Park history

Major restoration of the park and house

2012 saw the completion of a major restoration and development project funded by Hackney Council and the Heritage Lottery Fund.

This included:

  • the restoration of Clissold Mansion and the Bowling Pavilion bringing both back into public use
  • reinstating a large section of the New River which had been filled in during the late 20th century
  • restoring various paths and vistas that had been lost including the original “slope” in front of the house
  • replacing and restoring fencing, gates and other ornamental features.

Ken Worpole, our Honorary President, and Chair of the group for many years, describes the process:

A long wait, but worth the effort!
The story of how the lottery bid was finally won goes back to the mid-1990s when a group of local people concerned at the deteriorating state of the mansion in Clissold Park formed the Clissold House Trust.

This was with a view to securing funds from English Heritage to restore the structure and fabric of the building. Though this initiative failed in its attempt to raise money from this source, it was invaluable in preparing the ground for the Clissold Park User Group (CPUG) to start campaigning for a combined bid for park and house to the Heritage Lottery Fund’s (HLF) ‘Urban Parks Programme’. This began at the end of the 1990s.

From then on the CPUG officers lobbied councillors and council officers to develop and submit a major bid to the HLF, though on two occasions these were withdrawn on HLF advice for further work. A third bid was submitted in 2006 and secured HLF approval for development funding in early 2007. Extensive consultation and development of the Stage Two work plan followed, principally undertaken by Richard Griffiths Architects (for the house) and LDA Design (for the landscape elements), and was further approved by the HLF, now jointly funding the project with the Big Lottery Fund.

Work on site began in 2010 and the full restoration was finally completed in January 2012, with the opening of Clissold House to the public once again.

There has been enormous public approval of the restoration of the house and the extensive landscaping and refurbishment of the park – particularly the children’s playground, along with the extension of the New River and the treatment of the river edges, the refurbishment of the animal enclosures and new path systems, the complete renewal of the bowling green pavilion, the design and planting of the terrace gardens to the south of Clissold Mansion, and in many other aspects of the park’s historic setting.

In all, some £8.9 million was spent on the restoration, during which user surveys showed that Clissold Park was now getting some 2 million visits a year, making it one of the most popular and much loved places in London, and now looking better than it has been for many, many years.

Clissold Park: A Short History

In the 1880s the grounds of Clissold House and the adjacent Newington Common were threatened with development, and two prominent campaigners, Joseph Beck of The City of London and John Runtz of The Metropolitan Board of Works (MBW) persuaded the Board of MBW to buy the land and create a public park.

On 24 July 1889, Clissold Park was opened by the newly formed London County Council (LCC). The two ponds in the park are named the Beckmere and the Runtzmere in honour of the two principal founders.

Clissold Mansion, a Grade II listed building, dates back to the 1790’s when it was built for Jonathan Hoare, a local Quaker. In 1811 the house passed into the ownership of the Crawshay family, one of whose daughters was courted by the Reverend Augustus Clissold, who on acquiring ownership of the estate after marriage, changed the name of the estate to Clissold Place.

The short stretch of water in front of Clissold House was once part of the New River, which ran from twenty miles outside of London to Roseberry Avenue, supplying drinking water to the capital. Other remnants of the New River can be seen in Canonbury.

Like many other great London parks it was managed and maintained by the LCC until the abolition of the GLC in 1986, when it passed into the hands of Hackney Council. The 54 acre park has a very wide range of tree species, and for many years the larger pond was used as a boating lake.

Clissold Park through the centuries

Over 100 images of Clissold Park and House from its origins as a private estate in the eighteenth century to the public park it became and 1889 and the much loved public space it is now.
» Visit @HistoryOfStokey

» Visit our Park stories page for more about the remarkable history of Clissold Park