A new set of history boards – partly funded by Surrey CCC – have been unveiled in nearby Kennington Park.
The historic city park, just over the road from The Kia Oval, is a key feature of the Kennington neighbourhood in which the ground has stood for 176 years – and boasts some fascinating history.
Originally known as Kennington Common, the park is thought to have hosted cricket matches as early as 1724, with reports of a match between London and Dartford. Continued cricket in the park is then said to have focused around the nearby Horn’s Tavern, which became the site where the Surrey CCC was founded, 121 years later.
The Horn’s Tavern was badly damaged by a ‘Doodlebug’ bomb during the Second World War and knocked down in the 1960s. Its memory is commemorated by the ‘Horn’s Tavern’ bar at the very top of the Micky Stewart Members’ Pavilion at The Kia Oval.
Other famous figures to be associated with Kennington Park include:
– The founder of Methodism John Wesley, who is supposed to have preached to a crowd of 30,000 in 1739
– The film star Charlie Chaplin, who played in the park as a child in the late nineteenth century and is reported to have met his first girlfriend there
– The poet John Betjeman, who dedicated his first Collins Guide to the Parish Church to the memory of St. Agnes, a church that used to stand in the park
– The band Pink Floyd, who did part of their first ever photoshoot in the park’s historic flower garden in 1967
– Bob Marley, who frequently visited the former Rastafarian Temple and played football in the park with friends and fellow members of The Wailers whilst recording his classic ‘Exodus’ record in London.
In recent years, Surrey CCC have helped to return cricket to the park by installing a non turf pitch on the park’s extension, in front of the nearby Brandon Estate – as well as investing in the reseeding of a nearby football pitch.
The boards commemorate and draw attention to that history, as well as the park’s birdlife and biodiversity. There are also other boards to celebrate the wider stories of the nearby area – including a board telling the story of The Oval and the many great players to have starred at the ground, including West Indian icon Viv Richards, who hit 291 at the ground in the famous 1976 Test Match.
They were produced by the local Friends of Kennington Park organisation and unveiled last week by local MP Florence Eshalomi, alongside Year 6 from the nearby Henry Fawcett Primary School.
At the event, Friends of Kennington Park chair Marietta Crichton Stuart thanked the Lambeth Council Landscapes team and Surrey County Cricket Club for their help and support and the team of volunteers who researched all the stories.
One of those attending commented to Marietta, ‘how lovely to see King Viv being celebrated in the park, just across the road from the Oval ground’.
Jon Surtees, Head of Community at Surrey County Cricket Club, added: “We were really happy to be able to support Friends of Kennington Park, who do a great job of looking after one of the most important parts of our local community.
“Surrey CCC are incredibly proud of the part we play in the history of Kennington and are honoured to have the Club’s heritage displayed for all to see in one of London’s finest local parks.”