Area of Interest
In 1926 the land now known as Hornfair Park was purchased by the L.C.C. (London County Council) from the Lords of the Manor (the Maryon-Wilson family). In 1935 an area that was surplus for housing to the Housing Department’s requirements was transferred to the L.C.C. Parks department for a sum of £12,000 and the site was laid out as a public park. A further £19,000 was spent on landscaping the park and providing facilities including a children’s playground, paddling pool, tennis courts, a bowling green and pavilion. It opened as ‘Charlton Playing Fields’ in 1936 and only later in 1948 renamed as Hornfair Park.
On 6th May 1939 Charlton Lido was opened in the park, built for the L.C.C. by local firm Thomas & Edge of Woolwich for £28,000. It was the last and smallest of the four lidos built by the L.C.C. in the late 1930′s, the others being at Parliament Hill, Brockwell Park and Victoria Park, the latter no longer extant. Facts gleaned from London Gardens Online
Extract from Interview Transcript: Bob Harris remembers the setting up of the Friends of Horn Fair Park
(An edited audio version of this extract may also be heard below.)
One of the things that I sort of got interested in as the chair of Leisure Services and I know it’s happened at Maryon Wilson – I didn’t do the one in Maryon Wilson. I did it in my own ward, which was Horn Park – when we realised, in a way, the municipality, or official municipality, has sort of taken over every space, I created ‘The Friends of Horn Park,’ because there were local people just saying to me, ‘Well, this is crazy. Why don’t you do this and why don’t you do that?’ And you’d go and ask and they’d say… (makes grumbling noise) and so, in the end, I said, ‘Well, come on.’ We created the Friends of Horn Park and, you know, the park got changed. It got changed the way that local people wanted it. They wanted a football pitch and there hadn’t been a football pitch so we laid a football pitch out, you know. I’m sure there’d be purists who’d say, ‘You mustn’t have a football pitch,’ but you know that was great because you’re bringing loads more people into the park. And, you know, the way it abutted on the allotments. And then there came a thing, you know, we’d really got to do something about the dogs. Eventually we created dog-free areas so that, you know, there was a way of ensuring that everybody got a share…
Audio Extract: Bob Harris remembers the setting up of the Friends of Horn Fair Park
Charlton Bowls Club
The inaugural meeting of the Charlton Bowls Club was held on the evening of Wednesday the 8th June 1938 by the L.C.C. Bowling Green at Charlton Playing Fields.
Mr. J. Rankine the Secretary of the Charlton Community Association explained the desire to have a bowling Club in connection with the Association.
Captain E.J.Harris was then asked to explain proposals for the formation of a club. He proposed that: We the several persons assembled form a Bowls Club in connection with the Charlton Community Association. This was unanimously passed after being seconded by Mr. J. Rankine.
Resolved: that the Club be called the Charlton Bowls Club as an activity of the Charlton Community Association.
Resolved: that the annual subscription be five shillings on joining and renewable on the anniversary of the first payment.
The following were unanimously elected to the officers as stated:
Chairman & Captain: Mr. T.A. West
Hon. Secretary & Treasurer: Captain E.J.Harris
Captain for Ladies: Mrs. Parker
Secretary for ladies: Mrs. G.A.Harris
Committee man: Mr. A.W. Freeman
Committee lady: Mrs. Donnelly Extract from the Charlton Bowls Club Minute Book, 1938. Editors Note: Charlton Bowls Club was still in operation until 1990, the exact date it closed is not known at present. Do you know?
Extract from Interview Transcript: Phyllis Flynn remembers the bowling green
(An edited audio version version of this extract may also be heard below.)
I didn’t go to the Lido ’cause I don’t like swimming but what I did like doing was watching people playing bowls in the bowling club which my husband and I joined later. At the time I never dreamed I would be doing it meself years later. The whole family used to go over and watch. I think they closed it down now because facilities weren’t very good, getting decayed, had a fire in the changing hut. Gave up and joined Blackheath club – Charlton Bowling club into Blackheath club combined.
Within the park itself? Within Hornfair Park.
Did you used to stand and watch? Sit and watch.
How did you learn the rules? From my husband when I met him later.
When you were younger?
I didn’t know anything about it I used to watch, didn’t understand the rules or how it was played.
