The Friends of Beckenham Place Park

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ABOUT THE PARK
240 acres (85 hectares) of open space. Ancient Woodland, Grass/meadow areas, Riverside and Heritage features.

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Visitor Centre


Buildings   History   Nature Trail  Sensory Garden  Gardens     Woodland      Meadows   Riverside   Wildlife  Golf Course

(last edit 1/6/2018)

This page gives a brief timeline of the main events in the evolution of Beckenham Place Park at the bottom of the page.

Beckenham Place Park was the nucleus of a park and farmland estate from the 18th century.  Today it covers around 240 acres or 90 hectares. Its life as a public park began in 1927 when the London County Council foresaw a need for open space to cater for the new estates of Bellingham and Downman.  The land was bought from the Cator Estate for about 47,000 and opened as a public park in 1929.  The park consists of historic English Heritage listed buildings, a Visitor Centre run by the Friends of BPP on Sunday afternoons (see page), 60 acres of ancient woodland, large areas of grassland managed as meadow or recreation ground, two childrens play areas, formal gardens, a sensory garden, a riverside walk, a reconstructed lake and an ancient pond, two cafe's, a nature trail and various natural habitat areas which qualify its status as a local nature reserve. The public 18 hole golf course was closed by the Lewisham Local Authority in 2016. The mansion is leased to RJK properties who accommodate various activities.

The history of the park is complex in its detail but in brief, John Cator began to purchase land in and around the park area as early as 1757, He had the house built commenced in the spring of 1760 which we now call the Mansion and engaged in further land purchases and exchanges until he owned most of the area north of Beckenham town centre and elsewhere in Kent, Surrey and Essex. After he died in 1806 his heirs kept the park as a base but began to lease land for development after a private act of Parliament in 1825.  By the time the LCC bought the park it was the only remnant of the Cator estates in Beckenham. The family still own considerable land holdings in Norfolk.

More information available at the Visitor Centre, see Visitor Centre page on this site or read on in this website.

The links above give more detailed information. 

Latest additions:  The History page is updated regularly and has a fuller account of events. We are still discovering new facts and we now host a page on Beckenham generally, its landlords, estates and history.

    A fuller account of the park's history is on the history page, it is regularly updated with any new  discoveries.

    Pat Manning's book THE CATORS OF BECKENHAM AND WOODBASTWICK. Describes the rise of the family of Quaker John Cator the elder from Ross on Wye to his son's (John Cator the younger) financial success in London and acceptance into the world of the landed gentry (1638-2002). Pat has kindly given permission for her book in pdf file format to be reproduced here.

    A piece describing the mansion plasterwork motifs by David Love (in buildings).  

   

Timeline of the park's evolution:

Park related events
1728 - John Cator the younger is born in Southwark on 12th March
1753 - John Cator of Southwark marries Mary Collinson, daughter of Peter Collinson FRS, merchant and botanist
1757 - John Cator buys property at Southend, Lewisham and Foxgrove Manor land in Beckenham
1760 - Cator exchanges land near Langley with the Burrells and Raymonds for part of Foxgrove Manor.
1760 - 1762 Cator builds the house on Stumps Hill as per Peter Collinson's comment in Hortus Collinsonianus
1763 - a daughter Maria born to John and Mary Cator,   John's father dies, John inherits the family timber business.
1766 - The daughter Maria dies in infancy, John's sister also dies after a long illness.
1772/80  -  John Cator is MP for Wallingford
1773 - John purchases the Manor of Beckenham from Lord Bolingbroke who had inherited the Manor earlier in 1765. But Bolingbroke had already leased it to Mrs Margaret Hare (see 1780). Little or nothing of Beckenham Manor is in the park. Bolingbroke had disposed of the old manor house in Beckenham in 1759 in an exchange with Peter Burrell.
1777 - parts of the 'park' next to the house in the manor of Foxgrove still owned by Mrs Amy Burrell. John acquires them in a land exchange.
1778 - Beckenham Place is recorded in Hasted's History of Kent  but not entirely accurately. A print shows a lake.
1780 - Cator agrees to compensate Mrs Margaret Hare for her rights to rents from Beckenham Manor so that he acquires full ownership of Beckenham Manor, and I suspect parts of Foxgrove Manor in the park which had been in the name of Bolingbroke.
1784 - Cator elected MP for Ipswich but unseated
1785 - New road
built Beckenham Hill Road to divert traffic around Cator's park. The road through the park becomes Cator's drive. Another road closed to  facilitate Cator's lake construction. Perhaps the lake or  a smaller one predated 1785.
1790/93 - Cator elected MP for Stockbridge
1793 - more land exchanges with the Burrells completes Cator's ownership of this part of Beckenham and Lewisham.
1804 - Mary Cator dies and is buried in St. Georges churchyard with her daughter.
1806 - John Cator dies at his appartment in the Adelphi near The Strand, is buried in St Georges churchyard, Beckenham with family.
1806 - John Barwell Cator, son of John's oldest brother Joseph, inherits the estate with other trustees.
1808 - John Barwell Cator marries Miss Mahon, niece of Lord Vigo. A relative Lambert has access to Barwell's papers inherited from Peter Collinson via John Cator.
1825 - A Private Act of Parliament allows  the Cators to sell or lease the estate for reinvestment elsewhere ie Woodbastwick in Norfolk.
1829 - Alexander D. Inglis occupies the Mansion followed by Peters (the leases did not always include all of the current park, some of which was leased to nearby Foxgrove Farm tenand which was also owned by the Cators).
1835 - Mr Peters. a banker. Peters was succeeded by Captain Walter Raleigh Gilbert, R.H.A. who had married Peter's daughter, no dates available.

