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
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.