Parks have become central to our lives in 2020. As if we hadn’t appreciated them previously, they’ve now been our meeting points, our gyms and our refuge, and we’re so grateful for the green spaces we call home in Vauxhall. They are our flowery respite whether you’re looking to escape with a book, go for a wander or find a hideaway for your lunch hour.
Vauxhall Park is a Green Flag award-winning municipal park which occupies an 8.5-acre site in the heart of Vauxhall on Stockwell Road. The park may be small but it is perfectly formed with a beautiful and unique lavender field, a model village, a ‘human’ sundial, café and a plaque to honour Millicent and Henry Fawcett.
Henry Fawcett (1833–1884) lived with his wife Millicent Fawcett, the great Suffragette, in a house whose site was near to the current Tennis Courts. It was his wish that the people of Vauxhall had access to a freely accessible open space for their enjoyment and to benefit their health. Millicent, with Octavia Hill (Social Reformer and co-founder of the National Trust) and many members of the local community, honoured this wish which resulted in our wonderful Park (opened in 1890) which is still benefitting the residents of Vauxhall.
Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens has to be one of London’s most historic open spaces and for us the centre of our world. However, unbeknown to many, mass consumption of culture began over 200 years ago. In 1729 and 1739 two London institutions changed the face of British art forever: Vauxhall Gardens under the management of Jonathan Tyers and the Foundling Hospital, founded by Thomas Coram.
Today the Gardens are a haven for flora, fauna, outdoor activities, walking and lots of chilling. Back in July, you might have been lucky enough to spot some White-letter hairstreak butterflies who come to visit until the start of August.
The smallest and probably most unknown of our Vauxhall Parks is Pedlar’s Park. The park was built on the site of the St. Saviours Salamanca Street National School (1870) and was turned into a public space in the 1960s for everyone in Vauxhall. In 2006 improvements were made and the park was expanded to include the nearby Salamanca open space (Salamanca is named after the 1812 battle of Salamanca in Spain, won by the Duke of Wellington).
The park is named after the ‘Pedlar of Lambeth’ who, legend has it, donated one acre of land for the nearby St. Mary’s Church – now the Garden Museum. A real hidden gem locals tell us, “a great place to calm down and think and the perfect spot to watch the New Years Eve fireworks”. Perhaps not for 2020, but remember that top tip for the start of 2022!