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In 1856 a deputation from Rotherhithe Vestry called upon the Metropolitan Board of Works to establish a public park in the area, and the Board finally approved a proposal in 1863. The Southwark Park Bill was read in Parliament and received Royal Assent in 1864. A loan was arranged with the Bank of England in 1865 and, in the same year, land in the Borough of Rotherhithe previously used for market gardens was purchased from Sir William Gomm by the Metropolitan Board of Works for £56,200. Other land, previously factories and houses, was also purchased using compulsory powers. In 1867 work began on the formation and laying out of the park. A map (undated) prepared for the Metropolitan Board of Works by the superintendent architect, Mr Vulliamy, was the basis of the plan and report prepared in 1868 by Alexander McKenzie (designer of both Alexandra Park and Finsbury Park). Southwark Park opened to the public on 9 June 1869. It had originally been intended that part of the site was to be designated as building plots, but this was opposed by the Vestry of Bermondsey who suggested that they would be better used as children's play areas. Opposition to building within the park continued until 1872 when the Metropolitan Board of Works finally voted not to allow any building or leasing of lands within Southwark Park.

By 1885 substantial changes to the layout of the park had been recorded (plan, London Metropolitan Archives), the most notable being the construction of a new lake, the erection of the bandstand (purchased from the exhibition grounds at South Kensington), and the reduction in width of the redundant perimeter carriage drives which had been built to provide access to the proposed houses. Further facilities were added during the first half of the 20th century including the swimming bath (Lido) in 1923 and the English Rose Garden in 1934. Changes continued after the Second World War; by 1947 the bandstand had been removed and by 1951 part of the lake had been annexed as a paddling pool. A sports complex with a synthetic running track was constructed to the south-east of the site in about 1980. The Lido was closed in 1985 and in 1990 a small portion of the park was lost during the construction of a roundabout and road improvements to the north-east.

Site timeline

1923: Swimming baths were opened on the site.

Before 1947: The bandstand was removed.

1985: The swimming pool was closed.

People associated with this site

Designer: Alexander McKenzie (born 1829 died 1893)



boating lake


The site is divided from west to east by the one remaining carriage drive.