Pressing for improvements to Ravenscourt Park

Local residents have been in contact recently with various proposals for improvements to Ravenscourt Park. Of course there is usually a cost involved although sometimes quite modest. In any case, I have written before about how Section 106 money allocated for park improvements has still not been  dues to bureaucratic delays. This is very frustrating – especially for the Friends of Ravenscourt Park who produced some very reasonable proposals as to how the money could be spent.

One concern is the track on the west side of the Park – an absolute mudbath when it rains. Naturally enough people walk on the grass to avoid the mud and the area of mud increases ever wider.

“The state of this path makes it impossible to do a full circuit walk round the inside of the Park with any pleasure,” says one resident who suggests spreading bark chippings down the track as, at least, a temporary solution.

Another concern is that litter is getting worse. There are supposed to be litter collections every two hours when fairs are taking place

The Parks Manager responds:

“A woodchip path is a very short term solution and will almost inevitably sink into the mud and require constant topping up.  This will also not address the issue of the unevenness of the path.  As hopefully the weather will start to improve in the coming weeks, and with that the ground will dry, I would like the opportunity to level the area and then make a decision on whether woodchip is necessary.  I know it is used on sites such as Wimbledon Common but it is likely they have a good source of quality woodchip and the necessary staffing to revisit this constantly.  That said, you are correct in that this has been ongoing for some time now so we will seek to make a decision over the summer and develop a long-term plan for this area to avoid another winter of the ‘muddy path’.

“Litter and squirrels/foxes is a perennial problem across the parks portfolio I cover, this isn’t helped by the frequency for litter collection dropping to twice a week during the winter months in Hammersmith & Fulham.  On a positive note, from the 1st April we move to our summer litter picking frequency, which is daily with a site based litter picker on-site for 8 hours per day at weekends.  From the Easter weekend this is additionally backed up by another site based litter picker, which ensures at weekends and on bank holidays there is someone on-site throughout the day cleansing.  This should ensure, certainly on Sunday and Monday mornings that the park is clean when it is opened.  We have looked at alternative larger bins including wheeled bins but we don’t have a vehicle within the grounds maintenance contract that can empty them.  Additionally, we do not have the funding to wholesale replace the bins across the park.  I will remind my colleagues in Events team of the promise made when funfairs are on-site.

“I hope this clarifies our position?  Please be assured we want a clean and litter free parks as much as anyone else.”

Then there is the Walled Gardens. The Friends of the Walled Garden do a fantastic job. But there are problems with bindweed on the paths  – and the woodwork in the sheds where people can sit. They could also do with some publicity in the Park to encourage more volunteers.

The Parks Manager replies:

“A large amount of work has been undertaken by the Friends of Ravenscourt Park Walled Garden over the last couple of months.  This has included digging out the soil, replacing and re-planting the beds primarily to deal with the bindweed but also to plants more appropriate species for the walled garden.  This has all been made possible by the hard work of the Friends of Ravenscourt Park Walled Garden who secured a grant from Tesco’s Bags for Help fund.  We are now in the final stages of the project and will certainly look to link up with the friends once completed to publicise their hard work.

“Hopefully our next project can be to work with the friends to look for further funding for the paths and wooden structures.  The friends do have a website and if they want additional publicity this is certainly something we could try to help them with.”

Ravenscourt Park Walled Garden – come and help remove the bindweed from one more bed

The volunteer Friends of the Walled Garden in Ravenscourt spent a recent Saturday morning planting up two of its herbaceous flower beds with 300 new plants to their design using a grant from Tesco’s Bags of Help awards.

There is now one remaining bed to have its existing overgrown plants and the bindweed and cooch grass weeds removed, new soil applied and then new plants

The volunteers help in the walled garden on the first Saturday of each month from 10.30 am. Volunteering is fun and a good way to meet new people.

For further information please contact Angela Clarke 020 8748 0284.


