Wormholt Park: the first hundred years

Peter Trott is a local resident and historian, spending much time in the H&F Archives. Here he shares his discoveries regarding the history of Wormholt Park.

Wormholt Park (photograph probably taken in the 1920s)

Wormholt Park (photograph probably taken in the 1920s)

The name ‘Wormeholt’ first appeared in 1189, and is actually a combination of the old English Worme or Wyrm and Holt, which indicates the area was once a snake infested wood. By the nineteenth century the Manor of Wormholt Barns was split into two parts; Wormholt and Eynham lands. Later it changed to Old Oak Farm and Wormholt Farm. By 1845 Old Oak Farm consisted of over 368 acres divided into 32 fields.

In the early 1900s the Ecclesiastical Commissioners decided to sell parts of the Wormholt and Old Oak Farms for development. Part of the deal between the Commissioners and Hammersmith Council was for a donation of a piece of land of approximately 7¾ acres for recreational purposes. There were some delays but by early 1909 Hammersmith Council were deliberating over three names for the new park; Oakland’s Park, Old Oak Park or Wormholt Park. The land was conveyed the same year and named Wormholt Park, but confusingly there are several references in Council Minutes to it being called Sawley Road Park.

The Coronation of King George V and Queen Mary took place on 22 June 1911 and the Council had hoped that as part of the Coronation celebrations a member of the Royal Family might officially open Wormholt Park. Unfortunately no one was available and instead the honour went to the Mayor of Hammersmith, Councillor Norman William Shairp, who opened the park at 1.30pm on Tuesday 27 June 1911. As part of his speech he said:

“I am pleased indeed to come here today to open the park for you as I consider it to be a great acquisition to your Borough”.

Adding that

“The park was not so large as they would like to see and the trees were not quite so leafy as they would like to see, but they had the grass green, and if they had patience to wait the trees would give a quantity of leaf”

and in conclusion he said:

“I have, therefore, the pleasurable duty and honour of declaring this Wormholt Park open and to be dedicated for ever to the use of the inhabitants of the Borough of Hammersmith.”

Bloemfontein Lido shortly after it opened in 1923

Bloemfontein Lido shortly after it opened in 1923

The park opened with a pavilion and tennis courts, but quickly developed with the addition of benches, water fountains and children’s playground. The open-air lido in Bloemfontein Road opened in 1923. A bandstand was erected in the park in 1931 and records for 1934 show the attendances ranged from 400 to 650 people for each band performance. In 1936 a bowling green was opened and the new pavilion became the home of the Shepherds Bush Bowling Club, who moved from Ravenscourt Park. The club went on to celebrate their centenary in 1964.

Opening of Wormholt Park bowling green in 1936

Opening of Wormholt Park bowling green in 1936

But the Second World War saw the park dug up and turned into shelter trenches and allotments. Flower beds were planted with cabbages and the greenhouse was used to grow tomatoes and cucumbers. Even though the war ended in 1945 there was still food shortages and rationing so the allotments remained right up to December 1950.

WW2 queue for plants and produce at Wormholt Park

WW2 queue for plants and produce at Wormholt Park

The early 50s saw the saw the rebirth of the park. The shelter trenches were filled in, two war-damaged tennis courts reconstructed and the playground resurfaced. It became the centre of the community with school sports days, grand Bank Holiday galas and even a giant tented theatre. A report in the West London Observer of 9 August 1957 reported that 3,000 people attended a Gala that year.

Wormholt school boys race, school year 1957-58

Wormholt school boys race, school year 1957-58

Wormholt School Cup and League winning team 1959

Wormholt School Cup and League winning team 1959

In 1972 the first set PlayCubes in England were erected in the park. The modular system of fibreglass cubes was an invention of American designer Richard Dattner. A company called Play Planning of London presented a set of PlayCubes to the London Borough of Hammersmith to help promote sales in this country.

Wormholt Park playcubes 1972

Wormholt Park playcubes 1972

The popular Bloemfontein Road open-air swimming pool closed in 1979 and was replaced by an indoor swimming pool, but that in turn was demolished in 2003. The Bloom now stands on the exact site. Within the park the bowling green was closed down in the early 1980s, despite a last ditch petition to save it. A new children’s play area replaced it.

Wormholt Park - New childrens play area 1988

Wormholt Park – New childrens play area 1988

Events still continued to be held in the park; one of the largest being ‘The Lark in the Park’ in July 1984 organised by the Wormholt Tenants’ Association when around 3,000 people turned up. Around this time the park was also used as a location for some episodes of the popular BBC children’s series Grange Hill.

But by the early 2000s the park looked sad and neglected. In 2009 a small group of friends got together to campaign for better maintenance and facilities, and to encourage greater use of the park by local residents. Word of their work spread and the Friends of Wormholt Park were formed. Incidentally, their very first event was a picnic which took place in the park on Sunday 26 June 2011. At that time no one had any idea exactly what day or month the park had actually opened, so you will understand our great surprise when it was discovered the park was officially opened on 27 June 1911.

(L-R) Pearly King Harry Mayhead, Pearly Queen Doreen Golding, Mayor Frances Stainton and 100 year old Peggy Aslett

Wormholt Park Centenary celebrations:
(L-R) Pearly King Harry Mayhead, Pearly Queen Doreen Golding, Mayor Frances Stainton and 100 year old Peggy Aslett

Further to the new development at the junction of Sawley Road and Bloemfontein Road (The Bloom) H&F Council secured money from the developers to spend on redeveloping the Park. The Friends of Wormholt Park have been involved in the consultation process and have given considerable input into the plans which have now been agreed and it is proposed that the work will start in early 2015.

[Peter Trott]

Peter’s book ‘Wormholt Park the first hundred years’ is full of interesting photos and facts about the park and the surrounding area. Copies are available at events run by the Friends of Wormholt Park. It costs £3.50 and all the proceeds go back into the park.

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2 Responses to Wormholt Park: the first hundred years

  1. David Rowe says:

    Bombed out of Crocus Walk (Off DuCane Road) early in the war – Our next House on the Westway also bombed, the night before we were to move in. Allocated a House in Bryony Road (No 25). Whilst living in Germany in the early 60s;s my Parents were moved to Hammersmith (Marryat Court). After my Mothers Death – My Father went to live with my Sister in Lemsford Hartfordshire.

    Ended up settlling in Wiltshire after a 38 yr spell in the Army. During a 2 yr spell in London in the 80 I revisited Bryony Road = Looled very similar – except it now has London Buses running up and down – plus a few more telegraph poles.

  2. S. Montague says:

    Attended Wormholt Park school sometime 1936-9 under the tutelage of the wonderful Miss Wild who taught a class of ordinary young children to read and spell it seems in a matter of days. Memory playing tricks perhaps; however she was a most kind and gentle instructor; is there any old pre-war pupils who remember her-if so please communicate- she is very well worth remembering.

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