The first reference to the land which is now Brockwell Park was in the 13th century, when the area contained three farms known as the Manors of Bodley, Upgrove and Scarletts. In 1352 the land was granted to the Hospital of St John the Martyr (later St Thomas’s), at that time a monastic establishment. On the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII in 1538 it passed into private hands. A mansion was built on the site which in Tudor records is variously described as Brockhalle, Brockholds and Brockholle – the first recorded use of the present name. By the mid-17th century the land was owned by Sir Henry Tulse, sometime Lord Mayor of London, and he settled it on his daughter Elizabeth on her marriage to Richard Onslow who was Speaker of the House of Commons.

In 1807 the land was divided and sold. The Western part was eventually developed as the present Tulse Hill. The Eastern part, including the present Park, was bought in 1809 by John Blades, a wealthy merchant who was Sheriff of the City of London in 1812. Blades demolished the old Hall (which was near Norwood Road, lower down the hill than the present hall) and in 1811-1813 built a new Hall on the brow of the hill. Blades also built a small number of houses on the perimeter of the estate.

On Blades’ death in 1829 the estate passed to his married daughter Elizabeth and her husband Joshua Blackburn (who built some more houses around the estate) and on the latter’s death in 1888 to his son Joshua John Blades Blackburn. Joshua jnr. wanted to further develop the site residentially but a campaign was set up led by Thomas Bristowe, M.P. for Norwood, to purchase the estate on behalf of the public. In 1891, 78 acres were purchased by the London County Council who provided 50% of the £120,000 cost, the remainder coming from other Local Authorities and members of the public. The Park was opened on Whit Monday, 6th June 1892 but sadly Thomas Bristowe, the main driving force behind the project, died of a heart attack during the ceremony.

Over the next few years more land was purchased until the whole site was in the hands of the LCC. As the leases expired on some of the houses on the estate, they were demolished and their gardens added to the Park.

It will be noted that no mention has been made of the Brockwell family in connection with the Park. Despite there being rumours in several branches of the family of some past ownership of the site, we have found no evidence at all of any connection whatsoever between the Brockwell family and Brockwell Park. Sadly, the rumours are just wishful thinking!


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