The Garden Guide

Book: London Parks and Gardens, 1907
Chapter: Chapter 7 Municipal Parks in South London

Kennington Common

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The Common was a great place for games of all sorts, particularly cricket. When in 1852 it was turned into a Park and play could not go on to the same extent, by suggestion of the Prince Consort, a piece of land, then market-gardens, was let by the Duchy to the Surrey Cricket Club, which was formed for the purpose of maintaining it. This is the ground that has since gained such notoriety as the Oval, the scene of many a match historical in the annals of cricket. The Common, too, was famous for the masses that collected there to hear Whitfield preach. His congregations numbered from 10,000 to 40,000 persons, and his voice would carry to the "extremest part of the audience." He notes in his diary, Sunday, May 6, 1731-"At six in the evening went and preached at Kennington; but such a sight I never saw before. Some supposed there were above 30,000 or 40,000 people, and near fourscore coaches, besides great number of horses; and there was such an awful silence amongst them, and the Word of God came with such power, that all seemed pleasingly surprised. I continued my discourse for an hour and a half." The last time he preached there was a farewell sermon before he went to America in August 1739. Two other incidents are connected with Kennington Common, neither so pleasant-the scenes of the execution for high treason, with all the attendant horrors, of the "Manchester rebels" after the '45; and the great Chartist revolutionary meeting under Feargus O'Connor in 1848. The precautions taken by the Duke of Wellington saved the situation, and the 200,000 people who it had been proposed should march to Westminster melted away, and the whole thing was a fiasco.