Were the competitions within the club or with your club and other clubs?
No they had competitions with other clubs.
Were you any good?
Not too bad, quite average, used to hit the jack pot quite a few times. Wasn’t bad at all. Bit wibbly-wobbly when I first started doing it. I used to think I’d never get that all the way down there but when you’ve had a bit of practice you can do that.
What’s the pleasure for you?
I don’t know, in playing with all the other people and getting to know other people, meeting with them, going to the dos, generally mucking in.
A social thing? Yeah, they had social evenings and meetings.
Do you remember any particular competitions? Not really no.
When you joined?
Yeah we had competition days usually at weekends or game of triples or rings. Triples with 3 woods, rings with just the 2. A wood is the bowl itself, bowling ball – quite heavy, comes in various sizes, depends on size of the hand. I used to have a double 0 or 0.
Would you compete by yourself or was it a team thing?
It was a team thing, never did it on your own, always had a partner. 2 sides, 3 or 4 on each side.
What would you wear?
Special outfits. Weekdays – white tops, grey skirts or trousers. Weekends all white and you had blazers and little hats for the women and gear for when it rains, put over your ordinary clothes.
Do you remember winning?
Yes we did win a few times. The group I was in, we had our winning days. We did quite well a few times over, quite proud of that really.
Audio Extract: Phyllis Flynn remembers bowling
Extract from Interview Transcript: Lee Beasley remembers a problem with some bikers
The other time I can remember in Hornfair Park- and this is not a good experience. I got a call and it was about motorbikes. Used to get loads of motorbikes in there and I went in there and there was some kids on motorbikes in the middle of the field. I was on my own and there was nobody about. Somebody was on their way but I was on my own and I needed to do something about it. I walked over to the kids. They were in the middle of the large field at the bottom and as I did they sort of moved away and there was a can of petrol. I picked up their can of petrol and I called one of them over and they started… have you ever seen ‘Apache Dawn’ or something like that? – where they circle the camp. And they were circling me on these motorbikes, screaming expletives at me because they wanted their petrol back and I just walked off with the petrol basically. They followed me all the way down the park but they didn’t quite have enough courage to come close enough to try and get it. I just thought, ‘Well, it’s like the Wild West.’ It was like the Wild West. That’s the only… and it was sort of laughable but a bit scary as well, you know, because I had about twenty of them on motorbikes circling me like an old western, you know. Bizarre, a bizarre thing.
Hornfair Paddling Pool
Extract from Interview Transcript: Joyce Snipp remembers taking her son to the paddling pool
Well, we had a pram in the early days so the pram had to be pushed up the hill from here, up to Charlton Park. My neighbour next door, her children were grown up and so she always came with us and she was always a great help to me in looking after Ian, if I wanted to go to the shops or anything. So we used to push the pram up. Sometimes my mum used to come from Lewisham and halfway up Victoria Way she used to stop – couldn’t get her breath – and I used to think, ‘What’s the matter with her?’ You know… ‘Why’s she doing that?’ Of course, I do it now – I can’t get up Victoria Way! Anyway, we used to walk to the park. We had the pram then – later on we had the pushchair, I suppose when Ian was a little bit older. And we’d go to the paddling pool and I can remember walking through Hornfair Park.
It was a nice walk with the flowerbeds either side and I think there was a centre piece. I don’t know whether it was a fountain but there was a centre piece and then we’d walk round to the paddling pool. It wasn’t very deep, I should imagine about six or eight inches deep. But all the kids were there and there was a lady looking after everything, to make sure things went ok. I can remember, I believe there was a bowling green as well. We didn’t use to go bowling but we used to have a nice time at the park in the paddling pool. I think there were benches. There wasn’t anything for the kids but there were just benches for the mums, yes. A few benches just around. Ordinary park benches.
We went up in the afternoon – say, we went up after lunch – half past one, two – we’d stay there till four or half-past, come home, ready to get the evening meal ready. We’d just say, “Oh, shall we go up the park today?”
“New Lido Charlton Playing Fields. Ceremonial Opening on Saturday 6th May 1939 by
The Worshipful Mayor of Greenwich, Cllr.H.W.H.Icough JP.
