One of the our committee members and long time friend of Larkhall Park is Julia Barfield. Here are her recollections of the early days of the park.
In 1978 David Marks, Andy Ingham and myself had just finished our Architectural studies at the Architectural Association (AA) and, being idealistic, community minded, fledgling architects, we became involved in the Larkhall Park Action Group(LPAG). Carl although not directly involved was very supportive, as he had been one of our tutors at the AA.
The LPAG was set up in response to the council’s inaction in creating the park. All through the 1970s, since we arrived in about 1972/3, it was surrounded tall by a corrugated iron fence and builders had started to use it for dumping building rubble) .
The photo to the right was taken in the early 1970s looking towards Courland Grove from Priory Grove.
I can remember a public meeting (1977?) where a group of residents threatened to pull down the corrugated iron ourselves if the council didn’t get on with it. The council started to remove the corrugated iron within three weeks!.
(As an aside - there was a young lawyer at that meeting called Bob Ayling, who spoke very eloquently and who we got to know as a result. He lived in Hartington Rd. Many years later in 1994 we hadn’t seen him in a while and were watching the news – to our surprise Bob Ayling appeared – he was now chief executive of British Airways. We had the idea for the Millennium wheel and went to see him about it. As a result BA eventually backed the project and helped make it happen. So Larkhall Park played a part in the history of the London Eye as well).
The photo to the left shows the Priory Grove entrance.
But the park wasn’t landscaped. There was a plan but I suppose David, Andy and I thought it was not good enough so we set about consulting with all the neighbours around the park to find out what they wanted and drew up our own ‘Alternative Plan’ based on those findings.
We presented the plan to Ted Hollamby (at that time director of architecture and planning at Lambeth) at a meeting in the Baptist Hall. One or two of our ideas were incorporated into the plan - like the walled rose garden and extra entrances. Other ideas like the bamboo grove, wild life area, meadow area and pond weren’t.
At the same time David and I found out about a government grant scheme called the Inner-city partnership fund. It was only available for community projects through local community groups. We successfully won half a million pounds for the park. However once we won the money the council took charge of it and didn’t consult with us at all going forward. They built the café and changing room building among other things, with the money.
The news bulletin is to the left.