Lloyd Park has been a favourite recreational place for Walthamstow residents since it was officially opened by Sam Woods MP, on 28th July 1900. Although the estate has probably been in existence from the 16th century, the name of Lloyd Park was only established when the grounds were opened as a park. The newspaper publisher Edward Lloyd had bought the house and surrounding land in 1857 and lived in the house with his family until 1885. The house was uninhabited for a while and then rented, until in 1898 Frank Lloyd, a son of Edward, offered the house and gardens on behalf of the family, to the Walthamstow Urban District Council. The gift was to be used by the public as pleasure grounds – providing the council bought some adjoining land to be used as playing fields. The estate, which had seen many name changes over the years including Cricklewood, Hawkes Capp, Whinnes Cap, Whynnes and The Winns, was initially to be called William Morris Park but was instead renamed in honour of its benefactor – Lloyd Park.
The park’s early days
The council made various changes to the grounds and house, laying out the new flowerbeds and adding a new terrace at the back of the house, which had previously had lawns extending down to the island. The rectangular moat surrounding the island was cleaned out and new water fowl purchased. The moat is one of the oldest recorded Historical Monuments of Walthamstow having been there prior to 1714. The island was already planted with numerous trees including aspens, hollies, and chestnuts, and also had a boathouse and two fishponds.
During the early days of the Park there was a Bandstand on the island, which later gave way to a concert pavilion. A new pavilion was built in 1937 and was gradually enlarged and altered over the years until it was removed in the recent revamp of the park. Music was a very popular entertainment in the park and Bands were hired to play on the bandstand on the island and also on another bandstand erected in the lower field in 1906. There was also a sports pavilion in the playing field area which was used by many sports clubs as well as being used on Walthamstow Schools District sports days. From 1905 to 1910 The Walthamstow Avenue Football Club among other Football Clubs, had their home pitch in the park. Other early park amenities included a grotto, shelters, toilets, refreshments kiosk, rockery, fish pool, drinking fountains, an Attendants Office, a bowling green and tennis courts. The War Memorial which is now in the grounds of the Town Hall was also initially erected in the park.
A children’s ‘gymnasium’ was built in the park although there were separate areas for boys and girls. By 1909 it was decided to close the children’s playground and instead plant the area with trees and shrubs. Not until1930 was a playground re-introduced with swings, seesaws and a slide.
Growth and new plans
In 1912 the council purchased a further 16 acres of the Avelins Estate which roughly doubled the size of the park. Their intention was to build a new Fire Station, a Council Works Department Depot, a Tramway extension Depot, and a Nursery and Greenhouses. This would leave an additional 10 acres of playing field to allow for more cricket and football pitches, an additional bowling green, and more tennis courts. However only the Tramway extension was built and the remaining land was added to the playing field and recreational area.
Prefabs were built in the park after the Second World War to help alleviate the housing shortage caused by bombings. These were later demolished to make way for a new school building for William Fitt School in 1962, later becoming Aveling Park School. A ‘Garden for the Blind’, laid out in 1957, was an innovative project and the first of its kind. The garden contained a variety of sweet smelling plants, mainly in raised beds which enable unsighted people to wander round and identify the various species by their Braille labels as well as by their scent.
The present Mansion house dates from around 1760 but there was probably an earlier house on the site. Between 1911 and 1943 the house was used as offices for children’s medical and dental services, and school attendance departments. The house has been known as The Water House, Lloyd Park Mansion and latterly William Morris Gallery, after its most famous inhabitant William Morris whose family lived in the house from 1848 to 1856. The house was turned into a Museum of Morris’ life and works in 1950, the collection being complemented by works from other Victorian and later artists. To the left of the house there were a number of greenhouses and a conservatory. These housed a variety of plants including a wonderful display of chrysanthemums. The Chrysanthemum Show was a very popular event in the town and was opened to the public in the autumn before the flowers were sent on to local hospitals.
The park has seen many changes over the years but continues to be one of the most renowned and best loved places in Walthamstow.
Text: Sue Nisbet, 2013