Listed Status

Ruskin Park has been recognised by English Heritage to have conservation area status in Lambeth and was listed grade II in January 1988. It is described as an early 20th century public park of 15 hectares. Park features such as the pond and the pergola with wisteria are mentioned. Grade II listing applies to ‘Parks and gardens whose historic layout, features and architectural ornaments considered together make them of special interest’.


Portico

porticotngThe portico is all that remains of 170 Denmark Hill, whose grounds now form part of the park. The portico was originally at the back of the house, but when the house was demolished the porch was converted into a shelter and turned around to face the opposite direction. It now supports a large and aged wisteria. The side panels are now boarded up. A commemorative tablet recording that the house was occupied between 1799 and 1814 by a Newcastle-born sea captain, James Wilson, has disappeared.

It detailed Captain Wilson’s “adventurous life at sea, during which he was present at the Battles of Lexington and Bunker’s Hill and was confined nearly two years in the Black Hole at Seringapatam, served the London Missionary Society 1796–98 as Honorary Commander of the ‘Duff’, the first British Missionary Ship of modern times”.

The Portico was separately listed grade II, in 1951. It is described as a ‘late 18th C entrance screen and flanking walls of a house which once stood here….windows altered to entrances….central double screen of two pairs of columns with feathered and wreathed capitals and a Doric entablature with triglyphs’. It is currently awaiting restoration.


Bandstand

The delightful bandstand in the centre of the park is a simple wooden structure, less elaborate than the more ornate metal examples found in many other parks. After falling into disrepair, it was restored in 2006 with the help of the Friends and using capital regeneration funding from Lambeth Council. This allowed the Friends to hold the first of their popular annual summer fetes around the bandstand, which is also used for Easter and Christmas events and summer concerts.

Picnic tables were recycled from St. Matthew’s Peace Garden, Brixton and placed around the bandstand making it a focal point for the park. The area is now used by many people for practising tai-chi, boxing, birthday parties, wedding photos and family celebrations.


Stable Block and Yard

stabe_tnThis major feature is hidden in the corner of the park at the Ferndene Road and Denmark Hill junction opposite the Fox on the Hill pub. It was part of the old estate of a house on Denmark Hill, used for pony and trap, or carriage and horse, with accommodation above for the groom and storage for hay. The building was used as a staff depot, but fell into disrepair in 2009.

A long term plan to convert the stable block into a community centre and café was progressed when the Friends secured a grant from the local Councillors’ Ward Purse to commission a condition survey. This reported that the building was not in too bad a state and could be repaired relatively easily. The project was nominated in 2010 for Lambeth’s Your Choice public vote to allocate funds to a project of their choice. The project was unsuccessful but there have been recent proposals to work with local hospitals and community organisations to return the building to use as a café and community resource.


Wild Flower Garden

wild flower garden_tnFrom an old bowling green to a new community wildlife garden.

The Ruskin Bowling Club was formed in 1905 – surprisingly, as the park was not opened until 1907. The former bowling green was apparently considered to be one of the best in the area during the 1950s and 60s. However declining maintenance and numbers of bowlers and competition from another local bowling green caused its eventual closure.

In 2007 a design was agreed by the Friends of Ruskin Park and Lambeth to redesign the bowling green and herbaceous borders to either side. Work began to lay out the basic structure of the beds and walkways, but it was then temporarily planted as an ornamental meadow in 2010 in conjunction with a Sheffield University research project. This was to add summer colour while alternative funds were sought to complete the original garden project.

During 2010 the Friends successfully applied for a grant from Western Riverside Environmental Fund (WREF) to complete the original garden design. WREF are a partnership between the Western Riverside Waste Authority and Groundwork UK. The fund utilises landfill tax credits arising from household rubbish and other waste handled by the Authority’s waste transfer stations.


Pergola by the former Bowling Green

Pergola_tnThe pergola, a covered walk with climbing plants trained over trellis work, is part of the original layout of the park as designed by Lt-Col JJ Sexby in 1907. It forms an attractive walk alongside and overlooking the old bowling green and was an excellent vantage point from which to view games when the bowling green was still in use. The pergola is constructed from brick pillars, with wooden beams across the top to provide support for the climbing plants, Wisteria, Climbing Roses, Clematis, Honeysuckle and Virginia Creeper, which cover the structure. The latter has particularly flaming colours in the autumn. The pergola was badly damaged by high winds during the winter of 1990-91 and was restored in 1999.


Ornamental Pond and Wildlife Pond

Ornamentalpond_tnThe ornamental pond with its small island and willow planting is an original feature of the park.

In early 2010, in a partnership between the Friends of Ruskin Park, Froglife and Lambeth Parks and Greenspaces, two shallow pools were dug between the tennis courts and the almond orchard to create a new wetland habitat and marshy area. As water levels fluctuate the two pools form one pond. Unexpectedly underground springs also feed the pools to maintain one pond for most of the year. The existing ornamental pond was also improved, with the banks landscaped and new marginal plantings added to improve its biodiversity.


Mendelssohn Sundial

sun dial_tnStanding in the lawn near the stable block corner of the park facing Ferndene Road, the base is all that remains of an attractive sundial. This was erected in 1842 to commemorate the visit of the classical composer Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847) to his relatives, the Benecke family, at Dane House, 168 Denmark Hill. It is made of terracotta and decorated with Tudor roses, and once had an inscription, which stated, “Here stood the house where Mendelssohn wrote the Spring Song 1842”.