Common land v. property developers.

There’s a new play currently on at the National Theatre called Common about the fight in early-industrial Britain for retaining common land and yesterday in Ruskin Park I walked with Leo and saw a portrait in a pub celebrating the individuals who made it happen in the early 1800’s. Ruskin Park is in Denmark Hill near Brixton, it’s 36 acres with views back to the City – you can clearly see Big Ben and The London Eye. There are more parks in South London because South London developed later than the north side of the river and there was still time, back in those days, to establish them – and I feel New Zealand is now at that point. Leo, who I’m staying with, says it’s the one thing he finds little a depressing about New Zealand, everyone seems to is so obsessed with property prices.  This must, in my opinion, have some effect on the provision for public space. Most of the green areas around where I live are sports grounds – wouldn’t it be good if we turned them back to parks?
A brief history; Common land was held by the lord of the local manor back in the day and he would allow local people to some rights on it: grazing animals, gathering wood for fuel and sowing small plots to grow food. These rights were granted as an unwritten social contract. Between the 16th and 19th centuries, traditional land uses shifted as Britain moved from a feudal system to a capitalist one and it increasingly befitted landowners to turn every single square metre a profit, including the common land. Many of the locals (or commoners) had come to rely on the land, so when fences were put up and the woodlands cleared, they pulled them down. Direct action and legal interventions of the day led to the creation of Clapham Common, Tooting Bec Common, Peckham Rye Common, Wandsworth Common, Wimbledon Common and so many more common parks in south London, including Ruskin Park where these images were taken.

Author: Tony Richards

This is a travel journal for family and friends interested in my stories that I've continued as a general blog now I'm back at home. I chat about design, music, pastries, the people I meet, and new thoughts and ideas – I hope you'll tune in.

4 thoughts on “Common land v. property developers.”

  1. its necessary to have the green space, when the population difference is –
    15 people/square km in NZ
    243 people/square km in UK
    Auckland is the same size a London but London has 10 time the population.
    Hope you are going to come back and do something about it , to ensure that we have the space, or are you a winging expat.

    1. I’m not sure how to unpack this comment but will say generally this blog encourages lively discussion and discourages insult. London in the 1800s had a much smaller population than it has now, and all I was trying to say was there were enlightened individuals who prioritised common space over the interests of private ownership at that time, and I was simply pointing out that as a virtue. I am making a difference by publically sharing my thoughts, it’s a small thing but is a part of raising awareness and discussion, so I am doing something. Finally, I am not an expat, I’m just travelling abroad and I’m reflecting on New Zealand and comparing it to other places, and this should not be confused or put down as ‘whinging’ – which, by the way, is spelt with an ‘h’.

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