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The Tarn Greenwich


The Tarn takes its name from the lake that dominates the small park, a remnant of the late C17th grounds of Eltham Lodge that was once within the Great Park of Eltham Palace, a royal palace dating from the C14th. Eltham Lodge was built in 1664 when Sir John Shaw leased the estate. When the area was being developed for housing, The Tarn was acquired by the Metropolitan Borough of Woolwich in 1935 and laid out with paths and shelters around the existing lake. Near the entrance is a mid C18th brick ice-well built to supply Eltham Lodge with ice.

Basic Details

Site location:
Court Road, New Eltham

SE9 5AQ ( Google Map)

Type of site:
Public Park; Garden Feature Remnants

C17th; 1935


Listed structures:
LBII: C18th Ice-well. Local List: Tarn Lodge


Site ownership:
RB Greenwich

Site management:
Parks and Open Spaces Department; Friends of The Tarn

Open to public?

Opening times:
9am - dusk

Special conditions:
no dogs, cycling


Events organised by Friends of The Tarn

Public transport:
Rail: Mottingham. Bus: 126, 161, 124

The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/05/2011
Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news.;

Further Information

Grid ref:

Size in hectares:

Green Flag:

On EH National Register :

EH grade:

Site on EH Heritage at Risk list:

Registered common or village green on Commons Registration Act 1965:

Protected under London Squares Preservation Act 1931:

Local Authority Data

The information below is taken from the relevant Local Authority's planning legislation, which was correct at the time of research but may have been amended in the interim. Please check with the Local Authority for latest planning information.

On Local List:

In Conservation Area:

Conservation Area name:
Eltham Palace

Tree Preservation Order:
Not known

Nature Conservation Area:
Yes - Local Importance

Green Belt:

Metropolitan Open Land:

Special Policy Area:
Yes - Area of Special Character of Metropolitan Importance

Other LA designation:
Green Chain/Green Chain Walk; Community Open Space

Fuller information

The Tarn is a small public park, which takes its name from its notable lake (tarn being an old term for a lake), which is fed by a small stream that runs into the River Quaggy and at times now also by run-off water from the A20. It is a surviving fragment of the C17th landscape of Eltham Lodge and in the north-west corner near the entrance is a brick ice-well with a domed roof dating from c.1760 that once supplied ice to the Lodge. The parkland formerly belonged to Eltham Palace (q.v.), which was built as a royal retreat after Eltham manor was taken into the Crown's possession in 1305. It was the birthplace of Edward II in 1316 when the estate included the moated manor house, a dovecote, deer park and a windmill. The estate was added to by subsequent monarchs and by Edward IV's reign it incorporated three parks, Great Park, Middle Park and Horn Park, amounting to 1300 acres. During the Civil War the majority of the land was purchased in 1649 by Colonel Nathaniel Rich, who demolished most of the buildings; the deer were slaughtered and the parks stripped of trees.

Following the Restoration it was incorporated in the new landscape of Eltham Lodge that was established after Sir John Shaw took over the lease of the Palace estate from the Crown in 1663. Eltham Lodge was built for Shaw in 1664, and like most of the surviving parkland is now within the Royal Blackheath Golf Course (q.v.). The lake was previously known as Starbucks Pond, probably after a family known to have lived in the area from the C16th to the late C17th, although the name for the lake persisted until 1903 when it appears as Eltham Tarn. At No. 133 Court Road is a cottage called 'Tarn Lodge', which was built for the keeper of the Tarn between 1900-10 to replace an earlier Keeper's House shown on the 1839 Tithe Map. The Tarn appears to have been leased from the Crown and from 1914-29 lease-holders were members of a family called Rocke. In 1933 the lake had become overgrown and stagnant.

In 1935 a remnant of woodland with the lake was acquired by the Metropolitan Borough of Woolwich for a public park and the mid-C20th municipal layout included paths and shelters around the lake, which has two islands and a bridge. Tall trees block out the noise of Court Road traffic. A bird sanctuary was created on the north eastern side with a nature and butterfly garden at the western end of the park used for schools nature study. A Heritage Lottery Fund grant was awarded for restoration works in 2001. The Friends of The Tarn was set up in February 2008 and holds regular volunteer days; a new Butterfly Garden has been created on a neglected area where a wildflower meadow has been planted, with bird nesting boxes, a wildlife stack and bee homes.

Sources consulted:

Sue Swales, Meg Game, Ian Yarham, 'Nature Conservation in Greenwich', Ecology Handbook 10 (London Ecology Unit), 1989; Darrell Spurgeon, 'Discover Greenwich and Charlton', (1991); Darrell Spurgeon, 'Discover Eltham and its Environs', 2000, Greenwich Guide-Books; LB Greenwich, 'The Tarn Management Plan (draft)' 2008

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