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Cannizaro Park * Merton
   
Summary: * on The National Heritage List for England, Parks & Gardens

Cannizaro Park is on land that was once part of Wimbledon Common. In the early C18th the estate was purchased by William Browne who built two houses, Mansion or Westside House, and Warren House. Between 1817-41 Warren House was leased to Francois Platamone who became the Duke of Cannizzaro in 1830, after whom the house was renamed (albeit misspelt) in 1874. In 1920 house and grounds were purchased by E. Kenneth Wilson and his wife, who laid out a new garden, much of which remains in the public park today. In 1947/8 the Wilsons' daughter sold the house and 13.5 hectares of land to the Corporation of Wimbledon, who opened the grounds to the public. The gardens soon regained their reputation as a place of beauty, and the park today has a sunken garden, azalea dell, water garden, Italian garden, Mediterranean garden and rose Garden, as well as woodland and lakes. Cannizaro House is now a hotel, with a terrace overlooking the park.
Previous / Other name: Warren House
Site location: West Side Common/Camp Road
Postcode: SW19 4UE > Google Map
Type of site: Public Park
Date(s): early C18th onwards; 1948
Designer(s): George Dillistone (1920)
Listed structures: LBII: statue of Diana with Fawn
Borough: Merton
Site ownership: LB Merton
Site management: Leisure and Culture Services; Friends of Cannizaro Gardens
Open to public? Yes
Opening times: weekdays 8am/weekends & Bank Holidays 9am - dusk
Special conditions:
Facilities: Café, toilets. Hotel: Cannizaro House
Events: Wimbledon School of Art exhibitions
Public transport: Rail/Tube: Wimbledon (District) then bus. Bus: 93, 200, 493
The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/11/2011
Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news. www.cannizaropark.org.uk; www.merton.gov.uk/environment/openspaces/parks

Fuller information:

Site on The National Heritage List for England, Parks & Gardens, for Register Entry see https://www.historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list

In 1705 the 121-hectare Warren estate on the southern edge of Wimbledon Common (q.v.) was purchased by William Browne, a wealthy London merchant. Probably once part of the Common, the estate was formerly known as Old Park and had been created in the early 1570s by Sir Thomas Cecil, later Lord of Wimbledon Manor. In the early C18th Browne built two new houses along West Side Common and lived in the Mansion House, from at least 1898 called Westside House. To the east of this was Warren House, which he leased to his wealthy friends as the area became fashionable as a retreat with relatively easy reach of the City. William Browne died in 1738 whereupon his son sold the estate to Thomas Walker, Surveyor-General of George II's Land Revenue, MP and friend of Sir Robert Walpole, then Prime Minister. Walker lived at the Mansion House and leased out Warren House; when his nephew Stephen Skinner inherited the estate after his death in 1748, both houses were leased out and this was the case from then on. Illustrious lessees included Viscount Melville who entertained lavishly, his guests including Prime Minister William Pitt and George III. Lady Jane's Wood, which still exists within the grounds, was so-named by Viscount Melville after his second wife.

Between 1817 and 1841 Warren House was leased to a Sicilian, Francois Platamone, who married heiress Sophia Johnstone. In 1830 he became the Duke of Cannizzaro and the house was later renamed Cannizaro House (albeit misspelt) in 1874. The owner in 1920, Sir Reginald Plunkett-Ernle-Erle-Drax, began selling parts of the estate for development; Cannizaro House and grounds were purchased by E. Kenneth Wilson, who improved the interior and also laid out a new garden, employing George Dillistone as landscape gardener assisted by the Wilsons' head gardener Richard Allison. Among the features were the Maple Avenue planted between 1920 and 1930, which runs down to the south-west through woodland and grass clearings. At around 150m west of the house stands a semi-mature swamp cypress next to the pond, in the south-east corner of which York stone steps lead up to the west lawn. South of the pond was the old kitchen garden, now the Italian Garden, which was created in the late C20th. The kitchen garden dated from the C18th and had an extensive range of glasshouses added over the years from mid C18th up to 1939, and after Cannizaro became a public park it became the municipal plant nursery. South of this is the wild garden, Azalea Dell and Lady Jane's Wood, all largely developed by the Wilsons between 1920-30. The formal sunken garden and the Dutch Garden, both near the house, were created for Mrs Wilson in the early 1930s.The gardens hosted many garden parties, including those in aid of charity, and the Girl Guides held an annual summer camp here.

