Kennington – Crystal Palace – 11.02.2013

Kennington, “Town of the King”, a place where Royalty had lived, ruled from and had even passed away in. During C11th King Harthacnut who Reigned over both Denmark and England died here and Henry III held his court in this area in C13th. Subsequently in C14th a Royal Palace was built, which was widely used by Royalty up until, Henry VIII’s first Wife, Catherine of Aragon, in mid C16th. Henry VIII ordered the Palace to be dismantled in 1531.

Our walk today was starting out from the “town” where a Palace was dismantled on orders, and was to finish at a place where a Palace was devastated. The end of our walk was far from our mind, however, as we turned into “Kennington Park”. What a lovely green space that appears from the urban streets which surrounds it. As we started to explore, we were to discover that this park was full of history.

The park itself, was created in the mid C19th, but prior to this time the area was known as “Kennington Common”. The Common was widely used by many, including the London Cricket Club, the Methodist John Wesley preaching to thousands and early in C19th thousands of reformists gathered here calling for electoral reforms. From a common to recreation grounds, the area underwent a transformation, when it became the first public park in South London.

From 2013 – 11.02.2013 – Kennington – Crystal Palace Walk

As we ambled along we came across a house which we soon discovered to be the “Prince Consort Lodge”. This Lodge was originally commissioned by Prince Albert, as part of the Great Exhibition of 1851. The building was intended to be an example of new working class family home. When I read the amount of new gadgets that were available in the new model home from 1851, I was surprised that they took so long for them to implemented into the average working class home!

From a common to a park, firstly being used for exhibition homes and then to parkland, what a difference it must have been. Now it is used a great deal for leisure and it is enjoyable to walk in, even in the freezing cold. We did spot another building which I thought might have been another model home at some point, but it was the park cafe built a quite a few years later than 1851! I would say that the cafe does have a window that looks suspiciously similar to the one from the original prince consort lodge plan that is available in the park!

Wandering the park for a while longer we discovered further artifacts from the exhibition such as “Slade fountain” and “Timworth Fountain”. Although we could have stayed a longer, we felt it was time to leave. Our feet were to lead us on to “Camberwell Green”. The green itself seems quite small, but it days gone by it must have been much larger and inspiring. The Composer Mendelssohn picked up his pen and wrote the composition called “Camberwell Green” whilst he was staying nearby. However, the melody was since renamed to “Spring Song” which was a more popular title!

From 2013 – 11.02.2013 – Kennington – Crystal Palace Walk

Making our way up Denmark Hill, we came across our second park of the day, “Ruskin Park”. A park which was named after the famous Artist and writer, John Ruskin who lived in the area during the C19th. John Ruskin, whilst he was living in Denmark Hill, wrote four articles in response to his essay “Unto This Last” in 1862. As the area grew, the railway came, John Ruskin felt that it “spoilt his view from Denmark Hill” and this was one of the reasons he moved away.

Ruskin park looks somewhere to enjoy during the springtime, particularly as the Friends of the Park seem to have worked hard on the upkeep of the flowerbeds. They have created flower gardens from the old Bowling Green, something to really relish later in the year! The Bandstand in the Park has been fully restored, but obviously it was too cold for any bands to play today! I have been told that there used to be some words on a plaque either on the Bandstand or on a seat in the Park which quoted the “Spring Song”, however, I was unable to find this anywhere, can anyone help?

It was nice to know that this area had once been such a large influence to some great artists such as Mendelssohn and John Ruskin. Just as we were leaving the park, suddenly a large set of columns loomed into view. These pillars were originally part of a “Portico” which were from one of the 6 large villas located here in C19th. The houses were eventually demolished at the beginning C20th and the land was incorporated into the park, which opened in 1907. It was shame the Portico was not used as a magnificent entrance to the park, that would be some sight to behold!

From 2013 – 11.02.2013 – Kennington – Crystal Palace Walk

Crossing over from Ruskin Park, we entered into “Champion Hill”. As we did, I spotted an little bronze statue of a fox, which was built in the back of a pub garden known as the “Fox on the Hill”. The Fox pub has been in this area since the C18th, although it was much further down the hill when it was first known as “Little Denmark Halls” and eventually renamed the “Fox Under the Hill”. Sadly the pub was completely destroyed in the Second World War, but was then rebuilt to its present location. Still a little early for us to stop and sample a drink or two! Unlike the actor and actress, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, who both, apparently did stop here for a drink, allbeit in 1963.

