The Corporation of the City of London has, since the mid-nineteenth century, been responsible for the preservation of many open spaces in and around London, largely stemming from its long and famous legal battles to prevent the enclosure of Epping Forest, which it finally acquired, and still maintains, under the authority of the Epping Forest Act 1878 [41 & 42 Vict., c. ccxiii].
By the Corporation of London (Open Spaces) Act 1878, the Corporation was authorised to acquire land in mortmain within 25 miles of the City as open space for the recreation and enjoyment of the public.
The open spaces outside the City were not acquired and are not supported at the expense of the local or national taxpayer: they are currently maintained out of the Corporation's own private funds, known as the City's Cash, or money from charitable bequests. Because some of the open spaces were originally purchased with money out of the Corporation's corn duty funds, or funds in Court allocated to the Corporation, the Corporation's foremost finance committee, the Coal, Corn and Finance (later the Coal, Corn and Rates Finance) Committee, had an interest in such open spaces from the beginning until 1966. The name of the committee itself reflected the importance of the coal and corn duties to the Corporation's finances in former times. It was therefore this committee which originally managed most of the Corporation's open spaces outside the City, except for Bunhill Fields Burial Ground, which was administered by the City Lands Committee from the 17th century. West Ham Park always had, and still has, its own separate Committee of Managers. From 1 September 1966 responsibility for those open spaces which had been under the control of the Coal, Corn and Rates Finance Committee was transferred to the Epping Forest Committee, which was thence renamed the Epping Forest and Open Spaces Committee. At the same time, responsibility for Bunhill Fields Burial Ground passed from the City Lands Committee to the Streets Committee, now the Planning and Transportation Committee, which administers Bunhill Fields and those open spaces which are within the City through its Trees, Gardens and Open Spaces Sub-Committee.
The open spaces outside the City of London which are owned and maintained by the Corporation of London today comprise the following:
Epping Forest (including Wanstead Park);
Kent and Surrey Commons (including Coulsdon Commons (i.e. Coulsdon and Kenley Commons, Riddlesdown and Farthingdown), Spring Park, West Wickham Common, and Ashtead Common);
West Ham Park;
Queen's Park, Kilburn;
Bunhill Fields Burial Ground.
Former open spaces and related areas outside the City, no longer owned or operated by the Corporation, include the following:
Walton-on-the-Hill, Surrey (not an open space);
The Corporation of London also owns and/or manages numerous smaller open spaces within the City of London, which are not included in this summary, although the C.L.R.O. does hold archives relating to them.
Following the execution of King Charles I in January 1649, and the declaration of England as a Commonwealth, a day of public thanksgiving was appointed to be observed on 7 June 1649. Members of the House of Commons were on that day the guests of the Lord Mayor and Common Council at a dinner at Grocers' Hall and a thanksgiving service at the church of Christ Church, Newgate Street. So pleased were they with their flattering reception, that, in return, the House of Commons granted to the Corporation the New Park of Richmond, Surrey (alias Richmond Great Park) by Act of Parliament. The park was returned to royal hands on the restoration of the monarchy in 1660.
SHIPLAKE LOCK ISLAND:
Shiplake Lock Island in the River Thames in Oxfordshire was purchased by the Corporation in 1891 from City's Cash funds in order to preserve the amenities for bathing and camping. Subject to the rights of the public, the island was let in perpetuity in 1914 to the Thames Conservancy Board.
During the time that it was in direct Corporation control, Shiplake Lock Island was managed by the Corporation's City Lands Committee.
WALTON-ON-THE-HILL (not an open space)
The Corporation purchased just over 62 acres of land from the Nork Park estate at Walton-on-the-Hill, Surrey, including Street Farm, Walton, from the Earl of Egmont on 29 March 1892, the money being found from the City's Cash funds and from moneys in Court standing to the Corporation's credit applicable to the purchase of real estate. The purchase was made to obtain for the Corporation valuable commoner's rights, and thus a locus standi in the preservation of commons in the parish of Walton-on-the-Hill against any future encroachments on the rights of the commoners. The land was never intended or used, therefore, as a public open space itself, but was subsequently leased for agricultural use by the Corporation. About three quarters of an acre of the land was sold to Banstead Urban District Council for housing in October 1945. The Corporation sold the land in 1977.
Whilst in Corporation control, the land was administered by the Corporation's City Lands Committee.