The Lido covers an area of approximately one acre.
The swimming pool which is lined with blue glazed brickwork, is 165 ft. by 66 ft., the water being 2 ft. 6in. deep at the shallow end and 9 ft. deep at the outlet pipe at the deep end.
A feature introduced for the first time in Lidos erected by the Council is the inclusion of a Children’s Pool measuring 66 ft. by 20 ft., with steps down at each end running the full width of the pool, which is 2 ft. deep at each end and 2 ft. 6 in. deep in the centre.
The main entrance faces Shooter’s Hill Road, and bathers obtain access to the pool through the vestibule and pay office; women being accommodated to one side of the pay office and men the other.”
Extract from London County Council Report:Full document located in Archives.
Brief Historical Notes by Andy Hoines 2004
Hornfair Park in Charlton, which comprises a total area of approximately 26 acres was purchased by the L.C.C. in 1926. It was originally intended for house building, but it was subsequently decided to be surplus to requirements. Thus, in 1935, the L.C.C. Parks department paid £12,000 to the L.C.C. Housing Department and took over the site to become a pubic park. A further £19,000 was spent on landscaping the park and providing facilities including a children’s playground, paddling pool, tennis courts, bowling green and pavilion. The park was opened as ‘Charlton Playing Fields’ in a simple ceremony in 1936. The park was renamed ‘Hornfair Park’ in 1948.
Charlton Lido turned out to be the last of the 4 modern L.C.C. lidos completed between 1936 and 1939 prior to the outbreak of the Second World War…….These 4 late L.C.C. lidos at Parliament Hill, Victoria Park, Brockwell Park and Charlton represented in many ways the epitome of Britain’s urban lidos. The lido concept had in effect been developed continuously in London from the earliest provision of swimming lakes in public parks during Victorian times.
The 4….lidos were architecturally and structurally similar, being all solidly constructed of red brick. They all had symmetrical wings of undercover changing cubicles for males and females. The water was filtered, aerated and sterilised. Diving boards and slides were provided.Increasing space was dedicated to the leisure uses of these facilities, with facilities such as cafes and sun bathing areas gaining increasing prominence. Stout walls were constructed around the entire pool site to keep out non customers and provide a windbreak and suntrap effect. In addition these pools had deeper deep end.
………Charlton lido was also the baby of the family, having a main pool ‘only’ 165 x 66 feet in size. It was ‘only’ designed to accommodate more than 1700 bathers. This compared to the 200 x 90 feet pools at Parliament Hills and Victoria park, which were designed to accommodate more than 3000 bathers at a time!” Full article can be found in ‘Archives’
Audio Extract: Joan Harbottle remembers the Lido
Extract from Interview Transcript: Ian Snipp remembers the lido being very different from later
I don’t know. I guess I was about eleven or twelve years old in 1972, something like that. And, basically, we used to spend most of the summer holidays up there. You know, it wasn’t a lot of money to get in. We’d go up there at least four times a week during the six weeks holiday and it was just a meeting place for all your friends. I loved swimming. Of course, back in them days, you didn’t have the Health and Safety rules that you’ve got now. You could run, dive. They had a big… I doubt if it was an Olympic-sized diving board but it was like a three-tier thing, you know. It must have been at least twenty/thirty feet high that you could jump, run, dive off… anything you wanted. I think there was a lifeguard there. They had water-chutes.
So anything like that when you’re a kid is really exciting, isn’t it? I mean, kids like that… they’re not allowed to do things like that these days. You know, they had a spring board. They had a café up the end with two, like, fountains. I’ve not been in there for years so I don’t know if it’s still there. We all used to go up there. We had a little bit of pocket money. You weren’t allowed to take things in but we used to sneak our sandwiches in in our – because you didn’t have to leave your clothes in the lock-up – bins there. You went to the changing rooms and then you took all your clothes up to the counter and you put them in these big baskets. You know like bread – you see them outside shops – like bread baskets, but they were made out of wire and you put all your clothes in there and they put them on these big racks and they’d give you a tag but you could take your bag in. And we all had, like – you know what a duffel bag is? As kids, we all had those as kids, and you could stick your sandwiches and a bottle of drink or something in there and you could take it in because you’d say, ‘Oh, I’ve got me towel in there,’ or something like that, you know.
