DOWNHILLS PARK - TOTTENHAM
|Downhills Park is very well known to the residents of 'Summerhill Road' both past and present. I suspect that for many it will invoke memories of school holidays and hot summer days playing games in the park. Also, for those of us who attended either Downhills and Belmont schools in the post war years, it was the route of our daily walk to school. It was therefore interesting to learn of the recent Centenary celebrations. Please refer to the copy of the pamphlet produced to commemorate the occasion followed by the history of the park itself.|
'A History of Downhills Park'
Downhills was a big Georgian house,built before 1728 and rebuilt (for a banker) about 1789. It stood at the top of the hill,surrounded by the largest private park in Tottenham, and approached by a south drive which is now part of Downhills Park Road, and a grand north avenue of trees running between what are now Higham and Wilmot roads. the land was owned from 1763 to 1881 by the Townsend family, but they hardly ever lived there, and let the house to a succession of tenants.
So we don't know who laid out the grounds. Though the grand 18th-century landscaped park has completely disappeared,much of the 19th-century garden south of the house is still there. The house itself was at the north-east corner of the present park, with, by 1864, a range of outbuildings west of it-probably including stables and laundries, and with a greenhouse or two. West of the outbuildings were a pond with a fountain, a crocquet lawn and an ornamental thatched arbour facing east, and a wood with wandering paths; the wood and the paths are still there. In the wood was an ice house.
On the south front of the house was a terrace, with balustrades and a raised mound. South of the terrace were wide lawns with cedar trees. There are few cedars there today.
Between the wood and the laws were formal Italian gardens, with regular flowerbeds and a fountain in the middle, and a shrubbery which may have already contained a rockery. At the south end of the shrubbery, running north-south, was a famous hornbeam avenue. It's still there now, though many of the trees have been lost.
In 1881 the British Land Co bought the land, but building development didn't really start till 1899. After a campaign by local residents, worried at losing their open spaces, Tottenham Urban District Council bought the land and grounds in 1901, and adjoining fields about the same time.
The council demolished the house and incorporated the gardens into anew park, opened to the public in 1903. It kept the terrace, the woods, the hornbeam avenue, the Italian gardens and their fountain, and the crocquet lawn and arbour. It restored or created the rockery and built latrines near by. It enlarged the pond to a circular shape, and built an island for swans to nest on, by 1909 with a small hut on it, thatched like the arbour opposite.
On the site of the old house, it built in 1903 a house for the park superintendent. Opposite the top of the Italian gardens, it built, in or soon after 1903, a tall conservatory with an elegant approach, with balustrades matching the old terrace.
Fields to the south became an extension to the park, with a new lime-tree avenue leading to West Green. By 1905, with small extra purchases, the park covered 30 acres.
the west side of the park the Council straightened the boundaries and converted a field
into a recreation ground, alongside the railway line to Palace Gates. The rec was
separated from the park by Midnight Alley, planted with poplars. In the rec, a raised bank
with a bandstand was soon built, and by 1913 what may have been a small pavilion stood
nearby; there was also a children's playground near the south end of the park.
In the 1920's the Council converted most of the lawns south of the superintendents house for hard and soft tennis courts and a bowling green.
By 1938 the Council had further improved the rec by building, or greatly enlarging, the pavilion next to Midnight Alley, and establishing the row of plane trees west of the bandstand and some lavatories next to Downhills Park Road.
The park's facilities, especially tennis, were very popular in the 1930's, and in 1934 the borough introduced a giant draught board next to the tennis courts!
After the Second World War many older features were gradually lost. The fountain in the Italian gardens had been converted to a raised bed by 1947. By the 1960's the beds in the Italian gardens had been simplified, though they were partly;y restored a few years later. The conservatory survived until after 1962 but was demolished in the next 20 years. Also lost by about 1980 were the pavilion, the bandstand, the swan pond, the thatched arbour, the superintendent's house, and most of the hornbeams in the avenue.
Haringey Council built new children's play facilities in the 1980's, and planted the former bandstand with trees. But with cuts in local government spending and reductions in Parks Department staff, in the 1990's the park became increasingly dilapidated, the Italian gardens were run down, and the tennis courts became unstable, while the rec ground was threatened with partial privatization.
Since 1999, following campaigning by the Friends, Government encouragement through the Single Regeneration Budget, and more positive action by Haringey Council, and educational work by BTCV, improvements have been made. Paths have been repaved and a new path built in the rec, furniture has been replaced, the tennis courts have been restored, the 8-12 children's playground has been moved to a new site next to the toddler ground, a wildflower meadow seeded, and the Italian garden given a modest facelift.
Action is awaited on the consultants scheme for further improvements, drawn up after public consultation as part of the West Green Learning Neighbourhood regeneration.
[This article has been reproduced for the internet site from the original written by; Chris Currie, Friends of Downhills Park, July 2003]
DOWNHILLS PARK-KEEPERS - Updated April 2011
We have recently received some interesting memories regarding the Park-Keepers who once regularly patrolled Downhills Park. From those with childhood memories dating back to those post-war years from the 1940's thro the 1960's you will recall that an encounter with the Park-Keeper, following some minor transgression or perceived bad behaviour, was an occasion you were unlikely to forget. They would often threaten to report you to the authorities and demand that you gave them your name and address.
If we were ever apprehended by the Park-Keepers and asked for our address we would always reply 4 Field Road which was a small road that separated Kitchener Road with Dongola Road. We thought this was funny because we knew full well that 'Field Road' had no houses in it. No doubt the Park Keepers were well aware of this not least because so many kids gave this address to them.
Some of our regular contacts also fondly recall the nick names that we would give to Park Keepers.... 'Chewing Gums' (Named after the popular brand of PK Chewing Gum available at that time) 'Creeper' , 'Brown Coat', 'Commander' and the funniest of all.. 'One Sided' because he was considered the most biased Spurs supporters they had ever met. OH HAPPY DAYS !
|We have subsequently
received a copy of the following historic newspaper article announcing 50 years of
Downhills Park and new amenities in Lordship Recreation ground:
Hopefully the following picture will serve as a reminder of what the Shell Bandstand used to look like.
Article updated with new photographs and maps - April 2011