The History of Roundwood Park

by Hazelle Jackson

The drinking fountain in Roundwood Park was erected to commemorate the formal opening of the park on 11th May 1895 by R.D.M. Little, Q.C., Chairman of Middlesex County Council, who 'dedicated it for ever to the people'.

In his opening speech Mr. Pinkham (Chairman of the Parks Committee) gave full credit to the architect, Oliver Robson, saying: "... It was formerly a miniature Dartmoor without the granite, and Mr. Robson had left them a veritable Garden of Eden without the serpents".

Roundwood Park, which is in the London Borough of Brent, takes its name from Roundwood House, an Elizabethan-style mansion built in Harlesden for Lord Decies in around 1836.

In 1892 Willesden Local Board, conscious of a need for a recreation ground in expanding Harlesden, started the process of buying the land for what is now Roundwood Park and appointed Oliver Claude Robson as the main architect. Robson was Surveyor to the Local Board, and later to Willesden District Council, for 43 years (1875-1918).

Robson was allocated £9000 to lay out the park. He put in five miles of drains, and planted an additional 14,500 trees and shrubs. This took quite a long time as he used local unemployed labour for this work in preference to contractors.

The fine main gates and railings were made in 1895 by Messrs. Tickner & Partington at theVulcan Works, Harrow Road, Kensal Rise. The gracefully curving wrought iron fence is 270 feet long and the hammered open work has a maximum height of 18 feet. Decorative details on the pedestrian gates included the Willesden Local Board arms, but these have disappeared over the years, as have most of the general acanthus leaf embellishments.

A fine lodge house was built to house the gardener; greenhouses erected to supply new flowers, and paths constructed, running upward to the focal point-an elegant bandstand on the top of the hill. The redbrick lodge was in the Victorian Elizabethan style, with ornamented chimney-breasts. It is currently occupied by council employees although the green houses have been demolished.

In 1956 an aviary was established in the park by Willesden & District Caged Birds Society and the Society stocked it as a gesture of goodwill. Although successful in terms of being fox-proof, it has been the subject of theft. Budgerigars worth £50 were stolen in the summer of 1963, and the security of the building was improved. Among the occupants today are zebra finches, cockatiels and canaries.

Drinking fountain in Roundwood Park

Moira Griffiths's photo of the drinking fountain in Roundwood Park appears on the cover of the Autumn 2003 edition of the Trust's magazine London Landscapes.

The inscription on the plaque commemorates the opening of the park in 1895.

Brass Band Concerts

For more than 10 years after the park opened, the Willesden Junction Brass Band gave concerts at the bandstand. These became so popular, that a new rustic-type bandstand was built to the south of the 'Gymnasium' (children's playground), where more space for the audience was available.

As tastes changed, the concerts lost their popularity, so the park lost its bandstand. In its place a new Summer Theatre was built in 1959 at an estimated cost of £6,750. This was well used, especially for children's events but currently it is closed and run down.

To mark the 100th anniversary of the park in 1995, the paved rosebush-lined central pathway was equipped with sturdy new seats and a 'Victorian' gazebo.

The wild life area is a recent addition to the park. It used to have a pond surrounding the large willow tree but this has been filled in to prevent children from drowning. The area is the quietest section of the park. The fishpond near the Lodge was proposed by the Willesden & District Aquarist Club during 1956, and completed in 1957.

For many years Roundwood Park was home to the Willesden Show. Owners of pets of many types, flowers and vegetables, and even 'bonny babies' would compete for prizes in large canvas tents. Art and crafts were shown, and demonstrations of dog-handling, sheep-shearing, parachuting and trick motorcycling given. Later this became the Brent Show. Currently events take place on the open space on the southern side of the Park rather than on the main territory.