Park Monuments and buildings
Kennington Park History Hut
This is where you can see our new history boards! The boards were conceived, researched and designed by an FoKP team, with support from Lambeth Council and Surrey County Cricket Club. We wanted to share with park users some of the fascinating stories about the park and the area that surrounds it. Local MP Florence Eshalomi cut the ribbon and declared the hut open in December 2021.The shelter dates from the 1930s. It is similar to a Victorian shelter in Battersea Park.
Air Raid Memorial
During World War Two there were shallow trench air raid shelters in the park's south field. On 15 October 1940, the shelters took a direct hit during a raid on Waterloo and the docks. It's thought that 104 local people died. But only 48 bodies were recovered. They were buried in Streatham Cemetery – the remainder still lie beneath the park. This was Lambeth’s worst WW2 civilian incident. It was hurriedly covered up to avoid negative propaganda. The tragedy was largely forgotten until a memorial service in 2002 at St Mark’s Church.
The Friends of Kennington Park through Lambeth’s Opportunities Fund commissioned a permanent memorial. In Caithness stone, designed and carved by local resident Richard Kindersley. Unveiled in 2006 with a service in 2010 for the 70th anniversary. The daughter of one of the casualties still visits the park each year to lay flowers. There was a small service of commemoration in October 2020 on the 80th anniversary of the tragedy.
Initially there was a small café at the rear of Prince Consort Lodge. 1881-88 there was a marquee style café run by Joseph Gatti near the Slade fountain. It was demolished and this Arts & Crafts 1897 cafe was built, cost £900, designed by the London County Council’s architect’s department. At one time a Mr Cameron served hot and cold drinks, cakes and biscuits. It was closed in the 1990s and fell into disrepair, but in 2002 Chris Michael ran it until January 2018. The new tenants are Dominic and Charlotte from the Sugar Pot. The café re opened in summer 2019 with a pizza oven, during the Covid lockdown, it was takeways only.
Prince Consort Lodge
Originally built for the Great Exhibition of 1851 at the command and expense (£458) of the Prince Consort - Prince Albert, the husband of Queen Victoria - who was President of the Society for improving the condition of the labouring classes. Designed by Henry Rogers, to house 4 families, originally it was going to be a gate lodge at Primrose Hill, but was re-located to Kennington for the new park possibly because of fears following the 1848 Chartist rally that had been held on what was then Kennington Common.
The Era Newspaper of 22 August 1852 wrote: "All doubts and fears, whether the long-talked of improvvements of Kennington Common would ever "come to anything" are now set at rest." The necessary Act of Parliament to enclose the Common as pleasure grounds had been passed but "contractors, who, taking advantage of 'ruin's hideous gaps' had, for months past, been raising mountains of rubbish 'Olympus high', are'warned off', to the great gratification of the inhabitants, who prefer sweet and balmy air to the large supply of pestiferous gases exuing from the unsightly heaps of decomposing matter, painful to every sense. The forges of Vulcan are at thismoment glowing with hot bars to be hammered into shape for a neat and durable railing. Directly facing the Horns [tavern] is a spacious hoarding to keep off intruders, while two model houses presented by Prince Albert, as porters' lodges, are erected. Every body remembes the model homes exhibited last year opposite the Crystal Palace. These are they, and when finished still form a very tasty and appropriate main entrance. ... When the contemplated improvements are completed, Kennington Common will not only be one of the pleasantest wings of the metropolis, but, better still, one of its most healthy lungs".
Access to Prince Consort Lodge was via a central open stair case. Each home had a lobby, 2 small bedrooms for children, a larger parents bedroom, living room, scullery, WC that flushed from rainwater on the roof, lobby, meat safe, picture rail, plate rack, linen closet, warm cupboard behind fireplace. Built of hollow bricks, no plastering was required, they were cheaper and kept the houses dry and warm, no wood. 84 similar model dwellings were built including Cowley Gardens, Stepney featured in the 1950s Barbara Windsor film “Sparrows can't sing”. Similar in Warrington, Brussels and St Petersburg. The building, named Prince Consort Lodge, was modified to house 2 park attendants on the upper floor and the ground floor open to the public. In 1859 rear porch was added for a cafe run by the Lodge Keeper’s wife, later the building was used as storage, offices, changing room for sports teams, from 2003 Trees for Cities. Originally there were loos near by – possibly the urinals at the nearby road junction.
This site was originally a horticulture nursery, netball courts from 1950s-1977 with changing rooms in Prince Consort Lodge. The skatebowl was built in 1978 and was one of the first in London. In spring 2021 there was a structural survey of the bowl, the long term plan is to make it safe and restore it.
Now just a marble bowl on several steps, it was formerly an ornate fountain based on a design exhibited at the Great Exhibition and adapted by Charles Driver of the Royal Institute of Architects, the 500 guineas cost was paid for Felix Slade a local resident, avid art collector and lawyer who had been left a fortune and after whom the Slade School of Art is named. He left 944 pieces of glass to the British Museum and funded scholarships to Oxbridge.
Only the bowl in Aberdeen red granite and 4 granite steps remain. There were medallions on the bowl with Slade’s monogram and above was a huge bronze vase depicting the Old Testament scene of Jacob and Rebecca, with Hagar and Ismael in bas relief – stolen in the 1850s.
No longer a fountain, this structure has been in three different locations in the par. From 1869 it was the centre piece in a sunken garden between Prince Consort lodge and the Childrens’ playground in the centre of the basket ball court, then it was moved east to the circular rose bed by the table tennis.
The fountain is just a stump now, but it was originally a large ornamental fountain made with unglazed, buff coloured terracotta used by the local firm, Royal Doulton, for making garden ornaments. Designed by John Sparkes, head of Lambeth School of Art, it was exhibited in 1872 at the International Exhibition in Kensington. At the base was a pond, above a bowl with fountain, a central column with a sculpture at the top of a man carrying cross with a woman and chiild. This was called “The pilgrimage of life”, it was donated by Henry Doulton, the sculptor George Tinworth.
Tinworth was born in Walworth in 1843, the son of a Wheelwright. Aged 18 he started evening classes at Lambeth School of Art, 3 years later he entered the Royal Academy and, in 1866, he exhibited his first piece at the RA. He then became resident sculptor at Royal Doulton’s Lambeth factory, his work above the Doulton factory door in Black Prince Road. Look out for the Doulton stamp.
It now stands by one of the park entrances on the Kennington Road. Over the years the cross on the top was vandalised. The story is that it was bomb damaged in WW2, the bowl was removed and used elsewhere as a jardinière, so it ceased to be a fountain, the sculpture was lost to vandalism in 1981. It was used as air rifle target practice from the Kennington Park Estate! There are some rather botched concrete repairs and specialists have advised that cleaning might do more harm than good.
Victoria Cross stone (see War Memorials in the History section)
War Memorial (see War Memorials in the History section)