Not many people realise that the south-eastern extremity of Dulwich extends into Lewisham. The old manor boundary, and still the boundary of the Dulwich Estate, is Eliot Bank, south of Sydenham Rise and opposite Horniman's Museum. The Horniman Play Park which was leased to Lewisham Council in 1955 contains a series of regular earthworks parallel to Sydenham Hill. These earthworks rise in height to about a metre and comprise a number of roughly parallel ridges. In addition, there is a further ridge which is asymmetrical to the others as well as a perfectly circular earthwork with an inner circular mound.

These features have long interested members of the Society's Local History Group and it has been decided to carry out a preliminary investigation using the services of a commercial archaeology company. A search of maps and archives shows that this area of the Play Park has always been an open field, although there were two cottages in the corner of the park near the junction with London Road and Sydenham Rise, and a further house at the top of the site on the Sydenham Rise side. Searches were also made in the archives of the Dulwich Estate to see if there was any use made of this land by the military during World Wars 1 and 11 such as searchlight, barrage balloon or training facilities. None were found.

Permission has now been granted by both the leaseholder - Lewisham Council and its Parks Department, and the freeholder - The Dulwich Estate for the Dulwich Society to carry out an excavation. The Society has agreed to make £1000 available for exploratory excavation. In the event of anything significant being identified an approach may then be made to the Museum of London, which is associated with the Horniman Museum for further investigation.

The Local History Group is aware of the tradition that the field was once the site of a plague pit.

Go to top