Thursday 17 August 2017

Morden Hall Park

The remarkable thing about London is that wherever you are in this densely populated, built up city you are never far from a green space. Some may just be a small play area whilst others are large parks. There are others which when they were established were on the fringes of London and to this day still have the feel of an old country estate. One of these is Morden Hall Park.
The area around this part of Morden was originally owned by Westminster Abbey and was listed in the Domesday Book. All this changed with the Dissolution of the Monasteries and the land was eventually sold to Sir Richard Garth who became the Lord of the Manor. The estate remained in the Garth family for centuries and they lived within the park at Morden Hall. After the Hall was used as a school for young gentlemen in the 1840s the Garth family sold the park and its buildings to Gilliat Hatfeild in 1872.
Hatfeild was a tobacco merchant and the River Wandle running through the park allowed for a watermill to be built. It is still in working order today but once it was used to power the grinder which turned the tobacco leaves into snuff after they had been roasted on site. 
During the First World War Morden Hall was used as a military hospital and the production of snuff on the site ceased in 1922. By this stage Gilliat Hatfeild had died and the estate was in the hands of his bachelor son Gilliat Edward Hatfeild. As a single man Hatfeild felt that Morden Hall was too big for him and preferred to live in the smaller Morden Cottage. With no direct heirs he left the estate to the National Trust upon his death in 1941. Hatfeild was known for his fondness of children and opened up his land to the local children. The park is still free to enter with the only charges made for car parking.
One of the other attractions of living in Morden Cottage was that it was situated next to the Rose Garden. This was a favourite spot of Gilliat Edward Hatfeild and when the children came to play in the garden he was often spotted with his basket in hand, gardening gloves on, deadheading the roses. The design of the original rose garden was years ahead of its time with 48 irregular and circular beds with standard roses and climbing varieties going up poles. Through the centre runs a stream that links up to the River Wandle.
With water so much of a feature in the park it shouldn't be a surprise to come across the wetland area. A new wooden broadwalk through it makes for an easy nature walk amongst the bullrushes and water birds who have made their home there.
The stream that runs through the rose garden also pops up in the garden centre. It can crossed by two bridges as you browse the outside displays. Don't go home empty-handed!

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