latchmere recreation ground - background and history
We don’t know much about the history of the Rec but we are researching it and will share our findings on this website. We would welcome information from anyone who knows about the history.
The Ordinance Survey Map 1865
This map shows that the land now occupied by the Rec was in agricultural use. Latchmere Lane is shown (though its course has since been straightened) but the part of Latchmere Road which abuts the Rec is shown as the line of a boundary hedge.
This line is also marked as the boundary between Richmond and Kingston boroughs (Canbury ward). The Rec, therefore, lay within the Borough of Richmond.
The area now occupied by Aldersbrook Drive is shown as open fields but there is a tree-lined stream between them and the Rec. (See ‘the Latchmere Brook, below).
The Ordinance Survey Map 1933
This shows the first row of houses in Latchmere Road, as it diverges from Latchmere Lane but neither the upper end of Latchmere Road nor Tudor Drive have yet been built. The site of Latchmere school is shown as allotment gardens. From just behind Durlston Road can be seen the apple orchards which stretched the whole length of the Tudor Estate.
Ownership of the land
Since the 17th century most of the land between the Thames at Ham House and North Kingston was owned by the Earl of Dysart. At the beginning of the 20th century, the then Lord Dysart disposed of this land to the relevant local Councils. Because of the sensitivity and national importance of the views from the top of Richmond Hill (which formed part of the disposal) it was the subject of legislation, the Richmond, Petersham and Ham Open Spaces Act 1902.
While the Richmond riverside and Petersham meadows are the main focus of the Act, Part III relates to the land which now forms the Latchmere Recreation Ground.
It states that:
‘The Corporation shall at all times retain and preserve the said piece of land as a cricket and athletic ground or other place of exercise and recreation for the use of the inhabitants of the said Borough and other persons in conjunction with such inhabitants .........and the Corporation shall not suffer any building to be erected thereon or on any part thereof except a pavilion or such other building or buildings as may conduce to the more convenient user of the said piece of land as aforesaid....
The constraints placed on the Council in terms of building on the Rec are set out in the Covenant (see below).
The Rec during World War II
The whole of the Rec was converted into allotments during the 1939-1945 war. In 1944, a V1 Flying bomb landed on the Rec. No-one was hurt but the bomb caused extensive damage to Latchmere School.
In 1945, the Ministry of Health gave Kingston Council the power (for a 10 year period) to use some of the Rec for temporary housing, as part of the drive to replace the houses lost in the war but these powers were never used.
The Latchmere Brook
Beneath the Rec, close to the boundary with Aldersbrook Drive lies the Latchmere Stream or Latchmere Brook.
The source of this stream is near the junction between Canbury Road and Richmond Road. With the increased urbanisation of Kingston in the early 19th century it served as an open sewer and became a public nuisance and health hazard. In 1866, the Kingston Board of Guardians reported that ‘The stench from this ditch, which is an open one, is always bad, but in summer it is beyond words to describe’. This and other open sewers were the cause of serious public health problems and, in the 1890s the old Latchmere Brook, which, for some, was the only source of drinking water, was cited as the cause of fatalities through infant diarrhoea and diphtheria.
The stream was covered over (culverted) throughout its whole length in the early 20th Century.
It now emerges 50 metres west of Ham Gate, outside Richmond Park then flows a short distance before entering the park under the wall and joining the Sudbrook by Ham Gate Pond.
The Restrictive Covenant
Local people feel a passionate sense of ownership of the rec.
And rightly so. It was given to us, the community, by Lord Dysart in 1904, by an Act of Parliament.
Some of you will have heard of the covenant…It is a legal document restricting how the rec can be used. A brief extract of the most relevant points from the Act is given below.
‘The corporation shall at all times preserve the said piece of land as a cricket and athletic ground or other place of exercise and recreation. The corporation shall not suffer any building to be erected thereon…except a pavilion or other such building or buildings as may conduce to the more convenient use of the land.’
The whole Act can be seen here:
The Old Latchmerians are a group of past pupils who attended Latchmere School between 1939-45 and remain an active element of it, coming to talk to the Year 6 pupils about their experiences during WW2 whilst at Latchmere. The Chair, Owen Walters has written a book about the School.
He, and others of the group, have a rich store of memories of the Rec and the surrounding area which we are hoping to record.