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History of the Park

WORMHOLT PARK the first hundred years

by Peter Trott

Four generations of my family have lived in the borough. During that time they helped organise street parties for the 1935 Jubilee, 1937 Coronation, 1945 VE Day and 1953 Coronation. Following with family tradition I helped organise street parties for the 2002 Jubilee, the Royal Wedding in 2011 and the 2012 Jubilee. I was invited to help with the Wormholt Park centenary celebrations in September 2011. I was more than happy to do this as I had known the park all my life. Following the celebrations, the Friends of Wormholt Park asked me to write the history of the park.

The book starts by looking at the early history of the area. The name ‘Wormeholt’ first appeared in 1189, and is actually a combination of the old English Worme or Wyrm and Holt, which indicates the area was once a snake-infested wood. By the 19th century the Manor of Wormholt Barns was split into two parts; Wormholt and Eynham lands. Later it changed to Old Oak Farm and Wormholt Farm. By 1845 Old Oak Farm consisted of over 368 acres divided into 32 fields.

In the early 1900s the Ecclesiastical Commissioners decided to sell parts of the Wormholt and Old Oak Farms for development. Part of the deal between the Commissioners and Hammersmith Council was for a donation of a piece of land of approximately 7¾ acres for recreational purposes. There were some delays but by early 1909 Hammersmith Council were deliberating over three names for the new park; Oakland’s Park, Old Oak Park or Wormholt Park. The land was conveyed the same year and named Wormholt Park, but confusingly there are several references in Council Minutes to it being called Sawley Road Park.

The Coronation of King George V and Queen Mary took place on 22 June 1911 and the Council had hoped that as part of the Coronation celebrations a member of the Royal Family might officially open Wormholt Park. Unfortunately no one was available and instead the honour went to the Mayor of Hammersmith, Councillor Norman William Shairp, who opened the park at 1.30 p.m. on Tuesday 27 June 1911. As part of his speech he said:

 “I am pleased indeed to come here today to open the park for you as I consider it to be a great acquisition to your Borough”. Adding “The park was not so large as they would like to see and the trees were not quite so leafy as they would like to see, but they had the grass green, and if they had patience to wait the trees would give a quantity of leaf” and in conclusion he said: “I have, therefore, the pleasurable duty and honour of declaring this Wormholt Park open and to be dedicated for ever to the use of the inhabitants of the Borough of Hammersmith.”

 The park opened with a pavilion and tennis courts, but quickly developed with the addition of benches, water fountains and children’s playground. The open-air lido in Bloemfontein Road opened in 1923. A bandstand was erected in the park in 1931 and records for 1934 show the attendances ranged from 400 to 650 people for each band performance. In 1936 a bowling green was opened and the new pavilion became the home of the Shepherds Bush Bowling Club, who moved from Ravenscourt Park. The club went on to celebrate their centenary in 1964.

But the 2nd World War saw the park dug up and turned into Shelter trenches and allotments. Flower beds were planted with cabbages and the greenhouse was used to grow tomatoes and cucumbers. Even though the war ended in 1945 there were still food shortages and rationing so the allotments remained right up to December 1950.

The early 50s saw the saw the rebirth of the park. The shelter trenches were filled in, two war-damaged tennis courts reconstructed and the playground resurfaced. It became the centre of the community with school sports days, grand Bank Holiday galas and even a giant tented theatre. A report in the West London Observer of 9 August 1957 reported that 3,000 people attended a Gala that year.

In 1972 the first set PlayCubes in England were erected in the park. The modular system of fibreglass cubes was an invention of American designer Richard Dattner. A company called Play Planning of London presented a set of PlayCubes to the London Borough of Hammersmith to help promote sales in this country.

The popular Bloemfontein Road open-air swimming pool closed in 1979 and was replaced by an indoor swimming pool, but that in turn was demolished in 2003. The Bloom residential flats now stand on the exact site. Within the park the bowling green was closed down in the early 1980s, despite a last ditch petition to save it. A new children’s play area replaced it.

Events still continued to be held in the park; one of the largest being ‘The Lark in the Park’ in July 1984 organised by the Wormholt Tenants’ Association when around 3,000 people turned up. Around this time the park was also used as a location for some episodes of the popular BBC children’s series Grange Hill.

But by the early 2000s the park looked sad and neglected and in 2009 a small group of local residents got together to campaign for better maintenance and facilities, and to encourage greater use of the park by local people. Word of their work spread and the Friends of Wormholt Park were formed. Incidentally, their very first event was a picnic which took place in the park on Sunday 26 June 2011. At that time no one had any idea exactly what day or month the park had actually opened, so you will understand my great surprise when I discovered the park was officially opened on 27 June 1911.

Peter Trott is a local resident and historian. His book Wormholt Park the first hundred years is full of interesting photos and facts about the park and the surrounding area. Copies are available at events run by the Friends of Wormholt Park. It costs £3.50 and all the proceeds go back into the park.