The Garden Guide

Book: London Parks and Gardens, 1907
Chapter: Chapter 8 Commons and Open Spaces

Peckham Rye Common and Park

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Peckham Rye Common is more or less flat, without any special feature of interest, except at the southern end, which has been converted into a Park. The Rye- what a quaint name it is! and there is no very satisfactory derivation. It may either come from a stream of that name, long since disappeared, or from a Celtic word, rhyn, a projecting piece of land-Peckham Rye, the village on the spur of the hill, now known as Forest Hill and Honor Oak. This "Rye" has been a place of recreation from time immemorial, and at one time must have extended so as to embrace the smaller patches of common known as Nunhead Green (now black asphalt), and Goose Green. The Common was secured by purchase from further encroachments in 1882. The Park has much that savours of the country. An enclosure within it, is not open to the public, and for that very reason is one of the most rural spots. There is a delightful public road across it, known as "the Avenue." The old trees form an archway overhead, and on either side of the fence the wood is like a covert somewhere miles from London; brambles and fern and brushwood make shelter for pheasants, and squirrels run up the trees. The farm-house, and its out-buildings with their moss-grown tiled roofs, have nothing suburban about them. The front facing the Rye Common has a notice to say it is the Friern Manor Dairy, but even that is not aggressive, as the name carries back the history to the time of Henry I., when the manor was granted to the Earl of Gloucester, and on till it was given by his descendants to the Priory of Halliwell, which held it until the church property was taken by Henry VIII. and granted to Robert Draper, and so on till modern days. There is, besides this attractive farm, a regular piece of laid-out garden, and a pond and well-planted flower-beds; but the little walk among trees, beside a streamlet which has been formed into small cascades, and crossed by rustic bridges, is a more original conception, and is decidedly a success, and a good imitation of a woodland scene. The contrast is all the greater as Peckham is so eminently prosaic, busy, and unpicturesque; the old houses having for the most part given place to modern suburban edifices.