Extract from Interview Transcript: Grace Hills remembers the Assistant at the Lido.
(An edited audio version of this extract may also be heard below.)
And then we might also walk on to Hornfair… I still call it the Lydo. I know officially it’s the Lido but I still call it the Lydo. And also there was then a paddling pool by that and when it was hot that was where quite a lot of us went up. You just went in, you just took your shoes or sandals off and you just splashed about in the paddling pool.
What I do remember, there was this splendid, absolutely splendid lady. I still think of her, with a cross-over overall. Do you know what I mean? And I think she must have had it on all the time. You see, if anybody… I mean, in a way it was good because, after all, kids can drown in even a few inches of water and she was quite good. She must have had… you weren’t aware of her but if something happened she was there and if anyone fell over, you know… you were playing round on the edges and you were running with wet feet so, sometimes, you slipped and crashed down or something like that and there’d be an ‘Owww!’ And she would be there and have a look at you and mop up your knee or whatever it was and decided you needed a plaster and, if you’d been a brave soldier, you’d probably get a little sweetie or something as well, while she put… I mean, a dab of Germolene or just a… you know, it would be cleaned and the plaster put on and you’d then go back round and round again. When you got home and mum would say,’“What’s that?’ And you’d say, ‘I slipped and fell over,’ or something like that. She was quite happy because somebody was there, you know. I mean, I don’t honestly remember anything serious happening in the way of a child being caught or passed out or anything like that.
Audio Extract: Grace Hills remembers the assistant at the Lido
Extract from Interview Transcript: Ian and Joyce Snipp remember the changing rooms
(An audio edited version of this extract may be heard below.)
Think of how it was presented.
Ian: It was presented? Oh, right. It looked like an old Victorian hospital in the changing rooms. It was very industrial. I think it was some kind of horrible dark green halfway up and then bricks above it. You know, it was always dark and dingy and had a really horrible smell. You know, damp, musty… like a cellar kind of smell.
Joyce: That was a turquoise blue.
Ian: It was a turquoise blue, that’s it. Yeah. And as you walked in the main… it was very imposing, the place where you paid to get in, wasn’t it? Like it had… did it have turnstiles there? I know you had to have turnstiles to get out. They were these big things like you get at a football ground. You know, all the bars. Sort of semicircular, iron bars and used to work out – because when we were very young – we could slide underneath those and get in for nothing. So what you’d do… you’d all chip in and pay for one of your mates to pay to go in, then he’d go round to the exit and you’d push your bags through to him and then we’d all slide under.
Audio Extract: Ian and Joyce Snipp remember the changing rooms
Extract from Interview Transcript: Rita Yardley remembers taking her children for a paddle after school
(An edited audio version of this extract may be heard below.)
When the children were little they went to Charlton Manor School.
This was in the sixties?
Yes. Just along the road was the lido and the paddling pool so I used to push up from where I lived to the school, with one in the pram and pick up the other two. In the pram would be a towel and costumes to go paddling in the paddling pool. Our bottle of drink and some sandwiches, because they were always starving when they came out of school. My youngest would be in the pram all the time. We walked along to the paddling pool and they got undressed and had their paddle. When we’d finished we’d go through into a large field where they could play football and we had our drinks and eats and then, when we’d finished, we just all put everything in the pram and came home. But it was – instead of coming home in the evening straight after school – they get bored… that way we came home and it was nearly bedtime, bath time and, you know, it makes a change.
So did you do that every day when the lido was open?
Oh, no. Just every now and again. No, it’s something different rather than picking them up and going straight home and then they go out to play and perhaps getting up into mischief or hitting the ball against somebody’s fence or into somebody’s garden or in the road, you know. I felt that it was better to do it that way than have it annoy the neighbours, so to speak.
Audio Extract: Rita Yardley remembers taking the children paddling
Greenwich BMX Club is based at the newly opened BMX track in Hornfair Park, Charlton. It is affiliated to British Cycling and runs sessions every Saturday morning, 9.30am – 11am for Beginners 11am – 12.30pm for Intermediate.
The Club is a volunteer-led BMX Club. British Cycling coaches deliver sessions in local schools and the club are searching for like-minded individuals to help build the club into an exciting and sustainable BMX Club for the local area.