As we started walking up Hill, I did start to wonder why it was named “Champion Hill”. Was it because this was where Tournaments were held and Champions where made? There were no obvious historical signs to reveal this kind of information! Most of the grand residences that had once dominated all along the hill were under renovation, therefore, it was very difficult to tell much about them. I have had to look into into Camberwell History, to find out anything! I have discovered that the “Champion de Crespigny family” owned land here and lived in “Champion Hill House”. So it was a hill of Champions, just not the winning champions you would have expected!

Turning out of Champion Hill, came into “Dog Kennel Hill”. Dog Kennels? I was a little bemused where would there be dog kennels have been in the middle of Camberwell? If we had been walking this way in C17th we might have heard the sound of barking dogs from the kennels that were on the nearby estate of Prince George of Denmark, husband of Queen Anne. His Hunting Lodge was said to have been somewhere on Denmark Hill. Now all we can hear is the dull roar of the traffic…

From 2013 – 11.02.2013 – Kennington – Crystal Palace Walk

Reaching the bottom of the hill, we came across “Dulwich Hamlet Football Club”. This little football club’s stadium is known as “Champion Hill”. The stadium really had been the home of champions as this was a venue for the football for the 1948 London Olympics. The club today is very different from it beginnings and the huge following that it attracted. The team had crowds of over 20,000 cheering them on at their matches during the 1920/30s, the club even went on to Wembley to win the Amateur League Cup four times! (1919–20, 1931–32, 1933–34, 1936–37) Even though some would regard this as a small club, it still has produced some very notable players, such as Marlon King and George Ndah to name but two.

After stopping for tea, we continued down through Dulwich, past Goose Green and on to Brockwell Park. When we finally reached it, we were rather surprised to find how large it was. This was because, the entire park had originally been part of a private estate. The house which we saw perched on top of the hill, was “Brockwell Hall”. The hall was built by John Blades a wealthy Glass Merchant in early C19th. The park was opened at the end of C19th, when the fortunes changed for the family, when the land was bought and transformed into a public park. J.J. Sexby, the Chief Officer of Parks of the LCC designed the conversion of the estate into a public park said it was –

“a wildness …… the beauties of Nature unadorned….. long stretches of undulating grassland dotted here and there with fine specimen trees…… When it was bought for the people of London, it was already a park – not a park site.”

Walking around this very attractive park, that has a walled Garden, an outdoor Lido and plenty of outdoor space, I can only just imagine what a joy it would have been when the park first opened. But I am not so sure I would have liked to have tried the Lido today, as the water would have been at freezing temperatures!

We left the park to carry on our walk, which was now mostly along pavements. We did not mind as they were well lit, particularly, as it was heading towards the end of the day. Our route was to take us on towards another park but unfortunately it was too late in the day to visit. This was “Norwood Park”, we will need to return so we can find out more about it.

We had finally reached Crystal Palace High Street. It was here we discovered that the Impressionist Artist Camille Pisarro had stayed and painted in 1870-1871. Not only meeting the contemporary artist Monet in London, he had painted the Crystal Palace that had once stood proudly in this location. Coming out of Crystal Palace High Street, we crossed the Road and we finally reached Crystal Palace Park.

The mighty Crystal Palace had once stood in this location, but was sadly devastated by fire here all those years ago. Therefore this is now just a park, which we will need to return to at some point, so we can truly understand what once stood there. For me this walk was full of discoveries and there are still more to come in the future. Please feel free to look at all the photographs for the walk by clicking on the photo below:-


2013 – 11.02.2013 – Kennington – Crystal Palace Walk




3 responses to “Kennington – Crystal Palace – 11.02.2013

  1. Pingback: Harrow on the Hill – South Harrow Walk – 03.03.2013 « Karen's Sponsored Walks

  2. Pingback: Crystal Palace – Peckham Walk– 10.02.2014 « Karen's Sponsored Walks

  3. Pingback: Harrow – Chorleywood Walk | Karen's Sponsored Walks

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