Exploring Southwark and discovering its history
Guy Street Park is a green oasis in a built up area close to Guy's Hospital on the borders of Borough and Bermondsey. The space was opened as a recreation ground in 1899 at a time when the area was even more densely populated and the surrounding streets were full of small terraced houses without gardens that were often insanitary and overcrowded. Long Lane Playground was not yet open, Tabard Garden was not laid out until after the first world war as part of a London County Council slum clearance scheme, and the nearest public open space, Newington Gardens, was over a mile away.
Guy’s Hospital bought the land as a burial ground in 1789 but closed for further burials in the 1850s. After this, it was used as a builder's yard but in October 1896, the Bermondsey Vestry approached the London County Council with a proposal that the former burial ground be purchased jointly, with contributions from other interested organisations, for a much needed space for public recreation. The Governors of Guy’s Hospital were willing to sell the land for £4,600. The breakdown of final contributions was:
London County Council £2300
Bermondsey Vestry £1186
St Olave’s Vestry £300
St George the Martyr Vestry £164
Guinness Trustees £150 (who had tenement blocks locally in Snowsfields)
Additionally, the Metropolitan Public Gardens Trust also donated £500 for laying out and agreed to pay £200 p.a. for maintenance. The LCC also provided £890 for fencing and erection of children’s playground apparatus. The park was originally called the Nelson Street Recreation Ground but became known locally as the Kipling Street Park when Nelson Street was renamed.
The Park suffered damage in World War II which was repaired and the park extended. Nevertheless, by the end of the 1990s, the park had become very run down and a group of local residents, who later formed a friends group, lobbied the Council. As a result, a fully renovated park with work carried out in full consultation with the community, was opened in 2003. It includes planting and a shrubbery, a court for ball games, a children’s play area and a large rope climbing frame.