The BMX track has been created as part of Greenwich Council’s Playground to Podium legacy programme. The programme is about providing modern, accessible places for residents to play sport and using the London 2012 Games to inspire residents to get more active and try news sports.
Audio Extract: Toni Hale talks about the pet cemetery (an edited transcript of this extract may be read below)
Extract from InterviewTranscript: Toni Hale talks about the pet cemetery
At present, my involvement is I am involved in a group called Friends of the Pet Cemetery Group, and we started the group because there is a pet cemetery attached to HornfairPark, though the entrance to the park is actually on Shooter’s Hill Road. It’s a bit derelict; it looks a bit unloved, and a few of us decided that we wanted to take care of it, look after it, and try and maintain it, and hopefully in the future make it a place where people would like to visit, and the reason for that is because most of the animals buried there are dogs and some of those dogs were actually in World War II on the front line.
So they are heroes in their own right, and some of them had medals, but because of that time a lot of the history was lost at the end of the 1930s and 1940s and we were unable to track that. But we have done a lot of research and we will be having a clean-up day and a showcase day so that people can come along and look at the pictures we have found or the research that we have done and all the information that we have found with regards to that.
Actually the pet cemetery used to be a kennels run by the Blue Cross. And it was all to do with the Army, so that any officer going out to war who had pets and had no-one to look after their animals, they would be looked after there. And any animals that were coming back that needed to go into quarantine would also be there, and plus obviously it being part of a pet cemetery it was a larger property, but now it is only the pet cemetery side of it.
And was it laid out like a cemetery?
One part was the cemetery, yes, that was laid out like a cemetery so if you were going to see it, it would have looked like it was a human cemetery, for human deceased. However, now it is completely different because the headstones are laid flat, in the paving slabs, so it doesn’t actually look like a pet cemetery or a cemetery as such, until you go in and you can see that these headstones are actually in the floor.
It’s more like a commemorative garden now?
Yes, because it is a really nice place and it can be nice and look nice, but at the moment it’s a bit neglected. So we’ve been in contact with funeral parlours, to find out how we can clean the stones, how much it would cost to actually replace some of the lettering that is missing; some of them are damaged but we won’t be able to replace the damaged parts, we will just have to clean them.
Because of the history that it holds, we think it is vital to keep it as it is, make sure it’s not developed for something else, because it has so much historical importance attached to it. That’s what we want to achieve – eventually making it a place where someone would really love to come and visit as a tourist attraction, why not?
In August 2009, The Greenwich Phantom posted this comment:
“Not even people who visit Hornfair Park regularly necessarily know about this place. Sadly some people know it all too well.
Charlton Pet Cemetery seems to have been at its zenith in the 1930s – when, I’m guessing, so was the Lido. Memorials carved with all the sincerity as for human loved ones, notable as being of the furry variety only because in the 1920s and 30s there weren’t too many people in Charlton called Chu-Chu, Ickety Man and Ming Zee.
It must have been a charming corner of the park,
and I’m guessing that – what – about 10-15 years ago, someone thought it could be charming again. What I’m assuming were by that point badly-overgrown graves were ripped up and a little patio made from the headstones, with a couple of (cherry?) trees overhanging some rather sinister looking low concrete benches.
These days, sadly, a good half of said benches have been knocked over. Around the edge, other headstones line beds with a few shrubs dotted around them, now also populated with ground elder and brambles. Oh – and something else…I found it an intensely depressing experience, wandering round, looking at memorials to much-loved pets – Mike, Rex, Floss, Roy, Mickey, Buntie – and a couple of names that would be, ahem, less acceptable these days – cracked and forgotten, broken and left to moulder.”
Intrigued by the post and the photos that accompanied it I set off to find Pets’ Corner for myself. Having walked all around Horn Fair Park, in desperation I accosted a dog walker who told me that yes indeed it was around here somewhere but he would have to accompany me as to describe where it was would be too complicated. And off we set.
What I found was not so desperate as THP described three years earlier but a quiet and slightly sad place that could indeed benefit from some more tender care but an intriguing glimpse into another age. Go look for the place, pick up a few cans and together we could give it back the respect and tranquility it deserves.