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Inside the blast pens at Kenley airfield

​Inside the blast pens at Kenley airfield

Over 125 years protecting green spaces

The City of London's commitment to open spaces dates back to the 1870s when, in response to the rapid disappearance of many public open areas to make way for the building of new suburban homes and other developments, it embarked on an ambitious project to safeguard some of what remained.

As a result two Acts of Parliament were passed in 1878 that granted the City of London the right to acquire and protect both Epping Forest and land within 25 miles of the City for the recreation and enjoyment of the public. This far-sighted policy was the inspiration behind the later Green Belt movement, designed to protect the countryside around other British cities from urban sprawl.

The City and beyond

Today, we manage approximately 200 parks and gardens within the Square Mile and we own, protect and manage some of Londoners' favourite leisure spots - such as Epping Forest, Hampstead Heath, Highgate Wood, Queen’s Park and West Ham Park.

Further afield in London we own, protect and manage Burnham Beeches and Stoke Common in West London, City of London Cemetery and Crematorium and City Commons (comprising of seven spaces) in South London and Surrey.​

Open space heritage

Each of our individual open spaces have their own heritage; highlights include:

  • Scheduled English Heritage monuments
  • Many Listed buildings
  • Large manor estates
  • Significant archaeological sites
  • War barracks and military history
  • An Iron Age Fort
  • Churchyards and City gardens
  • Large landscapes of ancient pollards
  • A stunning Edwardian pergola
  • Grade I listed Cemetery

Securing heritage for future generations at Kenley Common

    Investigating the concrete ramps at Kenley airfield
    ​Investigating the concrete ramps at Kenley Airfield

Originally part of Coulsdon Manor Kenley was primarily farm land used for grazing. Kenly Common was bought by the Corporation of London in 1883.

In the early 20th century parts of the common were acquired by the Ministry of Defence to form Kenley Airfield. During the First World War planes were assembled and tested for squadrons in France at Kenley. Concrete runways were laid in World War II and, as headquarters of 'B' Sector in the No 11 Group of fighter stations, Kenley was soon playing a key role in the Battle of Britain. RAF operations ceased in 1959 and Kenley is now the last remaining Battle of Britain fighter station in the southeast to remain in its World War II form. Evidence of its proud wartime service survives in seven fighter blast pens, a rifle range and the original runways.

In 2013 the City of London received a £56 000 development grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund to develop the Kenley Revival Project which will conserve the building and airfield infrastructure. Central to the project will be the development of a new interpretation strategy that will make the heritage of the airfield more accessible through a range of on site and off site activities. These will include new interpretation boards, trails and events as well as a learning programme for schools and the community. The project will develop exciting and accessible opportunities for people to engage with and learn about the airfield’s rich history.

Off site activities will centre on the development of a new website that, in addition to telling the story of Kenley, will also enable people to upload and share objects and memories that relate to Kenley.

We are also exploring a relationship with East Surrey Museum which will allow onsite interpretation and the website to be supported by gallery displays.

The project will not only conserve Kenley's remarkable heritage but more importantly involve communities and generate an improved sense of ownership and legacy securing the airfield's heritage for future generations.

Commonwealth War Graves at Manor Park Cemetery and Crematorium

    Graves at Manor Park Cemetery
    ​Graves at Manor Park Cemetery

​August 2014 saw the 100th Anniversary of the start of the Great War. Although the German War machine was in motion before this date, it was the 4 August 1914 when Great Britain and the Commonwealth declared War on Germany.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission is an intergovernmental organization of six member states whose principal function is to record and maintain the graves and places of commemoration of Commonwealth of Nations military service members who died in the two World Wars.

During the 'Great War' Major General Sir Fabian Ware became concerned about the fate of the graves in the post-war period. The government felt that it was more appropriate to entrust the work to a specially appointed body rather than to any existing government department. So on 21 May 1917 the Imperial War Graves Commission was established by Royal Charter, with the Prince of Wales serving as president. The name was changed to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission in 1960.

Across the world there are 500 CWGC Heritage Sites, the City of London Cemetery is one of only 100 or so that are located within the UK. Within the cemetery there is a CWGC memorial to both world wars as well as hundreds of individual graves dotted around the cemetery that either have a ‘War Grave’ memorial on them or an inscription to one who died of the effects of war. The Great War memorial in St Dionis Road has a Cross of Sacrifice, a plaque wall inscribed with the names of those buried with the area in communal graves as well as a number of private graves and those with a 'War Graves' memorial.

Within the grassed area at the back of this plot and under the 'Cross of Sacrifice' are the communal graves of many young men who died of their injuries in the military hospitals of Bethnal Green, Mile End, Homerton Hackney and the City of London. An interpretation panel was erected in 2014 at the Great War memorial, this panel tells the story of some of the sacrifices made during that terrible conflict.

In 2013, the cemetery was approached by the CWGC regarding the repair and levelling of the private memorials in the 'War Graves area' as they wished to improve the soft landscaping of the area. This work was agreed and the cemetery Memorial Management Team carried out the work in early 2014.