During WWII the park was used for Home Guard exercises; a number of bombs and incendiaries fell near the house and in 1944 an unmanned V-1 rocket landed near the kitchen garden. The property was inherited by the Wilsons' daughter the Countess of Munster who in 1947/48 sold the house and 13.5 hectares of land to the Corporation of Wimbledon, who opened the grounds to the public. The house was leased to Surrey County Council and from 1950-77 was an Old People's Home; in 1985 it was leased to a hotel group and it opened as such in 1987.

The gardens opened to the public in 1948 and under J G Berry, Deputy Director of the Parks Department, soon regained their reputation as a place of beauty, particularly noted for its rhododendrons and azaleas. The main wrought-iron entrance gates, with the monogram 'EKW' (Ernest Kenneth Wilson) and brought by the Wilsons from Roehampton House in 1920, were placed here in 1948. From the gates the path bordered by formal bedding displays reaches a small quatrefoil pond with a bronze sculpture in the form of a fountain. This was installed in 2001, commissioned by Friends of Cannizaro from sculptor Richard Rome following a competition. The grounds contain a number of interesting structures including the small gothic aviary, erected in c.1948 resembling a miniature Pisa Cathedral. A bust of the Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie, which commemorates his visit to Wimbledon when he was a refugee in 1936, is set within a garden of ornamental trees and shrubs that was created from a former tennis court. A C19th statue of Diana is in the woodland, formerly in front of the bow on the house's west front. In the north-east corner of the site is Keir Garden; The Keir was a neighbouring property that the Wilsons purchased in c.1932, converting the house to flats but adding the gardener's cottage (Keir Cottage), and the 0.5-hectare walled garden to the grounds of Cannizaro. Today the partially walled area has a rose garden, and nearby the mid C19th chapel was restored in c.1950 for use by the Girl Guides.

Features developed after the park was opened to the public include the Belvedere, a rectangular platform with stone balustrades and 8 free-standing columns, which was built in the late 1970s as an eyecatcher at the south-east end of the Mediterranean Garden; south-east of the Belvedere is the Retreat, an area of ornamental trees and shrubs planted in the 1990s. Cannizaro Park has for many years had an association with Wimbledon School of Art and has been the venue for annual exhibitions of students' work, installed throughout the grounds. Other artists' projects have been installed here under the auspices of the Friends of Cannizaro Park.

Sources consulted:

See EH Register: W Myson and J G Berry, 'Cannizaro House, Wimbledon and its Park', 1972; The Garden 106, pt 1 (January 1981), pp 7-12; Bridget Cherry & Nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England: London 2: South (Penguin) 1999; R Milward 'A Georgian Village, Wimbledon 1724-65', 1986; R Milward 'Cannizaro House and its Park, Wimbledon', 1991
Grid ref: TQ232709
Size in hectares: 13.95
   
On EH National Register : Yes
EH grade: Grade II*
Site on EH Heritage at Risk list:
Registered common or village green
on Commons Registration Act 1965:
No
Protected under London Squares
Preservation Act 1931:
No
 
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: Yes
Conservation Area name: Wimbledon West
Tree Preservation Order: No
Nature Conservation Area: Yes - Borough Importance I
Green Belt: No
Metropolitan Open Land: Yes
Special Policy Area: Yes - Archaeological Priority Zone
Other LA designation: Public Open Space. Historic Parks and Gardens. Green Corridor
   

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