Danson Park

Danson Park, Bexley

A historic parkland site and surrounding suburban development, situated west of Bexleyheath and south of Welling

Danson House elevation

The estate was men­tioned as ‘Den­syn­ton’ and ‘Dans­ing­ton’ in the late 13th cen­tu­ry and the name may have referred to a farm­stead belong­ing to a man called Den­e­sige. It had become Danston by 1327 but the final change to Dan­son was­n’t record­ed until c.1762, when sug­ar mer­chant John Boyd com­mis­sioned the con­struc­tion of what Pevs­ner calls a “crys­talline vil­la” here.

Shown in the pho­to above, the vil­la was designed by Robert Tay­lor, one of the archi­tects of the Bank of Eng­land, and its grounds were land­scaped in the style of Capa­bil­i­ty Brown – or per­haps by the man him­self. Brown may also have been respon­si­ble for Chapel House, a churchi­fied cot­tage built on the far side of the park as an eye-catch­er.

Dan­son House was orig­i­nal­ly flanked by free-stand­ing pavil­ions, which were demol­ished around 1800, when the present sta­ble block was built.

In 1881 Alfred Bean – then own­er of the Dan­son estate – began to devel­op the neigh­bour­ing sub­urb of Welling. Bean died in 1890 but his wid­ow sur­vived for anoth­er 31 years, where­upon the Dan­son estate was divid­ed into lots and sold.

Bex­ley coun­cil bought the man­sion and 224 acres of park­land for £15,000 in 1924 and spent anoth­er £3,500 con­vert­ing the park for pub­lic use. The remain­der of the estate was spo­rad­i­cal­ly devel­oped for hous­ing over a peri­od of near­ly 15 years with a vari­ety of styles and sizes rang­ing from semi-detached bun­ga­lows to mock-Tudor man­sions, plus a hand­ful of mod­ernist vil­las. Post-war change in the Dan­son local­i­ty has most­ly been lim­it­ed to the improve­ment and enlarge­ment of exist­ing prop­er­ties.

From 1995 to 2005 Dan­son House was metic­u­lous­ly restored from a state of near ruin by lease­hold­ers Eng­lish Her­itage, while the sta­ble block was con­vert­ed to a pub and restau­rant, shown in the pho­to below.

Hidden London: Danson stables

The grade I list­ed man­sion was placed in the care of Bex­ley Her­itage Trust, which organ­ised exhi­bi­tions and a vari­ety of events here. Dis­mal­ly, the Lon­don Bor­ough of Bex­ley revoked its grant to the BHT from the start of the 2016 finan­cial year. The trust did not sur­vive this body blow and the coun­cil took direct con­trol of Dan­son House, mak­ing it the borough’s reg­is­ter office while also open­ing it to the pub­lic every Sun­day from 10am to 4pm. It’s doubt­ful whether Eng­lish Her­itage would have drained its restora­tion funds if it had known pub­lic access would be so restrict­ed.

The adjoin­ing park­land is per­haps the borough’s finest open space and boasts exten­sive sport­ing facil­i­ties. The lake is used for boat­ing and wind­surf­ing.

Now sep­a­rat­ed from the park by the A2 Rochester Way, Chapel House has sur­vived but it is on Eng­lish Her­itage’s At Risk Reg­is­ter.

Postcode areas: Welling, DA16 and Bexleyheath, DA6
Population: 10,864 (2011 census)
Further reading: Richard Lea and Chris Miele, Danson House: The Anatomy of a Georgian Villa, English Heritage, 2011
See also: neighbouring Upton and its Red House

 

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* The picture of Danson House at the top of this page is adapted from an original photograph uploaded by ‘Primrose’ to Pixabay. The photo of Danson Stables is by the author.