The area was once a stretch of meadowland within the 250-acre estate of Prospect Place, an C18th house whose last owner was Lord Cottenham, after whom the estate was renamed. He had the property from 1831-51, after which it was sold and large-scale development of the land began. Initially known as Melbury Gardens, Cottenham Park Recreation Ground was the first such amenity to be provided in this area, opening in 1897. A diagonal path across the park marked by trees and hedging is a remnant of an avenue that once stretched across the whole estate. A number of old trees survive including an oak probably planted shortly after the Battle of Trafalgar, and some of the London plane trees along the park boundary date from 1898. Facilities for cricket, football, tennis and bowling were provided, all but the bowling green remaining today, and permission for concerts by local bands was granted in the park's early years.
The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/06/2009
Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news. www.merton.gov.uk/environment/openspaces/parks/parks_in_the_wimbledon_area
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.
The area around Copse Hill was once extensive woodland from Wimbledon Village to Coombe Lane and in 1481 the area was described as 'from ancient times, arable, but for many years overgrown', possibly due to depopulation following the Black Death. The recreation ground is on an area of woodland and meadows that from c.1800 was taken into the estate of Prospect Place after it was purchased by Parliamentary Agent James Meyrick.
Prospect Place was built c.1750, and in c.1768 was purchased by Moses Isaac Levy, Vice-President of the Board of Jewish Deputies and a wealthy man, who laid out fine gardens here. The topographer J Edwards, in his book 'A Companion from London to Brighthelmstone' published in 1787, praised the 'handsome villa' as well as the 'judiciously laid out gardens' and 'extensive view to the south'. Levy sold the estate to James Meyrick in 1789 who extended the house, adding a new porch and stories onto the wings of the house and also increased the estate lands from 60 to 250 acres. He engaged Humphry Repton to lay out 'decorative gardens' near the house, with hothouses and fine trees, a few of which survive near Atkinson Morley Hospital (q.v.). The rest of the land, which extended to Coombe Lane in the south and Copse Hill in the north, was used for wheat or cattle. The estate was then sold in 1825 to the Hon. John Lambton, Whig MP and later Earl of Durham, who passed it on in 1831 to Charles Pepys, Lord Cottenham, hence the name Cottenham Park.
After the Earl's death in 1851 the estate was sold off for housing development, although by 1893 much of the area between Cottenham Park Road and Cambridge Road still remained largely undeveloped. Development accelerated once trams began to serve the area in 1907. The recreation ground opened in 1897 as Melbury Gardens and was the first such amenity to be provided in the locality. A map of 1920 shows the recreation ground laid out much as it is today: from the entrance on the south-east corner is a line of plane trees along the east boundary and an area of grass crossed by a diagonal path leading to a hedge, beyond which the land opens out to playing fields which forms the main area of the park. Amenities today include a modern pavilion, and tennis courts, with bowling green now disused. There are perimeter paths and trees, including mature oaks.
R Milward 'Wimbledon Two Hundred Years Ago, History of Wimbledon Part V', The Milward Press 1996, p124/5; R. Milward, 'The Archive Photograph Series: Wimbledon 1865-1965', Chalford, 1997, p102.
LPGT Volunteer Research by Tony Matthews, 2009