The Garden Guide

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

Ruskin Park

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RUSKIN PARK Ruskin Park, the newest of all the parks, is not very far from Camberwell, and has been formed of a cluster of houses, with grounds of their own, on Denmark Hill, known as the Sanders' Estate. The name, which has an "Art Nouveau" sound about it, and raises an expectation of something beautiful, was given to it because John Ruskin for many years lived in the neighbourhood. From 1823, when he was four, to 1843, his home was 28 Herne Hill, and there he wrote "Modern Painters." From then until 1871 he lived even nearer the present Park, at 163 Denmark Hill. Describing the house, Ruskin wrote of it: "It stood in command of seven acres of healthy ground... half of it meadow sloping to the sun- rise, the rest prudently and pleasantly divided into an upper and lower kitchen - garden; a fruitful bit of orchard, and chance inlets and outlets of wood walk, opening to the sunny path by the field, which was gladdened on its other side in springtime by flushes of almond and double peach blossom." Such might have been the description of the houses and grounds now turned into a park. Some of the lines of the villa gardens have been retained, and some wise and necessary additions and changes have been made to bring the whole together; but even the inspiration of Ruskin has not kept out the inevitable edges and backbones of uninteresting evergreens. Some of the green-houses have been kept, but six dwellings have been demolished, and one of the two retained will be used as a refreshment room. The outside wall of the garden front of one, covered with wistaria, has been left, facing its own little terrace and lawn and cedars, and soon after the opening, in February 1907, many people found it was possible to get sun and shelter and enjoy the prospect from the seats in front of the ruined drawing-room windows. The dividing wall of two houses has been cleverly turned into what will be a charming pergola, and below, the ground has been levelled to form a bowling-green. The terraces and steps from one level to another are a pleasing feature in the design. The ground is not yet finished, and it is greatly to be hoped that the usual clumps of evergreens will not be multiplied, but Ruskin's description borne in mind, and let there be almonds and double peaches to gladden the spring, and not drooping, smutty evergreens, or "ever blacks," as they might be more fittingly called, to jar on the picture of fresh young growth. The pond, a stiff oval, has had to have the necessary iron railings, and the trees near it have been substantially barricaded with rustic seats-a most important addition. The avenue of chestnuts which crosses the open part of the ground has been left; and there are other good young trees growing up, and a fine old ilex and mulberry. There is already a question of adding a further 12 acres to this Park, which is 24 acres at present, but the scheme is still under consideration.