Little Wormwood Scrubs

LWS

The Park consists of a large open area consisting of amenity grassland, semi-improved neutral grassland, scrub, scattered trees and woodland.  There is an adventure playground with an adjoining One o' Clock club on the west side of the park and a smaller toddlers playground located on the east side.

Little Wormwood Scrubs is a Site of Nature Conservation Importance. The large area of semi-improved neutral grassland has a good range of grasses which supports a diverse number of invertebrates such as grasshoppers, butterflies and ants. The scrubland, consisting of young bramble, hawthorn and the semi-mature woodland, creates a habitat mosaic that provides an abundance of nesting and feeding areas for birds and mammals.

woodlandLittle Wormwood Scrubs has been a public park since 1886. The land originally part of the Bishops of London lands and was acquired by the Metropolitan Board of Works in 1886. The land is currently held in trust by the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham but is managed under a 20-year lease by the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.

Priority Park

In November 2008 the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, launched an initiative to give grants of up to £400,000 to ten parks across London. The grants were awarded based on a public vote and Little Wormwood Scrubs was one of the ten winning parks. This award, along with funding already allocated by the Council and additional Play Pathfinder Initiative funding for a new playground, meant that further improvements could be made.

History

Pre-1900

The Scrubs was first recorded in 1189, when it is referred to as ‘Wormholt’ and the land is being cleared of natural undergrowth for agricultural purposes.

Little Wormwood Scrubs was once part of the ancient forest of Middlesex standing on 38 million-year-old, agriculturally inhospitable London marl. For a long time it was considered “waste” ground of the Manor of Fulham, used for “depasturing cattle and swine of copyhold tenants”.

The ancient track of Turvens Lane passed along the east side of the Scrubs going north to the Harrow Road. In 1844, following the road, an embankment was built for the Bristol, Birmingham and Thames Junction railway. Later known as the West London Railway, it dissected Wormwood Scrubs and brought Little Wormwood Scrubs into existence.

In 1840, gun maker Charles Lancaster leased a strip of land as a rifle range; this can be seen on the 1865 OS map.

Counters Creek, one of London’s lost rivers, is central to the story of Little Wormwood Scrubs. It rose to the north in Kensal Green Cemetery and emptied into the Thames at Chelsea Creek. It marked the parish boundary between Kensington and Hammersmith and formed the basis for the ornamental ponds.

After a petition on behalf of the residents of North Kensington in 1892, plans were made to transform Little Wormwood Scrubs into a park.

1900-2000

At the start of the 20th Century, plans to turn Little Wormwood Scrubs into a park were beginning to materialise. Counters Creek, the river that passed through the site, had been excavated and improved, new fencing had been erected and a path was created around the park.

Once the initial improvements had been carried out shrubbery was planted along the north perimeter to screen the adjoining Great Western Rail depot, and in 1904 London County Council, in order to encourage live music in its open spaces, authorised the construction of a bandstand in Little Wormwood Scrubs. The bandstand was positioned in the centre of the park, circled by trees, and was made of oak with window panes in sliding sashes. In 1919, due to public demand, public toilets were constructed in the north west corner.

It is unclear exactly when the ponds and weirs were removed. The 1935 Ordnance Survey map shows them intact but the 1955 Ordnance Survey map shows the shape of the park, with children’s playground and toilets, and shelters but no ponds.

In 1971 the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham took over the management of Little Wormwood Scrubs. In 1977 the play area, which had been situated in the north west corner, was moved to the south east corner and a “One O Clock Club” was built alongside changing rooms and storage. These constitute the buildings there now.