January 2023 Park of the Month
Walpole Park in the heart of Ealing Town Centre is a Grade ll 28 acre (110,000 m2) municipal park. It was originally the grounds of a small manor house facing Ealing Green, that was noted in the 17th Century as having formal gardens or parterres on the north, south and west of the house probably including the kitchen garden, pasture fields, and cultivated fields to the south and west.
John Soane, architect of Bank of England purchased the existing manor house and grounds for £4,500 in 1800 and demolished it apart from the South Wing - the Eating Room, that he had worked on in 1768 when apprenticed to architect George Dance. Soane rebuilt Pitzhanger Manor in Neoclassical style to demonstrate his skills to potential clients. It is the only house that Soane built for himself.
Having completed this little jewel box of a house he turned his attention to the grounds staying actively involved in the design of the grounds with advice from John Haverfield of Kew Gardens. The resulting layout was a miniature landscape park with lawns, shrubberies, exotic trees, flower garden, a kitchen garden growing exotic vegetables - orange carrots anyone instead of the usual (at that time) purple or white; a serpentine lake spanned by his own design of a bridge and arbour imitating a roman temple at the source. There was also an ornamental shrubbery walkway including his bench, which is still extant, Not to mention faux Roman ruins! The grounds remain a rare example of both Soane's and John Haverfield's work.
Following the sale of Pitzhanger Manor and grounds in 1811 there were a variety of owners, the final before its sale to Ealing Council was Sir Spencer Walpole who kept it for his sisters in law to live in, these were daughters of Spencer Perceval the UK's assassinated Prime Minister.In 1899 it was sold to Ealing Council for £40k for use as a 'Pleasure Ground'.
Walpole Park was awarded a £2.4m by the Heritage Letter Fund in 201, and match funded by Ealing Council to restore the many elements of its original landscaping including recreating the Serpentine Lake from a sunken garden, the 'rustic' bridge, the Portland stone bench, the shrubbery walk and the kitchen gardens - plus major replanting to restore it to the original 18th-century landscape.
Pitzhanger Manor also gained a Heritage Lottery Award and with additional fundraising was fully restored at a cost of £12m to Soane's dream house, along with the Art Gallery (formerly build in the 1940s as an extension to the public library) It re-opened in March 2019
New Park facilities now include playgrounds for young and older children, the Rickyard - a learning and education centre including a café kisok and public toilets. There is also a cafe brasserie in the Kitchen Garden (currently only serving light snacks and beverages either in the cafe or the kitchen garden,
What to see in the Park
Pitzhanger Manor Historic House & Gallery (free to Ealing residents on certain days see: https://www.pitzhanger.org.uk for more information.
Kitchen Garden - maintained by volunteers
Glass fronted bee hive (warmer months only)
Charles Jones, Ealing Borough Architect memorial
John Soane's Rustic Bridge
John Soane's Bench
John Soane's arched Entrance Gate
John Soane's Gate Lodge
A permanent heritage trail set into the ground and on signage throughout the park
Fishing Ditch (pond) where Soane fished with JW Turner - reworked by the unwaged men of Ealing during the 30's and fully restored with fountains.
Ealing Studios (backing onto the Park)
What to do in the Park
Visit the Manor & Gallery (frequently changed exhibitions) check the link above for info
Take a picnic or visit Soane's Pantry Kiosk, or Soane's Kitchen cafe for snacks, drinks, light lunch
Walk the nearly one mile perimeter park for exercise
Lots of space to run and play in the wide open grasslands
In addition to the ubiquitous squirrels and foxes, there is a wide variety of different birds including Great Spotted Woodpecker, Blackcap, Nuthatch, Goldcrest, Grey Heron, Stock Dove, Tufted Duck, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Nuthatch, Willow Warbler, Redwing, Mistle Thrush, Kestrel, and of course Little Owls - who are resident in one of the trees, Walpole Park is good for bat watching various species. The Serpentine Lake and the Pond also provides habitats for amphibians. Currently on display in the Park is the Ealing Wildlife Group's 2022 photography exhibition. Well worth a visit. https://ealingwildlifegroup.com
Backing on to Walpole Park is the famous Ealing Studios, and across the road from that is the picturesque Red Lion pub. As the Park is in the centre of Ealing town, across from Ealing Broadway there is access to shopping, cafes and restaurants.
On foot: Less than five minutes walk from the Uxbridge Road and Ealing Broadway - a major east-west route, which runs through Ealing town centre.
Bus: Many buses converge in Ealing town centre from all directions. Major routes include 65 from the south (Richmond), 207, 427, 607 east-west routes (from Shepherd’s Bush towards Uxbridge), 83 from the north (Golders Green).
Tube: Ealing Broadway (Central and District lines), the site can also be accessed from Northfields and South Ealing tube stations (Piccadilly Line).
The Elizabeth Line which runs through Ealing Broadway Station from all directions
Train: Ealing Broadway - overland train routes from Paddington to Reading.
Parking: No dedicated car parking but there is meter parking on Mattock Lane adjacent to the park and non-resident parking on Culmington Road (controlled parking zone restrictions apply). Carparking is also available in the Ealing Broadway Centre a short walk away.
The Borough surveyor Charles Jones who negotiated the terms of the sale with his close friend Spencer Walpole also went on to set out the design of tree-lined avenues, paths and flower beds. The outer path is nearly a mile in circumference. The sides of the pond nearest Pitzhanger Manor were planted with shrubs and other plants.
Soane's Manor then became Ealing Borough's central public lending library. The library vacated the site in 1984. There is a memorial to Charles Jones in the Park.