This year, we are delving still further into the history of Ravenscourt Park, this time going back 700 years to the 14th century when the manor house of Palingswick stood on a mound near the site of the present lake. We have been working with a team from Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA) to explore the feasibility of a community excavation on a site which in the 14th century included ‘halls, chapels, bakehouses, stables, granges, and gates’.
A fragile document dated December 1754 – was eventually traced in the Borough Archives. We already knew that the 18th century house had been constructed on top of an earlier building, whose ground floor rooms were retained and enclosed to become cellars. This map showed the manor standing on a small island entirely surrounded by a moat. It was pictured before the stables (now the café) were built, and must have been shortly before the house itself was rebuilt as the Georgian mansion familiar to us from old photographs.
Free History Days in the Park: 23 – 24 April. These days have been organised with the Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA) to include an exhibition of historic maps and pictures of the estate, a family trail and MOLA will bring locally found historical artefacts. MOLA has also commissioned experts, GSB, to carry out a preliminary geophysical survey of the area around the lake and café with the aim of identifying the footprint of the former manor and the location of the lost moat. As consultants to Time Team for over 20 years, GSB will be using the latest techniques to explore the ground to discover the hidden past of Ravenscourt Park. Everyone is very welcome to come along, join in, put questions to the teams or simply watch the proceedings.
Park use by schools: This is the most intensively used park in a borough with a fast-growing population and less than the London average amount of green open space. We are adamant that it must not be turned into secondary school playing fields, and campaigned for the Academy to move elsewhere for sports. This has now been achieved; and the West London Free School plans to move out, we understand. But the fabric of the park is still under a great deal of pressure. For example, constant school traffic from the artificial pitches and ball courts to the paddling pool area has recently widened the informal joggers’ path into a well-worn hard track.
As reported at our AGM, one school, the well-resourced and fast-growing Ravenscourt Prep, block-books the vast majority of sports slots in advance, leaving local state primaries and others unable to compete. The Council’s figures for 2012 show huge disparities in these bookings. No figures, it seems, are available for 2013. Also, in spite of previous pledges, we are unaware of any policy on schools’ – or commercial – use based on anything other than ability to pay. Meanwhile, users’ fees paid here do not benefit our particular park. They disappear into a central pot, and go who knows where.
Farmers’ market: consultation or done deal?: It’s 15 months since we heard the proposal from London Farmers’ Markets. In principle, the Friends thought this could be a good idea. We were clear that we wouldn’t want anything like the fast food market in Lyric Square, and that the best location would clearly be around the railway arches area. But we were excluded from subsequent meetings, and briefing papers on progress were not put in the public domain. Months of silence went by before the consultation document suddenly appeared. The brief glance we had before it went public showed that concerns had been ignored, while the tone indicated that crucial decisions on the location of stalls and vehicle entry and exit points had already been taken. Residents and park users are clearly disappointed and confused. And so are we. Sadly, the way this process was handled has undermined everybody’s trust.
Roundup: Some park benches have now been fitted with arms, after a long-standing request to us from the Disability Forum. it’s good to see the new furniture outside the café. Clearing the arches – we are told this is proceeding but we are still waiting for news about painting the panels in ‘invisible green’…The Council wants to involve the Friends in discussions about a ‘master plan’ for the park so we are keen to discover what the aims and objectives of this might be.
And, as always, thanks to everyone for your continuing interest and support. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us on these or any other park issues.
Annabelle May, Chair