'Dulwich Park has never had its history written before which surprised me'. So begins the Foreword to a recently published book called Dulwich Park - a park for the people forever. I agree with the author, Liz Johnson, who has written a fascinating account of the history and machinations behind the establishment of a park in the middle of Dulwich.

July 1890 may have seen the opening of the park by Lord Rosebery (standing on a cane-bottomed chair) but the first mention of the idea was put forward as early as 1872 by Francis Peek, a rich tea merchant and Victorian philanthropist who lived in Crescent Wood Road. Amazingly, he and his friends pushed through the idea against the wishes of the Estates Governors who had no wish to see their holdings eroded. The chicanery that went on for the 18 years before the park opened makes fascinating reading.

Liz Johnson sets the scene with descriptions of Dulwich and some of its residents and the land where the park now stands all with excellent illustrations. Very few pages in the book do not have illustrations and the layout is most attractive. There are line drawings and old photographs and inside the front and back covers are maps of the area between 1876 and 1906. She describes the battle for the park; how it was designed and how it was been used. The final chapter covers the park as we know it now and the planned restoration. The book is a most enjoyable read, giving present residents of Dulwich a revealing glimpse at their predecessors.

Jill Alexander

 

Dulwich Park - a park for the people forever is available at local bookshops price £7.50

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