Listed status for Margravine Cemetery’s Reception House

margreceptA 19th Century building used to store the dead prior to burial has received Grade II listing from Heritage Minister Tracey Crouch.

The reception house in Hammersmith’s Margravine Cemetery is a rare example of the buildings that were used to address the repeated cholera outbreaks in London between 1832 and 1866.

With disease continuing to spread throughout the city, Edwin Chadwick, the Secretary to the Poor Law Commission, led a nationwide review of the sanitary conditions of the poor. He found that most families could not afford a funeral, so a body was often left on a table in the house while money was raised for a funeral. These health conditions contributed to the spread of cholera throughout London. Chadwick called for reception houses to be built to house coffins between death and the funeral to prevent the spread of disease.

There were also calls for reception houses to address a common fear at the time of being buried alive. Across continental Europe ‘waiting mortuaries’ where bodies would be held until signs of decomposition were evident were already established.

Heritage Minister Tracey Crouch said:

“This reception house gives us a glimpse into how cholera outbreaks changed Victorian attitudes to burials and public health standards. It’s an important part of London’s history and I’m delighted that it will be listed.”


The Margravine Cemetery reception house is the only one of its kind remaining in London. It survives in its original condition and the interior remains largely untouched. The building contains stone slabs on the walls to hold the coffins along the five sides of the house.

Nine mortuaries were constructed across the city, but they were much larger and provided coroner’s facilities, rather than just spaces for housing the dead. Undertakers were then introduced in the 1880’s, making reception houses unnecessary.

The decision to list was made based on the building’s rarity, architectural interest and for adding to our understanding of Victorian funeral practices and improvements in public health.

Roger Bowdler, Director of Listing at Historic England, said:

“The history of death is the history of life as well: of how we remember, how we improve public health, and how we separate the living from the dead. Nowhere tells this as eloquently as a cemetery, and Margravine Cemetery contains some truly eloquent reminders of the London Way of Death”.

Ruth Savery, Secretary of The Friends of Margravine Cemetery said:

“We’re proud to have this fascinating piece of local history in Margravine Cemetery to add to our three listed monuments. It’s remarkable how well the reception house has survived and we’re delighted it is gaining this recognition.”

Let’s keep the lavatories open by the Ravenscourt Park paddling pool

paddlingA couple of weeks ago the weather was very hot in London. For those with young children what better place to take them than the paddling pool in Ravenscourt Park.

Yet in the searing heat,and with hundreds of children in the pool the adjoining public lavatories were shut at 4pm.

As one local resident asked:

“Where are the children are expected to go?”

I have raised my concerns with the Council’s Parks Manager Ian Ross. He has replied as follows:

Dear Councillor Phibbs,

Thank you for your email.

The toilets nearest to the playground should be open until 4.45pm when the paddling pool is open and then park users have the option to use the ones next to the park cafe.  The officers on-site have been spoken too to make sure there is not a repeat of the recent incidents where the toilets were closed early.  On the rare occasion, for operational reasons, the toilets are closed early, then a sign should go up on the door explaining where the nearest toilets are.

We acknowledge this is a popular facility and therefore it is important for the toilets to be open as long as possible while staff are on-site.

Kind regards,


Please let me know of any further problems.

4.45pm is still a bit early on a really hot afternoon, isn’t it?

Ravenscourt Park: The history beneath our feet

ravenscourt6.550Here is an update from the Friends of Ravenscourt Park on their archaeological exploits:

Remember our history project? This began in 2014 when, with partners the Museum of London (MOL), we held two History Days in the Park. The Museum commissioned a geophysical survey of the site of the hidden moated manor, using ground-penetrating radar to identify the footprint of the house and find the missing arms of the moat. That was stage one. The results were intriguing, and the event sparked so much public interest from all sides that we applied for and got a small grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund to carry out a trial dig on the site. Much time last year was spent in planning, writing specifications, issuing tenders and appointing contractors. Advised by the MOL, and with the support and permission of the Council, we finally commissioned Archaeology South East (part of UCL) to carry out the works in the autumn.

