Central Park is in the grounds of an early C18th house, acquired by East Ham UDC in 1896 as part of its policy to provide recreation grounds for the growing population. The park was opened in July 1898, and had avenues and walks, recreational open spaces, a sundial, drinking fountains and seats provided by the MPGA, and extensive ornamental gardens along its whole northern edge, which remain largely intact today. An open-air pool was provided in 1901 but closed in 1923.
The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/04/2012
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The park was formed from the grounds of the early C18th Rancliffe House, acquired by East Ham Urban District Council in 1896 in order to create a park in the centre of the growing town of East Ham, part of the Council's policy to provide a recreation ground in each of the district's four newly developed wards. The park's well-attended opening ceremony took place on 5 July 1898. Designed by the Council's Surveyor, it had tree-lined avenues and walks, recreational open spaces, a sundial, drinking fountains and seats provided by the Metropolitan Public Gardens Association, and extensive ornamental gardens along its whole northern edge, which remain largely intact today. These ornamental gardens then, as now, were divided into two distinct areas, in the east more formal rose gardens were centred on a bandstand, which by 1971 had been replaced by the ornamental pond and fountain, and to the west more undulating gardens with serpentine walks and specimen trees and shrubberies. There were glasshouses in the north-west and north-east corners, since removed.
Rancliffe House originally stood within the boundaries of the park but was demolished in 1908, at which point this land was added to the park and the perimeter walk was completed. Situated near the house, a public swimming pool, East Ham Open Air Baths, was opened on 31 May 1901 by Councillor F G Francis, built by direct labour for £1,400. It was closed for much of WWI between 1915-18 and although it re-opened after the war it eventually closed in 1923 and the site converted to dressing rooms. A number of ponds are shown near the western boundary, no longer there although the children's paddling pond is in this area. By 1920 the Art Deco war memorial to the 1600+ residents of East Ham killed in WWI had been erected, surrounded by a garden. It was located in the south eastern corner where a new park entrance was created. The original park entrance gates still stand on the High Street. In 1920 the swimming pool was still in existence, but this is now the site of tennis courts, and a bowling green was also provided near the original site of the house.
The area was badly bombed during WWII but many of the mature trees and the park's layout essentially survives. Since the 1960s/70s a modern park café and toilets have been built near the ornamental gardens on the main north-south avenue, near which is a concrete stage with two metal columns. At the south-east entrance is a raised ornamental bed. In the formal gardens pairs of trees have been planted by former mayors and councillors, including silver birch, red oak and pyramidal hornbeam. Four large stone urns have been re-sited in the formal gardens at corners of the paths that surround the ornamental pond and fountain. These urns date from c.1929 and were originally in the London Co-operative Building in East Ham that was demolished in 1989. Near the formal gardens is a marker to East Ham Manor Hall.
Central Park first won a Green Flag Award in 2006. In 2007 Newham Council secured a £1.9m HLF grant for restoration of the park. Works undertaken include a new and improved café building with improved public toilets; an extension to the bowling pavilion to provide a base for gardeners; new footpaths, lighting and re-landscaping of a tranquil garden by the historic war memorial.
LB Newham Parks Archive; Landscape Design Associates Report on Heritage Value of 9 Parks, for LB Newham, July 1997; John Archer/Ian Yarham, Nature Conservation in Newham, London Ecology Unit, 1991; Website 'Lidos in London no longer open' compiled by Oliver Merrington and Andy Hoines with additional detail and photographs from Ian Gordon, www.lidos.org.uk.