History of Beckenham Place Park
A History of Beckenham
Brochures and Guides
History Nature Trail
Sensory Garden Gardens
(last edit 1/6/2018)
This page gives a brief timeline of the main events in the evolution of Beckenham Place Park at the bottom of the page.
Beckenham Place Park was the
nucleus of a park and farmland estate from the 18th century.
Today it covers around 240 acres or 90 hectares. Its life as
public park began in 1927 when the London County Council foresaw a need
for open space to cater for the new estates of Bellingham and Downman.
The land was bought from the Cator Estate for about £47,000 and opened as a public park in 1929.
The park consists of historic English Heritage listed
a Visitor Centre run by the Friends of BPP on Sunday afternoons (see
page), 60 acres of ancient woodland,
large areas of grassland managed as meadow or recreation ground, two childrens
play areas, formal gardens, a sensory garden, a riverside walk, a reconstructed lake and an ancient pond, two cafe's, a nature
trail and various natural habitat areas which qualify its status as a
local nature reserve.
The public 18 hole golf course was closed by the Lewisham Local
Authority in 2016. The mansion is leased to RJK properties who
accommodate various activities.
history of the park is complex in its detail but in brief, John Cator
began to purchase land in and around the park area as early as 1757, He had
the house built commenced in the spring of 1760 which we now call the Mansion and engaged in further land
and exchanges until he owned most of the area north of Beckenham town
centre and elsewhere in Kent, Surrey and Essex. After he died in 1806
his heirs kept the park as a base but
began to lease land for development after a private act of Parliament in 1825. By the time the LCC bought
the park it was the only remnant of the Cator estates in Beckenham. The
family still own considerable land holdings in Norfolk.
More information available at
the Visitor Centre, see Visitor Centre page on this site or read on in this website.
links above give more detailed information.
Latest additions: The
History page is updated regularly and has a
fuller account of events. We are still discovering new facts and we now
host a page on Beckenham generally, its landlords, estates and history.
A fuller account of the park's history is on the history page, it is
regularly updated with any new discoveries.
Pat Manning's book THE CATORS OF BECKENHAM AND WOODBASTWICK.
Describes the rise of the family of Quaker John Cator the elder from Ross on Wye
to his son's (John Cator the younger) financial success in London and
the world of the landed gentry (1638-2002). Pat has kindly given
permission for her book in pdf file format to be reproduced here.
describing the mansion plasterwork motifs by David Love (in buildings).
Timeline of the park's evolution:
|Park related events
1728 - John Cator the younger is born in Southwark on 12th March
1753 - John Cator of Southwark marries Mary Collinson, daughter of Peter Collinson FRS, merchant and botanist
1757 - John Cator buys property at Southend, Lewisham and Foxgrove Manor land in Beckenham
1760 - Cator exchanges land near Langley with the Burrells and Raymonds for part of Foxgrove Manor.
1760 - 1762 Cator builds the house on Stumps Hill as per Peter Collinson's comment in Hortus Collinsonianus
- a daughter Maria born to John and Mary Cator, John's father dies,
John inherits the family timber business.
1766 - The daughter Maria dies in infancy, John's sister also dies after a long illness.
1772/80 - John Cator is MP for Wallingford
- John purchases the Manor of Beckenham from Lord Bolingbroke who had
inherited the Manor earlier in 1765. But Bolingbroke had already leased
Mrs Margaret Hare (see 1780). Little or nothing of Beckenham Manor is
in the park. Bolingbroke had disposed of the old manor house in
Beckenham in 1759 in an exchange with Peter Burrell.
- parts of the 'park' next to the house in the manor of Foxgrove still
owned by Mrs Amy Burrell. John acquires them in a land exchange.
1778 - Beckenham Place is recorded in Hasted's History of Kent but not entirely accurately. A print shows a lake.
- Cator agrees to compensate Mrs Margaret Hare for her rights to rents
from Beckenham Manor so that he acquires full ownership of Beckenham
Manor, and I suspect parts of Foxgrove Manor in the park which had been
in the name of Bolingbroke.
1784 - Cator elected MP for Ipswich but unseated
1785 - New road built Beckenham Hill Road to divert traffic around Cator's park. The road through
the park becomes Cator's drive. Another road closed to facilitate
Cator's lake construction. Perhaps the lake or a smaller one
1790/93 - Cator elected MP for Stockbridge
1793 - more land exchanges with the Burrells completes Cator's ownership of this part of Beckenham and Lewisham.