By the date of our AGM at the end of September, the first-ever dig on this undisturbed site had only just begun. The weather was perfect. Three trial trenches were opened up, and finds soon began to emerge. Over the four days when digging was taking place our information stalls attracted over 950 visitors, and interest was intense. The local papers were enthusiastic: reporters and photographers came along to record the scene. The Gazette ran three stories and then posted 18 pictures on its website; the Chronicle pictured us on the front page, and followed up with half a page and more pictures inside. Our dig also featured on the Council website, and all the local online newsletters covered the event too. As heritage and local historic sites now form part of the national curriculum, several schools got in touch. This time we didn’t have the resources to work with them, but we hope to do so in future. The final ASE report revealed that part of the moat was found, and that the ancient cellars of the house survive. The evidence of history under our feet is now compelling.

So what happens next? What was found, together with our continuing research into primary sources, has important implications for Ravenscourt’s future. The presence and location of this valuable site will influence Council planning documents and the Park’s management plan. The current Archaeological Priority Area is in the wrong place, for example; we discussed this with Historic England. Another finding is that many existing descriptions and histories of the Park and the estate have copied secondary-source errors from one to another.
The earliest map we now have that shows the manor of Palingswick dates from the reign of Elizabeth I, but clues in later maps could indicate origins even earlier than the existing 14th century records. So in discussions with the MOL, we have agreed to go forward with a further grant application to enable us to explore the site at greater depth, involving local schools and the wider community as we do so. For the record, these plans will not get in the way of the local community continuing to enjoy the Park. And our history belongs to all of us, not just to a select few.

Hammersmith United Charities to take part in Open Garden Squares weekend – June 18th-19th

hucflowerAs part of Open Garden Squares Weekend, the residents of John Betts House and Sycamore House invite you to enjoy their special gardens.

logokeyThere are over 200 gardens to explore across 25 London boroughs ranging from the historic and traditional to the new and experimental.

Tickets for the whole weekend cost just £12 and children under 12 go free, from Open Squares.

Tickets on the door for John Betts House and Sycamore Gardens are £4 for each garden. Proceeds go to London parks and open spaces.


Rylett Road W12 9NJ

The gardens are a platform for workshops and social events enabling people to work in their own part of the garden, or to simply relax and enjoy.

Last year, they were placed third with a Silver Gilt in the Small Community Garden category of the London Garden Society’s 2015 competition.

• Open 2pm – 5pm

• Homemade cakes and plant sale

• Disabled lavatories on site

Sycamore Gardens W6 0AS

The sheltered housing gardens continues to win awards. Sycamore House won the Large Community Garden category of the London Garden Society 2015 annual competition.

• Open 2pm – 5pm

• Tea, coffee, homemade cakes, plant and craft stall.

• Disabled lavatories on site

About Hammersmith United Charities

Helping local people in Hammersmith

They support local people to build their confidence and resourcefulness, develop their own talents and skills, connect people together and strengthen relationships and neighbourliness within and across diverse communities.

They do this by managing vibrant sheltered housing communities for older people, funding a community based grants programme, including the Wormholt & White City Big Local, and by working with local people, organisations and businesses.

A great way to show your support for their work for the next 400 years is to leave a legacy.

Contact HUC at : Sycamore House, Sycamore Gardens, London W6 0AS Tel: 020 8741 4326 Charity number: 205856

Also taking part in the Open Garden Squares Weekend in Hammersmith and Fulham are the following:

All Saints Vicarage Garden, Fulham
Saturday: 11:00–16:00
+Sunday: 14:00–17:00

Fulham Palace
Saturday: 11:00–16:00

Fulham Palace Meadows Allotments
Saturday: 11:30–15:30

Ravenscourt Park Glasshouses
Saturday: 10:00–16:00

The River Cafe

William Morris Society
Saturday: 14:00–17:00

More details here.