Greenwich Park Restoration after 2012 Equestrian and Modern Pentathlon Events

Greenwich residents mostly oppose the plan to convert ‘their’ park into what the organizers call ‘A world-class venue on your doorstep‘. I support them but believe that, as at public inquiries, the objectors should also have a list of conditions to be imposed on the developers in the unwelcome event of permission being granted. For the horse riding events in Greenwich Park, this should include:

  • extensive protection and conservation of ALL historic landscape and architectural features
  • even more protection for the most ancient artefacts in the park: the remains of a roman temple and the Saxon burial mounds. The greatest possible care should go to the vestegial grass on the burial mounds: it may be the most ancient grassland in the whole of South London.
  • a full archaeological investigation and restoration of the Le Notre parterre. This is the only work in England by the greatest landscape designer of the seventeenth century and, some will argue, the greatest landscape architect who ever lived. The parterre is currently managed as though it were a football pitch. The lawn and its chiseled grass banks should be maintained with the precision they deserve.
  • the Giant Steps which ran up the axis from the parterre to the Greenwich Observatory should be restored using modern grass reinforcement techniques. They were the central visual component of the seventeenth century design for Greenwich Park. Restoration has been considered on several occasions. The proposed 2012 Olympic Equestrian Event creates an opportunity to act.

Unless the 2012 organizers can demonstrate beyond reasonable doubt their willingness to leave Greenwich Park in  better condition than they find it, they should be thrown into the deepest dungeon in the Tower of London, thus creating what would undoubtedly be a popular tourist attraction. I will supply the salt beef and when dropping it in will ask “Why not use Charlton Park instead?”

Note: for more discussion see article on The Conservation of Greenwich Park.

See also Mass Protest against Greenwich Olympic Equestrian Event

A revised plan for the equestrian route was published in The October 2009 “Greenwich Park Venue Update”. It is shown below, on a Googlemap. Their plan shows it avoiding the Anglo-Saxon Tumuli but without a geophysical survey how can they be sure?

October 2009 Revised plan for the equestrian route

October 2009 Revised plan for the equestrian route

7 thoughts on “Greenwich Park Restoration after 2012 Equestrian and Modern Pentathlon Events

  1. Christine

    The earliest book on architecture in English is John Shute’s ‘First and Chief Grounds of Architecture’ (1563). It is said that it was during the reign of Elizabeth I, based on the book by Shute, that the classical orders “first found their way into English architecture.”

    The design of Charlton House (1607-1612) which includes classically inspired elements is attributed to John Thorpe, “one of the earliest known British architects”. []

    Thorpe is also the architect of Holland House designed contemporaneously in 1605, one might presume, in the perverse form of Jacobean architecture based on the copybook of Hans Vredeman de Vries. []

    Apart from a seeming lack of accessible information on the design of the original gardens for these two undervalued historic houses, obvious questions arise as to the diverse stylistic approach adopted by the architect? I wonder whether a closer study of ‘The book of architecture of John Thorpe in the Sir John Soane’s Museum’ edited by Summerson would throw any light on either the attribution of the designs to John Thorpe, the architecture of the homes or the design of their gardens? []

  2. Christine

    An example of an early Jacobean garden is at Cranborne Estate in Dorset. The property was almost in ruins when it was surveyed by John Norden prior to remodelling in 1608.[]

    John Norden, however, it would seem is unlikely to have been responsible for the design of the gardens. [] The John Tradescant’s, the elder (c1577)and the younger (b1608) are famous english jacobean gardeners. John Tradescant (presumably the snr) has been credited with a number of garden features surrounding the manor house. []

  3. Christine

    Locating the equistrian events on the Greenwich site would seem to be at first glance, given the layers of history, not the best choice. However, this history, starting from the Anglo Saxon martyrdom of St Alfege through to the jousts held by Henry VIII suggests that there might be a good fit between the timing of the Olympics and the use of the Greenwich site for equestrian events;

    1. []
    The church of St Alege was first built in 1012. It is said to mark the spot where the Anglosaxon Archbishop of Canterbury was martyred by the Danes. In 2012 the church celebrates its millenium as a sacred Christian site.[]

    2. [
    The first royal palace noted to have existed on the site was during Edward I reign (1239-1307). A Royal Joust was performed in honor of the marriage of Prince Richard Duke of York (age four) to Anne Mowbray (age five) in 1478.[See previous reference.] Jousting became a regular passtime on the site during the reign of Henry VIII.

    Although these facts might suggest the Greenwich site as the most appropriate historical useage; how the facilities are laid out on the site and how the material culture and archaeology of the site is respected, are important considerations in finalising the best location.

  4. Tom Turner Post author

    There is definitely a historical appeal in having horses galloping round Greenwich Park again but (1) there is a worry about how much damage they would do to the ancient vegetation and artifacts (2) the equipment used for riding events is ugly (3) a large number of park visitors would be excluded for an extended period of time (4) there have been no promises about adequate restoration.

  5. christine

    (1) Agreed. Could the sensitive vegetation and artifacts be identified in a survey, categorised as to degree and type of sensitivity, and acceptable and unacceptable impacts noted in the briefing stage? Vegetation and artifacts which might be discovered during the works could be subject to ‘stop work on the spot assessment’.
    (2) Who designs such things? Could they ‘lift the bar’ so to speak?
    (3) This is inevitable. I suppose a large number of new visitors might also be introduced to the park? Maybe co-existence of users could also be managed as part of the events programme?
    (4) What would adequate restoration equate to? This could also be written into the design brief and be part of the tender package, so that the facilities are designed with the eventual restoration of the park firmly in view and a known quantity in terms of standard and cost.

  6. Christine

    Because Greenwich Park was World Heritage listed in 1997 extensive supporting documentation would have been submitted with the listing proposal. [] The reviewing committee recommended an overall management plan was needed for the site. ICOMOS was advised by the state party in 1997 that an overall management plan for the site was being prepared.

    Although Greenwich was not inscribed as a cultural landscape, in order to review the existing management plan (if one exists) and the proposals for 1012 [],as they relate to the cultural landscape, the ‘Guidelines for the Management of Cultural Heritage Landscapes’ being prepared by professor Peter Fowler for ICCROM (pending 2003)may be a useful start point.

    The text ‘Visitor Management – Case Studies from World Heritage Sites’ by Myra Shackley(2000)may be a useful reference for your concerns on visitation.

  7. Pingback: 6 Sep, The welcome reception of Paralympic Equestrian Event in HK | Equestrian

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