|Emslie Horniman Pleasance Gardens||Kensington & Chelsea|
Emslie Horniman Pleasance Gardens opened as a public park in 1914, designed by Charles Voysey and Madeline Agar, with a formal Spanish-style walled garden and an area of grass, trees and shrubs. The land was presented by Emslie John Horniman, Chelsea representative on the LCC and MP for Chelsea. By 1996 the park was rundown, and funds from various sources were raised to restore the Voysey garden, provide new sports facilities and children's playground, gates, signage and fencing; the remainder was substantially redesigned with involvement from a number of artists.
The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/10/2007
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Emslie Horniman Pleasance Gardens - Photo: Justina Burnett
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An attractive and historically interesting park with formal Spanish Style garden with grass, mature trees and shrubs, the land was presented by Emslie John Horniman, son of Frederick J Horniman who had donated the Horniman Museum to the London County Council in 1901. Horniman was the Chelsea representative on the LCC and Liberal MP for Chelsea from 1906-10 and was committed to improving urban conditions. He purchase the land and offered it 'in perpetuity to the people of London as a recreation ground'. In 1911 Horniman commissioned Charles F A Voysey to lay out the grounds, at that time comprising c. 0.405 ha, the architect having previously worked for him and had become a close friend. It is Voysey's only design of a park and it was partly a garden and partly a playground with a place of rest for adults and sand-pit for children. The rectangular garden is surrounded along three sides by white lime-washed rough-cast cement walls, with shelters to the north and south with triple Tudor arches and a central entrance with Tudor arch. Inside the shelters are wooden slatted benches. The wall along East Row is pierced with circular openings and gabled finials with iron grilles, ironwork carried out by William B Reynolds, like Voysey a member of the Art Workers Guild, which formed a background for the planting within.
Working with landscape architect Madeline Agar, Voysey's rectangular flower bed was laid out around a formal pool and surrounded by roughcast walls, with flowers planted around an oak pergola flanking the oak bridge around a narrow canal of water (RBKC has copy of Agar's original plan) There were drinking posts with floral motifs made from green Westmoreland slate with gunmetal fittings, but they later disappeared. The park was presented to the London County Council on 20 May 1914. During WWII the area deteriorated and as part of slum clearance begun in the 1930s an area of 11acres between Bosworth Road and Golborne Road were redeveloped by Sir W Holford, as a result of which the park was extended.
In 1996 North Kensington City Challenge proposed to restore the park, which by now was run down, and Studio E Architects undertook further fund-raising from Heritage Lottery Fund to restore the Voysey garden, a Sports grant to provide new sports pitch and an Arts grant for a children's playground, gates, signage and fencing. Julian Harrap Architects undertook restoration of the Voysey garden. The remainder of the park was substantially redesigned with the artist Peter Fink working as lead artist with a number of artists also involved in different aspects. The new design includes sculptural lighting, innovative gates and fences, interactive sculpture by Sophia Clist and Paul Burwell, Mediterranean inspired planting, and a strikingly designed colourful enclosed playground. A Quiet Garden has been created in the south-east corner designed by artist Avtarjeet Dhanjal with a sunken seating area, sculptural stone seating of different shapes.
RB Kensington Parks Archive; Bridget Cherry and Nikolaus Pevsner, 'The Buildings of England London 3: North West' (Penguin, 1999 ed); British Architect LXXX, 1915, pp273-276; Survey of London, North Kensington, Kensington Square and Earls Court, 1972; Kensington News, 22 May 1914; 'New Art for the Historic Environment', Heritage Lottery Fund/Arts Council of England/Crafts Council, 2002; Charlotte Hare, 'Landscape London, a guide to recent gardens, parks and urban spaces', ellipsis, 2001; 'Emslie Horniman Pleasance' Extract from Wendy Hitchmough's Historical Report, Julian Harrap Architects, October 1997