Project blog website:


Overview of project:

This year project started October 2011, focusing on the historical and natural heritage of Ruskin Park in Lambeth, South London. This project included heritage of English historical figure John Ruskin who was a famous artist, writer and social campaigner. John Ruskin lived nearby from 1823 to 1871 and the park is named after him.

The project was participant led (long term volunteers and short-term participants).  Our initial research highlighted many potential research areas which was be shown to project participants. Under Embrace project staff guidance and with the involvement of project partners (i.e. Lambeth Archives) the project participants narrowed down the project focus to concentrate on specific areas of interest.


Project Aims:

The project helped increase awareness of the historic and natural heritage of Ruskin Park and the local area surrounding the park. Historic heritage research techniques were taught in order to preserve the heritage of Ruskin Park for future generations. In the past 3 years before this project, Embrace Cooperation Ltd ran 2 very successful Heritage Lottery projects focusing on the natural heritage of the respective sites.

With this project, our main focus was the historic heritage with a much lighter focus on natural heritage.

The project concentrated on researching historical facts and designing educational outputs (booklet, film, podcast, time capsule & park sign) for future & present generations.

We also offered new workshops based on poetry writing to connect past and present around the writings of John Ruskin.

We presented the researched heritage information and other project outcomes in new exciting ways to help local communities engage with their local heritage.

Project activities will included:

Six public events looking at different aspects of Ruskin Park’s wildlife and history. These events will include guided walks, wildlife surveys and practical nature conservation sessions.

A visit to Tate Britain to research and broaden understanding of John Ruskin’s contribution to championing British art.

Two poetry writing workshops looking at John Ruskin’s work and it’s relevance today.

Two guided historic heritage walks

Eight tailor made events for community / youth groups and schools that will enhance awareness of Ruskin Parks nature heritage, wildlife, history and connections to John Ruskin.

A final exhibition open to the public incorporating the various project creations (film poetry, photography & podcast) plus work by local artists.

Heritage skills training for project participants/volunteers:

Archival research skills to research documents about the park’s history were taught by Lambeth Archive staff.

Participants were also be sent on training to gain skills to conduct oral history interviews.

Development of project book, podcast and film:

The information and interviews collected through applying these heritage research and interviewing skills were used to create a project booklet, podcast and documentary film. These will contained historic and natural heritage information about Ruskin Park and the surrounding area. The project booklet and film was also be put into a time capsule (provided by Lambeth Council) with other material collected from local community groups and placed in Ruskin Park for future generations to find. By doing these activities we are linking the past, present and future of Ruskin Park and our target beneficiaries (young people, BME, local communities) get to explore the history, making it relevant to the present using modern media.

Increasing awareness of heritage significance of John Ruskin:

This was done through researching facts and analysing his historical role with an emphasis on a “Message for the Now”. We also developed an Information Sign about John Ruskin that will be placed in Ruskin Park.

Activities to increase local communities awareness of the heritage of the park:

Awareness of the historic and natural heritage of Ruskin Park was increased in the local communities through free public guided walks, a time capsule, workshops and information stalls at local events. Awareness of how to protect the parks natural heritage will be increased through free public practical nature conservation workshops. We also raised awareness of the park’s heritage through organizing tailor made events for local community groups and schools.

Creation of information sign for Ruskin Park:

Project volunteers (with input/approval of the design from Lambeth Council & Friends of Ruskin Park) designed a information sign about John Ruskin. The sign was made by professional sign makers Elemental Design and will be placed in the park to provide visitors with information about the parks heritage.

Ruskin Park history and site information:

Ruskin Park is a large historic park located between Camberwell, Brixton and Herne Hill in South London. The park gets its name from John Ruskin. At the start of the 20th Century local residents campaigned for a new park on 24 acres of land in Denmark Hill, and the famous parks designer J.J. Sexby laid out the site.

Ruskin Park is on English Heritage’s “Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest” (Grade II, GD1826, registered 1987), in recognition of features of notable heritage value contributing to its character and identity. Ruskin Park was officially opened to the public on 2 February 1907, but was enlarged in 1910 by adding a further 12 acres of land to the south. The park contains ornamental and wildlife ponds and formal bedding along with heritage features like the Portico and a splendid collection of ornamental and native trees. Pride of place goes to a delightful wooden bandstand in the centre of the park, which was restored in 2006.

Ruskin Park is important enough to be one of only 1600 registered parks and gardens in the country, of which about 250 are urban public parks, and one of only 145 registered sites in London.

Ruskin Park still contains one listed building, the “Portico”, which was retained from the demolished villa, No.168 Denmark Hill, when the park was established before 1907. Although currently unlisted, the nearby Stable Block is an attractive remnant of the old villa landscape retained, like the Portico, in the new park layout. It was abandoned as staff accommodation due to poor condition, but has significant potential for re-use, and there are proposals to redevelop it as a community café, with integral toilets and area for staff use.

Outline Chronology of Ruskin Park, 1904 to Present

1904 Local campaign launched to acquire land on Denmark Hill to save it from development and create a new park

1906 9.7 hectares of land acquired by London County Council, and plans drawn up for its layout as a public park

1907 Park opened on 2nd February

1908 A further 4.8 hectares acquired to form the Extension

1910 Northern strip incorporated into the Park

1911 Bandstand and surrounding promenade constructed

1914- 1918 Temporary bridge to Ruskin Park constructed from nearby King’s College Hospital; temporary hospital buildings erected in the Park

1926 Present paddling pool, playground and tennis courts constructed on the northern strip of the site. Redgra courts levelled to form a football pitch

1927 Pavilion constructed adjacent to the Bowling Green

1939- 1945 Removal of large proportion of the original railings; use of the Extension for allotments (‘dig for victory’)

1951- 1954 Demolition of the original lodge on Denmark Hill and construction of new one

1971 Transfer of ownership of Park from LCC to the London Borough of Lambeth

2001-2002 Demolition of bowling green pavilion following fire, and removal of old glasshouses, with conversion to waste depot

2005 Restoration of pond – draining, desilting and boundary treatment

2006 Restoration of Bandstand and Shelter, refurbishment of Playground toilets, conversion of old changing rooms to new toilet block; installation of new fencing around dog-free area and formal gardens

2006 First Ruskin Park Summer Fair held on Bandstand

Biography of John Ruskin (8/2/1819 – 20/1/1900)

John Ruskin was an English art critic and social thinker, also remembered as a poet and artist. His essays on art and architecture were extremely influential in the Victorian and Edwardian eras. Ruskin first came to widespread attention for his support for the work of J. M. W. Turner and his defence of naturalism in art. He subsequently put his weight behind the Pre-Raphaelite movement. His later writings turned increasingly to complex and personal explorations of the interconnection of cultural, social and moral issues, and were influential on the development of Christian socialism.


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