A History of Myatt’s Fields Park
Rebecca Preston - October 2003
‘To the people gardens, and to the children playgrounds’.
First opened to the public in May 1889, Myatt’s Fields Park has a rich and interesting history. It was originally part of a 109-acre estate, inherited by Sir Edward Knatchbull in 1745 and purchased by Hughes Minet in 1770. The Minet Family were Huguenots who fled to England from France in the late 1600s, to escape religious persecution. At that time, the estate consisted of meadows, orchards and farmlands.
With the coming of railways to Camberwell in the 1860s, the demand for housing grew rapidly and the Minet family worked to ensure the estate was developed sympathetically in the interests of local residents. James Minet gifted the building of St James Church (now Black Roof Housing) in 1870 and in 1882 William Minet donated the land to create a new public park. He also built the original Minet Free Library and the Parochial Hall, now Longfield Hall, and planned and built the mix of town houses, terraces, schools and mansion flats that still surround the park.
The park, which lies at the heart of the present Minet Conservation Area, is an unusual example of a surviving smaller-scale Victorian urban park. It is named after Joseph Myatt, a tenant market gardener, who grew strawberries and rhubarb here in the 19th century. The Park retains many of its original features including the layout of the paths, some of the flowerbeds, the bandstand and the roundhouse.
Fanny Wilkinson, one of the first professional women landscape gardeners and an active campaigner for women’s suffrage, designed the park. The park was laid out by the Metropolitan Public Gardens Association at a cost of £10,000, with help from a grant from the Lord Mayor’s Fund for the unemployed.
During World War I, the park housed a military hospital in huts and in World War II, trenches were dug to shelter local residents from bombing.
In 1979, the Minet Estate became a Conservation Area, due to the efforts of local residents, with the support of the Minet family.
British History Online has also published an excellent summary.
© Myatt's Field Park Project