Acton Park - Park of the Month for May
History of Acton
There has been human habitation for 12,000 years in this area which was once watered by the now piped Stamford Brook and its tributary the Bollo (‘bull hollow’) on their course to the Thames at Hammersmith. Anglo-Saxons established the name (Old English actun, the settlement among the oaks),
In the Domesday Book, Acton was part of the Bishop’s manor of Fulham and for the greater part of it's history, consisted of only a small cluster of houses around the medieval Church of St. Mary's, providing refreshment for travellers on the road from London to Oxford. Although only five miles from London, the state of the roads in early times was such that Acton was at least half a days travel along the road. This led to the opening of many inns and taverns in the vicinity of the church of St. Mary's, so that the travellers and their beasts could take refreshment before continuing the long trek up Acton Hill towards Oxford, or to tidy themselves up before going on to London.
The majority of residents were employed in agriculture on the large holdings or in the five common fields farmed in strips.
Acton was situated at a point where the clay of the northern uplands interfaces with the gravel sloping down to the Thames and there were numerous brooks and springs providing clean water.
The discovery in the 17th century of mineral bearing springs at Acton Wells, meant it found favour as a Spa and as a country retreat for the wealthy from the City, a number of whom had large houses built for their use. Rural but conveniently close to London, it was a favoured retreat for the wealthy and influential until a century ago
Little changed until the 1840s when the village began to expand, but the greatest change began in 1859 when the Enclosure award, permitted the re-allocation of the strips in the common fields into blocks, releasing land for building the lower class housing required to keep up with the rapid growth of London, made possible by the extension of the suburban railways.
For more about Acton’s history :http://www.actonhistory.co.uk/acton/page8.html
The Goldsmiths Almshouses Churchfield Road
The famous Goldsmith John Perryn lived for a short time in a large house on East Acton Lane (Later rebuilt and named the Manor House.). He left a considerable estate to the Goldsmiths Company. One of the City of London Livery Companies. Many of the street names in the area have a connection with the Goldsmiths.
In the year l808 a scheme was drawn up for the erection of almshouses on Goldsmiths' Company property and in 1810 the site at Acton was chosen. The Goldsmiths' Almshouses overlook the park from Churchfield Road, which had existed as an ancient track across the Church Field from Acton to East Acton Lane
The development of Acton Park
Acton Park, described as 'an excellent example of a Victorian urban park was created on land that had been used in part for brick-earth extraction in the 1870s, the evidence for which remains in the uneven ground at the south of the park. In medieval times, part of the site had been Church Field, one of four medieval common fields in Acton. In 1886-88 the land for the park was assembled and purchased by Acton Local Board from various owners, including the Dean and Chapter of St Paul's, but chiefly from the Goldsmiths' Company, The grounds were landscaped in a rustic style by the Cheal family of Gatwick and was opened in 1888 for Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee.
Acton Park Today
The Park today is a much loved lively park with many fun and interesting facilities for all ages, avenues of trees and lots of green spaces for play or relaxation. If you approach it via Churchfield Road, there are lots of small independent shops and cafes.
There are several chldren’s playgrounds including climbing towers, slides, swings and a zip line for younger children; a skate park; fitness trail; a multi use games area; tennis courts; an open air gym; a cafe and a pitch & putt course - to book the cafe or the golf ahead of time: https://www.puttinthepark.com/courses/acton-park/
Additionally there is the ARTBLOCK, where A.P.P.L.E is based, providing a wide range of out of school events for children, young people and their families. https://www.apple-play.com
For those interested in history, in addition to the Goldsmith’s Almshouses, there is an obelisk in Acton Park almost opposite, it is dedicated to James Radcliffe, Earl of Derwentwater. James Radcliffe was one of the leaders of the rebellion of 1715, and was beheaded on 24 February 1716. He had a mansion in Horn Lane, Acton, and his widow put up this obelisk. It was moved to Acton Park in 1904.
The Park is laid out with radiating avenues of mature trees enclosing large grassed open spaces, and slopes southwards from East Churchfield Road giving views towards central London to the east. Tree-planting included clumps and groups of beech, hornbeam, horse chestnuts and lime, with walks lined with London plane, horse chestnut and lime. A sunken garden to the north of the Centre Avenue was laid out with rhododendrons and other shrubs, a number of which survive today. There is a rustic pond and some wilder areas.
To visit Acton Park: London Overground: Acton Central. Tube: Turnham Green (District/Piccadilly) then walk c 15 minutes. Bus: 70, 207, 266, E3