The Garden Guide

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

Avery Hill Park

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The other London County Council Parks are in what is still nearly open country, although rows of villas are being rather rapidly reared in the district. Eltham is one of these. It is at present not enclosed with massive iron railings, but the wide, flat stretch of smooth turf, studded with patriarchal trees, is left untouched, except that a few spaces have been levelled for games. This Park of 41 acres was bought in 1902, the Borough of Woolwich paying half the cost of purchase-�9600-with the Council. Still further into the country is Avery Hill, with the large house and grounds, extending over 84 acres built and laid out by Colonel J. T. North. The London County Council were offered this estate in 1902, if purchased within a certain limit of time, for �25,000. Usually the Council, in making a purchase, have ascertained beforehand what contributions the local Boroughs were prepared to subscribe towards the total cost, but, on this occasion, the Boroughs were invited to share the expense after the purchase had been made, with the result that all those concerned-Camberwell, Lewisham, Greenwich, Deptford, and Woolwich-refused; so the whole of the purchase and upkeep devolved on the London County Council. The large mansion is now used as a teachers' training college for girls, but the greater part of the grounds, and the immense winter gardens are open to the public. It is still so far from the centres of population that the public who make use of these spacious gardens is very limited. The nearest railway station, New Eltham, is three-quarters of a mile distant from the Park, and half-an-hour or more by train from Charing Cross. Although it is now so far into the country, and some people would deprecate the purchase, it is only fair to remember that most of the crowded districts were also country not long ago, and that when land is dear and houses being built is not a favourable moment to purchase. As a rule it is want of foresight that is the complaint, and not excess of zeal, as in this case. The garden is made use of to furnish supplies of plants to some of the smaller parks, and a portion is being reserved for growing specimens for demonstration in the Council Schools. On the west side of the house there are three terraced gardens, prettily planted with roses and fruit-trees. In front of the house a sloping lawn, with a few large beds, touches the park-like meadows studded with trees. Sheep feeding with their tinkling bells gives a rural appearance. To the large, modern, very red brick house is attached a huge winter garden. This is on a very large scale, with lofty palms, date, dom, and cocoa-nut growing with tropical luxuriance in the central house, with a large camellia house on one side and a fernery with rock-work, pools, and goldfish on the other. All this requires a good deal of keeping up-nearly �3000 a year-and although it has been open now some five years, it has been enjoyed by few. It is greatly to be hoped that it has a much-appreciated future before it.