental iron gates with overthrow and the cipher of Thomas Corbell, which had survived the WWII bomb damage, were placed at the entrance to the walled Scented Garden and in 2008 were restored and painted the original black and gold. The restoration work was undertaken by The Iron Works, an ironmongery company formerly based in the park. This flower garden has formal beds planted with colourful perennials, a small pond and paved paths. There are a few formal planted beds and some modern clumps of shrubbery with a wide range of species.
Just south of the C18th stables, which have been converted into a café, are two hothouses that were previously abandoned because of costs in the early 1990s, but have now been converted into Community Greenhouses by Hammersmith Community Gardens Association. More recently a nature conservation area, developed by Groundwork West London, has been developed in the north of the park on land that was housing since before 1830 until after WWII, with a pond created in 1988. Ravenscourt Park received the Green Flag Award in 2010/11 for the third year in a row.
LB Hammersmith & Fulham Archives Dept, 'A note on the open spaces of Fulham and Hammersmith', 1974 p16; Bridget Cherry and Nikolaus Pevsner, 'The Buildings of England London 3: North West' (Penguin, 1999 ed) p213; J J Sexby, The Municipal Parks, Gardens and Open Spaces of London (1898); LB Hammersmith & Fulham Ravenscourt Park 1588-1988: a resource pack; Rosamond Vercoe 'Ravenscourt', Fulham and Hammersmith Historic Society, 1991; John Archer, Daniel Keech 'Nature Conservation in Hammersmith & Fulham', Ecology Handbook 25, London Ecology Unit, 1993