As you begin to unlock the history of old medieval London, you’re bound to find a few surprises. Ravenscourt Park in Hammersmith is no exception. With a Green Flag Award, 13 hectares of natural, serene lakes and greens, the park itself hides a darker history. A lady clad in golden garments accused of witchcraft once dwelled here, and has much to do with how the park took its shape.
The true origins of Ravenscourt Park
Formally a medieval manor and estate of Palingswick in the 12th Century, Ravenscourt Park was originally home to King Edward III’s mistress Alice Perrers. A royal mistress and notorious woman, Alice Perrers rose from daughter of a town laborer and tavern whore, to become the mistress of the most powerful man in England. From accusations of witchcraft, devilry and usurpation of power, historians have called her everything from Alice the Destroyer, the greedy, the embezzler, to Alice the Unattractive. According to a monk who knew her well:
‘There was … in England a shameless woman and wanton harlot called Ales Peres, of base kindred … being neither beautiful or fair, she knew how to cover these defects with her flattering tongue …’
Today the lake in the middle of the park is a remnant of the moat that surrounded her manor. The park is also home to the beautiful walls and wrought iron gates of the Shakespeare Garden, as well as the former stable block to Ravenscourt Mansion.
With strong historical roots, and with the help of the Friends of Ravenscourt Park Walled Gardens, the local council actively promote natural conservation and biodiversity to ensure the park maintains its original plantings, as well as its role as an urban retreat for Hammersmith locals.
The park offers many facilities including tennis and basketball courts, a bowling green, an all-weather pitch, a walled garden, multiple play areas, and a paddling pool for children.
*Image credit to Peter Sigrist via Flickr