Historic Brockwell Park
Prior to 1537, the land currently occupied by Brockwell Park was once part of a large estate owned by St. Thomas' Hospital (itself originally a monastic order based in Southwark, which went on to found the famous hospital currently located in Waterloo).
During the reign of Henry VIII the 'Dissolution of the Monasteries' resulted in monastic lands being seized by the Crown. The estate owned by St. Thomas' Hospital was acquired in 1538 and changed hands several times, eventually belonging to the Tulse family by the 1650s.
In 1807 the original estate was then divided in two, with the western section being developed as Tulse Hill, and the eastern section purchased by John Blades, a wealthy glass merchant whose business was based up in the City in Ludgate Hill.
John Blades demolished the old estate hall and built a new house at the top of the hill between 1811 and 1813. Additional properties were built in 1815 along Brixton Water Lane for estate staff, and in 1825 Clarence Lodge was built where the BMX track is today. Work began in 1828 on Brockwell Terrace, a street of houses where the Lido is today; but development ended when Blades died in 1829.
Joshua Blackburn Jr, Blades' grandson, inherited the estate following his mother's death in 1860, and building work resumed in order to take advantage of the opening of nearby Herne Hill Station in 1862.
Brockwell House was added, and later, in the early 1900s, temporarily leased to the pharmaceutical firm Burroughs, Wellcome and Co. for research into equine fever. A line of houses was built along the south side of Dulwich Road. In 1888 Joshua Blackburn died and the estate passed to his eldest son Joshua John Blackburn.
In order to protect the land from development and create a new public park, 78 acres of the estate was bought by London County Council and laid out to a plan drawn up by Lt. Col. J. J. Sexby from the Council's Metropolitan Board of Works. Brockwell Park was officially opened to the public on 6th June 1892. Additional land was then acquired enabling the old estate kitchen garden to be transformed into an Old English Walled Garden, and for a bandstand and floral bedding to be added near Brockwell Hall. On Joshua Blackburn's death in 1898 a further 43 acres were bought by London County Council in 1901 from the estate's trustees, and by 1923 the last houses on this land had been demolished and it was formally incorporated into the park.
Brockwell Hall is a late Georgian country house, built between 1811 and 1813 for John Blades to replace an original 16th Century building near Norwood Road, and formed the centrepiece of his private estate.
Following the death of John Blades the hall was acquired by London County Council along with the rest of the estate and integrated into the new public park. Following the purchase of Brockwell Hall, Thomas Lynn Bristowe, MP for Norwood, led a campaign to raise funds from public, church, charity and public subscription for its restoration. Unfortunately he died of a heart attack on the steps of Brockwell Hall soon after participating in the opening ceremony on 6th June 1892. Brockwell Hall was restored in 1994, and further improvements made to its exterior and roof in 2006.
Brockwell Hall is a Grade II* listed building designed by the architect D.R Roper in a 'free Grecian' style. It has a main residential block, and a service wing that connects the main house to the stable yard and stable block. The buildings are situated discreetly along the ridge of the hill, commanding the centre of park without being overbearing. Brockwell Hall and the surrounding paths provide wonderful views across much of south and central London.
Brockwell Hall has provided refreshments for park users since 1892 and has a popular café on the ground floor, as well as a splendid 'Picture Room', only open to the public on special occasions, containing a number of paintings of rustic country scenes by the artist Henry Strachey.