After a grey and cold start to the Easter break, we have enjoyed some much-needed sunshine that has bought people out of doors.
It is always a pleasure to work around the Island which offers radically different views ranging from the City of London to the O2 in North Greenwich. However one of the favourite views is from Island Gardens over to Greenwich.
This view was judged to be the greatest view in Europe by Sir Christopher Wren in the 17th Century and became associated with the painting of Greenwich from this spot by Giovanni Antonio Caneletto in the 18th Century.
Whilst agreeing that it is a special view, it does sometimes mean that people ignore the beauty of Island Gardens. At this time of the year with the spring plants in flower and the trees in blossom, the park is one of the best places in London to sit and watch the world go by.
The parks history is fascinating because it is only here due to a series of transactions in the 19th century.
With the development of the Isle of Dogs riverfront in the 1840s, John Liddell, the medical inspector to Greenwich Hospital, put forward the idea of saving from industrial development the ground on the Isle of Dogs opposite the Hospital. He suggested that any further development would have an adverse effect on the pensioners at Greenwich Hospital. His report went to the Admiralty who entered discussions to buy or lease the land from Cubitt and Company who in turn leased the land from Lady Glengall. Eventually an agreement was made that prevented the building of factories and warehouses but would allow the building of a few villas by Cubitt in a plantation area. In the end only a couple of villas were built but the plantation was left neglected until the question of making the derelict plantation into a municipal park was raised with the Metropolitan Board of Works and Poplar District Board of Works by the Director of Greenwich Hospital in 1885.
In 1889 the newly formed London County Councils began negotiations for its purchase. The Admiralty and Cubitt and Company agreed to the sale and the purchase was eventually made in 1895 when the freehold was acquired from Lady Margaret Charteris’s trustees for £2,200.
The LCC parks department planting the north, west and east sides with trees and shrubs, as well as the formation of paths , a riverside walk, areas where children could play, and the erection of a wooden bandstand.
Island Gardens were formally opened by Will Crooks on 3 August 1895, Crooks a local MP considered that the park would be ‘little paradise’ for local people. It is still a ‘little paradise’ and individuals and local groups such as Friends of Island Gardens have worked hard to protect the park from future development.