1804 - Mary Cator dies and is buried in St. Georges churchyard with her daughter.
- John Cator dies at his appartment in the Adelphi near The Strand, is
buried in St Georges churchyard, Beckenham with family.
1806 - John Barwell Cator, son of John's oldest brother Joseph, inherits the estate with other trustees.
- John Barwell Cator marries Miss Mahon, niece of Lord Vigo. A relative Lambert has access
to Barwell's papers inherited from Peter Collinson via John Cator.
1825 - A Private Act of Parliament allows the Cators to sell or
lease the estate for reinvestment elsewhere ie Woodbastwick in Norfolk.
- Alexander D. Inglis
occupies the Mansion followed by Peters (the leases did not always
include all of the current park, some of which was leased to nearby
Foxgrove Farm tenand which was also owned by the Cators).
- Mr Peters.
a banker. Peters
Captain Walter Raleigh Gilbert, R.H.A. who had married Peter's daughter, no dates available.
- Tithe map and returns for Beckenham show that the Cator family owned
about one third of the land in Beckenham under various tenants. Peters is the official tenant.
1841 and 1851 - the Census shows Peters in occupation.
- Occupier is given as
Robert Henry Page
John Kirkland, Bart. J.P. an army agent who had good relations
with Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, received gifts from them. A lease valid until 1881 is under Kirkland's name.
ditto. Sir John dies in 1871
1871 John Kirkland Jnr. son of Sir John in census with son, aunt and servants
one listed as in occupation. Possibly the Kirkland lease had been surrendered.
John Fell Christie.
No one listed as in
Brunton. the Brunton children made a Christmas card depicting a royal
family visit, maybe this harks back to the Kirkland residency.
No one listed as
Edwin Covell, proprietor of butcher's shops.(directory and census records)
The occupier is
listed as Mrs Covell,
her husband Edwin has presumably
recently died. Edwin Covell is also recorded as the tenant in the
concerned with the authorisation of the construction of the Shortlands
railway through the estate.
No one listed as
Beckenham Place is
listed as Craven
to 1930 Norwood Sanatorium occupies the mansion and Homesteads, seems
much of the park used by Foxgrove Golf Club, all under lease from Cator
Estate, and a new chapter in its history opens.
1907 - The Foxgrove Golf Club is established on the grounds of the estate
1927 - The LCC acquires the park from the Cator Estate
1933 - The Golf Course becomes public and one time the busiest in Europe
1939/45 - Crab Hill within the park is made a Prisoner of War camp for Italian POW's
1972 - The park passes from the GLC to the ownership of London Borough of Lewisham.
The Park and other open space is designated Metropolitan Open Land, a form of inner city Green Belt
- David Lloyd Leisure attempted acquisition of much of the park, public
enquiry and rejection of plans to extend golf and add indoor tennis
Stable block homesteads and other cottages made vacant, park staff housed elsewhere. Dereliction of this site begins.
1994 - First Friends visitor centre created in a part of the stable block partially restoring one cottage.
1999 - Park undergoes some changes of manager, consultations to find uses for the mansion,
2011 - Neglect of Stable Block leads to vandalism and fire, heritage features such as clock tower destroyed.
2013 - Lewisham Council decide to seed Heritage Lottery Funding under Parks for People scheme.
2016 - Mayor of Lewisham decides closure of Public Golf course, Council unable to find a way to make it financially viable.
- RJK Properties take a 22 month lease to manage the mansion. HLF
approve funding to restore elements of the parkland and stable block.
Attempts made to reopen the golf course by a campaign group.
2018 - work begins on 'restoration'
1722 Afghans conquered Iran
1740-41 Famine in Ireland
1745 Jacobite uprising, Bonny Prince Charlie
1754 - 63 7 Years War with France
1755 the Lisbon Earthquake
1766 also recorded as a year with high smallpox related deaths
1769 James Cook's first voyage to Australia and New Zealand
1776 American Declaration of Independance
1789 French Revolution leading into Napoleonic Wars
1805 Battle of Trafalgar, Nelson killed.
1814 Battle of Waterloo, Napoleon defeated and exiled to St. Helena
1851 Great Exhibition in Hyde Park,
1854 Crystal Palace re-erected on Sydenham Hill
1857 Indian Rebellion
1858 India under Crown Control
1899 - 1902 Boer War
1904-5 Russo-Japanese War
1914-18 The Great War
1939-45 Second World War
Inauguration of Friends of Beckenham Place Park