1838 - Tithe map and returns for Beckenham show that the Cator family owned about one third of the land in Beckenham under various tenants. Peters is the official tenant.
1841 and 1851 - the Census shows Peters in occupation.
1866 - Occupier is given as Robert Henry Page Esq.
1869 - Sir John Kirkland, Bart. J.P.  an army agent who had good relations with Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, received gifts from them. A lease valid until 1881 is under Kirkland's name.
1870 ditto. Sir John dies in 1871
1871 John Kirkland Jnr. son of Sir John in census with son, aunt and servants
1873 No one listed as in occupation. Possibly the Kirkland lease had been surrendered.
1874‑6 John Fell Christie.
1877‑8 No one listed as in occupation.
1879  Spencer Brunton. the Brunton children made a Christmas card depicting a royal family visit, maybe this harks back to the Kirkland residency.
1880‑84 No one listed as in occupation.
1885‑91 Edwin Covell, proprietor of butcher's shops.(directory and census records)
1894 The occupier is listed as Mrs Covell, her husband Edwin has presumably recently died. Edwin Covell is also recorded as the tenant in the documents concerned with the authorisation of the construction of the Shortlands Nunhead railway through the estate.
1895‑99 No one listed as in occupation.
1902 Beckenham Place is listed as Craven College
1907 to 1930 Norwood Sanatorium occupies the mansion and Homesteads, seems much of the park used by Foxgrove Golf Club, all under lease from Cator Estate, and a new chapter in its history opens.
1907 - The Foxgrove Golf Club is established on the grounds of the estate
1927 - The LCC acquires the park from the Cator Estate
1933 - The Golf Course becomes public and one time the busiest in Europe
1939/45 - Crab Hill within the park is made a Prisoner of War camp for Italian POW's
1972 - The park passes from the GLC to the ownership of London Borough of Lewisham.
     The Park and other open space is designated Metropolitan Open Land,  a form of inner city Green Belt
1992 - David Lloyd Leisure attempted acquisition of much of the park, public enquiry and rejection of plans to extend golf and add indoor tennis centre.
Stable block homesteads and other cottages made vacant, park staff housed elsewhere. Dereliction of this site begins.
1994 - First Friends visitor centre created in a part of the stable block partially restoring one cottage.
1999 - Park undergoes some changes of manager, consultations to find uses for the mansion,
2011 - Neglect of Stable Block leads to vandalism and fire, heritage features such as clock tower destroyed.
2013 - Lewisham Council decide to seed Heritage Lottery Funding under Parks for People scheme.
2016 - Mayor of Lewisham decides closure of Public Golf course, Council unable to find a way to make it financially viable.
2016 - RJK Properties take a 22 month lease to manage the mansion.  HLF approve funding to restore elements of the parkland and stable block. Attempts made to reopen the golf course by a campaign group.
2018 - work begins on 'restoration'
World Events
1722 Afghans conquered Iran
1740-41 Famine in Ireland

1745   Jacobite uprising, Bonny Prince Charlie
1754 - 63  7 Years War with France
1755 the Lisbon Earthquake










1766 also recorded as a year with high smallpox related deaths
1769 James Cook's first voyage to Australia and New Zealand





1776 American Declaration of Independance















1789 French Revolution leading into Napoleonic Wars





1805 Battle of Trafalgar,  Nelson killed.







1814 Battle of Waterloo, Napoleon defeated and exiled to St. Helena













1851 Great Exhibition in Hyde Park,
1854 Crystal Palace re-erected on Sydenham Hill
1857 Indian Rebellion
1858 India under Crown Control
























1899 - 1902 Boer War


1904-5 Russo-Japanese War






1914-18 The Great War




1939-45 Second World War












Inauguration of Friends of Beckenham Place Park