Penge Recreation Ground

Penge Recreation Ground (aka Penge Green) is one of several beautiful green spaces in Penge and was opened on July 4, 1888, with great municipal fanfare: brass bands, processions, speeches and banquets as was the custom in the late Victorian times. It faces the high street opposite St John’s Church and is three and a quarter hectares in size.

The new park served the recreational needs of a rapidly expanding Penge; hence it’s name. Population had increased twelvefold since the 400 residents of pre-1860. The arrival of the Crystal Palace in 1852 and the railways ensured the popularity of Penge as a semi-rural resort just outside London. The site is not far from the former Anerley Tea Gardens which was a popular stop on the old Croydon canal. The park itself is one of the last surviving segments of Penge Common.

There are three entrances into the park from Blean Grove, Laurel Grove and Maple Road. Up until the Second World War it was looked after by a park keeper whose house still stands in the grounds at the high street end. There was also an extensive greenhouse where a resident gardener grew all the flowers and plants. Like other parks it was locked at night.

The gardens and lawns were well tended and an ornamental knee-rail prevented access to them. Many decorative pictures were created with bedding plants, for example, the Entente Cordiale display. Even today, the vistas looking towards St John’s Church is very attractive with sweeping green lawns and the church spire in the distance. Many of the trees are over one hundred years old and varieties include oak, lime, horse-chestnut, plane, beech and Corsican pine.

There are rose borders and shrubberies lining the circular path. For many years there was an elaborately-detailed flower clock on the bank to the left on entry from the high street. Mrs Maple’s drinking-fountain, presented in 1889 by the wife of the furniture store magnate and MP,  is a central focal point at the end of the path on entry from the high street. The photo below shows the park in 1907.

A few years ago the park had a makeover by Bromley council after public consultation. The children’s swing area was vastly improved, new park lighting was established, paths re-surfaced and fenced off football and picnic areas were created. Mrs Maple’s terracotta granite drinking-fountain was cleaned, sand-polished and freshly paved. The park figures as a stop on one of the many heritage walks or children’s activities during the annual Penge Festival, on Penge Days or Pengefest. It has served as a suitable venue for the stalls and gazebos of Pengelicious. 

The park has never had any signage for several years now. This has left open the possibility of a name change to Penge Green by the recently formed Friends of Penge Green. Negotiations are going on with the council to effect this name change which will symbolise a new era in the park’s history. 

So far the Friends have had an open-air picnic, a pedal-cinema showing Ghostbusters at Halloween and extensive autumn bulb-planting. The Friends plan many improvements, and support Penge Parters in its aim to  repair the vandalised drinking fountain.

A War Memorial, erected in 1925, stands outside the entrance. New plaques were installed in a moving ceremony in November, 2014, commemorating the local civilian and military dead of World War Two. An annual service of remembrance takes place every year in November with the laying of poppy wreaths. On March 22, 2018, a commemorative service was held for Private Herbert Columbine, VC, and a memorial pavement plaque installed.

With an active Friends Group the park appears to be at the beginning of a new chapter in its life.

See link: Facebook page Friends of Penge Green/