Exploring Southwark and discovering its history
Brunswick Park is a small park to the north of Peckham Road in Camberwell with curving paths, and mature trees and planting. It was opened over 100 years ago at a time when there was very little open space in what was then a very overcrowded area. Burgess Park, St George’s Churchyard and Lucas Gardens had not yet been opened as public parks and Camberwell Green was the only open space available for the public close by.
Brunswick Park was laid out as a private garden in the centre of Brunswick Square for use solely by residents of the houses in the Square which had been built in 1847. At this time, there was a road running through the park at the northern end. In 1893, the Vestry decided to pave the roads in the Square and at the same time made an offer to purchase the communal gardens to form a park open to the public. Some owners were amenable but others not and in July 1894 the Vestry decided to take no further action. But the matter was not forgotten and in 1901, Camberwell Borough Council persuaded the London County Council to insert clauses in their General Powers Act which permitted the compulsory purchase of the garden.
The road at the northern end which divided the park was incorporated into the space to give a total area of approximately 4 acres. The cost of acquiring the land was approximately £6,100 and the cost of roadway diversion and fencing approximately £2,600. The London County Council contributed £800 and the rest paid for by Camberwell Borough council. Rustic seats and drinking fountains were donated by some of the councillors.
The opening ceremony was performed by the Mayor of Camberwell on 15 July 1907, a day when the weather was said to be “magnificent”. There were streamers and flags, and ticket holders were invited to attend the ceremony which took place on a specially erected dais. The gates were thrown open to the people of the district who attended in their thousands.
The park was the venue to many events in the first few years : flower shows, donkey shows, and a fund-raising and call for volunteers event in the First World War. There was even a boxing match held there between the local MP and a local vicar which, after three rounds, was declared a draw.
The two tennis courts and the children’s playground were installed in 1937 and there is now also a ball games area. There was recently a consultation regarding an upgrade to the children’s play area.