Lake in Ravenscourt Park
|Area||8.3 hectares (21 acres)|
|Operated by||Hammersmith and Fulham Borough Council|
Ravenscourt Park or RCP is an 8.3 hectare (20.5 acre) public park and garden located in the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham. It is one of the Borough's flagship parks, having won a Green Flag Award. Stamford Brook and Ravenscourt Park tube stations are close by.
The origins of Ravenscourt Park lie in the medieval manor and estate of Palingswick (or Paddenswick) Manor, located on the site and first recorded in the 12th century. The historic name still exists today in the name of Paddenswick Road, which runs along the north east boundary of the park.
By the 13th century the manor house was a mansion surrounded by a moat fed by the Stamford Brook, and the lake in the centre of the park today is a remnant of the original moat.
The manor house was rebuilt in 1650 and in 1747 it was sold to Thomas Corbett who named it Ravenscourt, probably derived from the raven in his coat of arms, which was itself a pun on his name as corbeau is French for raven.
In 1812 the Ravenscourt House and estate were bought by its final private owner, George Scott, a builder and philanthropist who developed nearby St Peter’s Square. Scott employed leading landscaper Humphry Repton to lay out the gardens of the estate, and encouraged the building of houses along its edges. According to a park plan from 1830, there were 78 houses within the park, and by 1845 this number had risen to 330.
In 1889, the first public library in Hammersmith opened in Ravenscourt House.
Part of Ravenscourt House was used as a tuberculosis dispensary from 1918.
Ravenscourt House was demolished after severe damage by incendiary bombs in 1941 during the Second World War. Only the stable block remains today. Often referred to as the Ravenscourt Park tea house, the former stable block now houses the park’s café.
The public park
In 1887, the Scott family sold the estate to a developer for building purposes, to be covered, it was said, with working-class dwellings. Counterproposals to prevent this, either by repurchasing the property by public subscription or by appealing for public purchase by the Metropolitan Board of Works, both failed, largely owing to the exorbitant price – said to be well over £70,000 – demanded by the new freeholder.
However, it transpired that the ground-leases of the row of detached and semi-detached residences called Ravenscourt Park, extending southwards from No. 23, contained a proviso giving ground-tenants the right to forbid any building on the width of the park opposite their frontages. The new freeholder promptly took steps to remove this obstacle by buying out the rights of prohibition for small cash sums. Two of the ground-tenants, Ebenezer Stanley Burchett of 23 Ravenscourt Park and Frank Dethbridge of "The Hermitage", determined to block the development by demanding much larger sums of £1000 each. Their action had the desired effect, and other lessees demanded similar sums. A total of at least £10–£12,000 would have been added to the development costs, and this initiative effectively knocked the bottom out of the speculation. The freeholder became amenable to fresh negotiations, and eventually agreed to sell the property for the greatly reduced sum of £58,000. It was acquired by the Metropolitan Board of Works (the Vestry of Hammersmith contributing half the purchase-money) on 20 November 1887.
Management of the park was transferred to the London County Council in 1889, to the Greater London Council in 1965, and finally to the London Borough of Hammersmith in April 1971. A number of "lodges" (i.e. cottages) on the perimeters of the park were also transferred with the stipulation that they could only be inhabited by Council staff who worked there.
The park today
The park is part of the Conservation Area of Ravenscourt and Starch Green, and its north-eastern corner has been designated an Archaeological Priority Area. Today there is still much evidence of historic planting throughout the park, including plane trees and cedars. The park is home to two Great Trees of London, an old and stunted plane tree, and a large mature tree of heaven.
Ravenscourt Park currently offers many facilities including tennis and basketball courts, a bowling green, an all-weather pitch, a walled garden, multiple play areas, and a paddling pool for children.
There are two cafes in the park. The Tea House is run by Fait Maison and is nearest the Paddenswick Road entrance. W6 Cafe is located within the W6 Garden Centre on Ravenscourt Avenue near King Street.
The park also now has a 'Friends of Ravenscourt Park' organisation, whose aim is "to maintain and improve a well used and loved park in west London." Their website is http://ravenscourtgarden.btck.co.uk/
- "LBHF council website - Archaeological Priority Areas". Archived from the original on 2007-09-27. Retrieved 2006-09-24.
- A Walk through Hammersmith & Fulham[permanent dead link]
- LBHF council website - Ravenscourt & Starch Green Conservation Area Archived 2008-08-21 at the Wayback Machine
- Hammersmith & Fulham Urban Studies Centre, Heritage Trails, Trail 6 - Ravenscourt Park
- Hayes, F. E. (24 March 1916). "Obituary of Mr E. S. Burchett". West London Observer.
- Hammersmith & Fulham Urban Studies Centre
- "Memorial to campaigner Giles Hart killed in 7/7 bombings unveiled". The Times. Times Newspapers. 2008-07-07. Retrieved 2009-02-03.
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