The open ground where the park was to be
established was known in the early 19th century as Hunger
Hill Common Field, with the unusual hillock as a main feature
and a few isolated oak trees and elms. The area got its present
name from Roundwood House, a magnificent Elizabethan-style
mansion which had been built for Lord Decies about 1836 and
between 1856-1936 was the home of the Furness family. It stood
on a hill across what is now an open field. After the death
of George James Furness the property was sold to Willesden
Council and shortly afterwards the fine old building was destroyed.
Harlesden Brook runs underground in the little valley between
the open field and the fence separating it from the main park.
Another fine building called Knowles Tower used to stand where
the Anansi Nursery is now, near the Longstone Avenue gate.
|For many years Willesden Local Board, seeing
the Harlesden area gradually changing from open countryside
into residential estates, had been considering the need
for a local recreation ground. In 1892 the Board started
the process of buying the land for what is now Roundwood
Park and appointed Oliver Claude Robson as the main architect.
He was Surveyor to the Local Board, and later to Willesden
District Council, for 43 years (1875-1918). Before the
Park he engineered the main drainage and sewerage of Willesden.
Robson was allowed to spend £9000 setting out the
Park. He put in 5 miles of drains, and planted an additional
14,500 trees and shrubs. Robson is commemorated by a plaque
on the drinking fountain near the main entrance.
Park at the turn of the century
Park floral displays
| Planting and laying out took
rather a long time, since Robson chose to use labour from
the local unemployed rather than get in contractors. Ever
since then the Park maintains a high level of horticulture,
having even won prizes for its floral displays. Previously
plants and shrubs were grown in on-site greenhouses (as
seen in the old picture above). These have now been demolished.
|The fine main gates and railings were built
in 1895 by the firm of Messrs. Tickner and Partington
at the Vulcan 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.
drinking fountain and the Lodge
A very 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 red-brick
lodge was in the Victorian Elizabethan style, with ornamented
chimney-breasts. It is currently occupied by council
Roundwood Park was opened 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 the opening
speech Mr. Pinkham (Chairman of the Parks Committee) gave
full credit to the architect: "… It was formerly a miniature
Dartmoor without the granite, and Mr. Robson had left them
a veritable Garden of Eden without the serpents".
|Robson decided that a refreshment chalet would be a
good idea for the Park, and in 1897 a suitable building
was designed and constructed by council employees. It
was of brick and timber construction with a steeply pitched
slate roof and gables, with a verandah on all sides. Various
franchise owners succeeded one another, and a new building
was constructed in 1958 as the old one became run down.
Currently it features a children's playground and a nice
outside sitting area.
at Roundwood Park
|Roundwood Park has always been devoted to
floral displays and a relaxing quiet environment. Sporting
activities were not catered for in general, with the exception
of a Bowling Green built near the centre of the southern
path. It opened in June 1924 and has been a success story
ever since. Occasionally it has been the target of vandals,
for instance in 1958, but is usually in fine condition.
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.
After an approach by Willesden & District Caged Birds
Society in 1955, the Council approved the establishment
of an aviary. It was built the following year, 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 are zebra finches,
cockatiels and canaries.
the aviary is in the background
|The wild life area is a recent
addition to the Park. It used to have a pond surrounding
the large willow tree. This has been filled in to prevent
children from drowning. The area is the quietest section
of the Park, and a sanctuary for such birds as Blue Tit,
Chaffinch, Mistle Thrush and Great Spotted Woodpecker,
as well as many common species.
For more than 10 years after the Park
opened, the Willesden Junction Brass Band gave concerts
at the bandstand. The 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. The hilltop became the
viewing point. As band 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 £6750.
This had been well used, especially for children's events,
but has also seen Shakespeare performed. Currently it
is closed and run down.
view from the top of the hill.
Wembley Stadium can be seen
in the distance.
bandstand at the turn of the century
same place today
court. The Jewish cemetery
can be seen behind the wall.
On the other site of the hill there is a basketball
court. It was originally the children's playground
then known as the 'gymnasium'. Between this and the
fence is the storage area for compost, the recycling
Once a model railway track existed here. It was set
up by the Willesden and West London Society of Model
Engineers. A temporary track had been laid for the
1953 Willesden Carnival, and in 1954 it opened as
a permanent attraction.
Charges for rides were 6p for adults and 3p for children,
of which the Council were to take 50%. By 1957 steam engines
were circuiting the raised loop of multiple gauge track during
the summer months (subject to weather) on Thursday evenings
and weekend afternoons & evenings. Roundwood Park Model Railway
Club were running the enterprise in the early 1970's, but
sadly the system fell into disuse, and was removed in 1998.
The beautiful fish pond near the Lodge was proposed by the
Willesden & District Aquarist Club during 1956, and completed
in 1957. It boasts a large willow and tulip trees.
Roundwood Park has been the setting for
many public events. In its long history it had seen numerous
religious and political open-air meetings, circuses and all
the fun of the fair. For many years it was home to the Willesden
Show when the place would be crowded with people. 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 motor cycling 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.
The above information is an extract
Roundwood Park. Notes on its history
by Cliff Wadsworth, available from the Willesden
Local History Society.
The old postcards are kindly provided
by Dilwyn Chambers of the Willesden Local History