The Community-Led Transformation of Lordship Rec

Lordship Rec, Tottenham’s largest public park at 26ha, is bordered by 2 large Council estates (Broadwater Farm and Tower Gardens) and streets of terraced housing of all tenures. In 2001, when the Friends of Lordship Rec set up, it was a poorly-maintained and virtually abandoned park with no on-site staffing, no flower beds, semi-derelict buildings, poor quality and decaying infrastructure, and few organised user groups or activities apart from a mother & toddler group running an old hut, and a local youth football club (Broadwater United) managing the enclosed sports pitch.

Inspired by the successful and comprehensive community-led improvements to Broadwater Farm throughout the 1990s, the Friends conducted an initial park users’ survey: ‘How Can Our Park Be Improved?’, and then teamed up with Broadwater United FC to launch the Lordship Rec Users Forum (LRUF). The aims of the Forum were to get all the stakeholders’ organisations (User Groups, Council, Residents Associations, Schools etc) to work together, to promote and encourage a range of new user groups, to develop a community-led vision to regenerate the site, to lobby for the resources needed to achieve that vision, and to move towards joint community/Council management of the site.

The Friends and the Users Forum have ever since continued to meet monthly and to consult the public widely to achieve the above, and indeed our achievements have multiplied beyond even our own wildest expectations!

  • The number, breadth and membership of dedicated autonomous user groups has mushroomed, and now includes the Friends, Broadwater United FC, a new Lordship Rec FC, Wildlife Group, the Parent & Toddler Group, Walking Group, Lordship Sports & Activities Consortium, Friends of Harmony Gardens,  youth cycling club, Rockstone bike shop/workshop, mobility cycling club, Shell Performing Arts Collective, and a Woodland Management Group
  • Guided by the results of public surveys and consultation efforts, and after 5 years of discussions, preparations, planning and design, and lobbying of funding bodies, the LRUF and Council succeeded in obtaining £5m, mainly from the Heritage Lottery Fund, for much-needed regeneration works. Weekly LRUF/Council coordination meetings have oversaw the completion of these works in 2012, including a brand-new flower-lined channel for the River Moselle, a new Loop bike dirt track, an Environmental Hub building with cafe and classroom, refurbishment of the Shell Theatre along with a new park staff team depot, renovation of the enclosed sports pitch, restoration of the historic and nationally-unique Model Traffic Area, new meadows, flower-beds and tree planting, and general improvements to drainage, paths and entrances
  • There are now a wide range of public activities and events in the park organised by local groups, including the regular LRUF-organised Community Festival. 2012’s ‘re-launch’ festival in September 2012 introduced the new facilities, attracting 8,000 local residents, double our previous highest turnout!
    * Building upon the growing partnerships and co-management philosophy developed in the last few years at every level of decision-making, the Friends, LRUF and Council are committed to the ongoing co-management of the park as a whole, and the micro-management of each of its facilities and features, eg Lordship Woodland and Lake / Friends; Bike track / Trax Club; Spinney / Lordship Wildlife Group; Eco-Hub / Friends & Co-op; Football Field / Broadwater United; Harmony Gardens / Friends; Shell Theatre / Performing Arts Collective; – and other potential similar micro-partnership arrangements.
  • Inspired by the improvements achieved so far the key partners continue to meet for monthly Lordship Practical Coordination meetings to monitor any ongoing works, discuss maintenance and repairs and plan further improvements and the fundraising necessary to achieve them, and to encourage and coordinate a wide range of events and activities by user groups.

Lordship Rec – Past, Present and Future

A History of Tottenham’s largest park

1800s-1900s Downhills manor/estate straddles area – to become Downhills Park and Lordship Rec in the 20th century. Included Moselle River and adjacent ornamental lake (thought to be on the site of a Saxon ‘moat’). Green spaces were also known locally as ‘uplands’, ‘downhills’ and ‘mount pleasant’ at different times.
1910-20 Tower Gardens Estate built. To the south there are allotments + river + marsh + a ‘Broadwaters’ farm
1932 Lordship Rec created by Tottenham Council.
1936 10,000 local people attend Lordship Rec grand opening
1938 Model Traffic Area (MTA), unique in UK, opened.
1940 Downhills Shelter (in southern part of park) suffers wartime bomb direct hit. 40+ local people killed.
1950s – 70s Park’s heyday eg MTA, Shell theatre events, boating lake and ‘cascades’ etc
1966 Thousands attend Haringey Show in the Rec (on World Cup Final Day!)
1970s Broadwater Farm Estate built. Loss of many allotments.
1980s – 90s Cuts to maintenance and staffing cause serious decline
1980s Closure of lido by the Rec – replaced by housing. More open space lost. Broadwater United football teams save, improve and run the enclosed Sports Field. Woodland planted at the south of the park.
1985 BWF disturbances: Inquiry report calls for regeneration of estate and park. Broadwater Farm Residents Association demand improvements to the area, including park (eg. help install new BMX track).
1990s BWF Estate residents drive forward regeneration of the estate, and new Community Centre built next to park. Organise multicultural festivals in centre and park. Broadwater United football teams multiply, and continue to manage sport pitch in the Rec.
1990s Some physical improvements in the Rec (drainage, BMX track) but chronic lack of staffing and maintenance continues. Mother & Toddler Group take over disused hut as play facility (later to be co-managed with the Friends)
1998-9 Tower Gardens Residents Network launched to the north. Friends of Downhills Park launched to the south. Both groups very active and in achieving improvements.
2001 Friends of Lordship Rec launched, inspired by the neighbouring community efforts. Met monthly ever since.
2002 Resident-led Lordship Rec Users Forum set up for community/council coordination to achieve improvements – have met monthly ever since.
2000s Friends organise annual community festivals in Rec, including ‘Restore The Rec’ ones. Development of range of user groups and a vision for community-led regeneration/renewal.
2005-7 Some investment in active play areas. Friends rescue/improve woodland and lake areas. Staffing re-introduced after Friends lobbying.
2008 Back 2 Earth local charity set up to promote food growing, healthy eating and environmental sustainability in the Community Centre and in the future Rec.
2009- User groups continue to flourish eg. Harmony Gardens food growing in the grounds of the Community Centre, Trax cycling club weekly youth sessions, Walking Group weekly walks, Lordship Wildlife Group, Lordship Rec FC…
2011/12 LRUF hold weekly coordination meetings to oversee regeneration plans.
2012/3 Regeneration and renewal works implemented, including restoring and bringing Rec heritage features alive again!! (eg Shell, MTA, River, main entrance). 8,000 attend Lordship Rec ‘Re-Launch’ Community Festival in September. Park gets Fields In Trust ‘QE2’ status protection for all time, and wins runner-up award for ‘most improved’ of 1,500 such FiT spaces. Also receives London-In-Bloom Gold.
2013 onwards Planned community/council joint management of the park and ‘micro-management’ of its specific facilities/areas…
2014 Friends of Lordship Rec start a co-operative to take over the running of the new building that is named Lordship Hub. The Rec now has a cafe and toilets so that people can spend all day in the park enjoying themselves. The Lordship Hub Co-op, with its many local community members, develop a thriving community centre run by paid staff and volunteers, with classes for all ages, cultural events, workshops, talks etc and rooms to hire for private parties and conferences. It also becomes the base for all the Lordship Rec User Groups and volunteers.
2018 Volunteering in the Rec continues to grow, with new groups starting up and long may it continue!

The regeneration works we’ve campaigned for are now done

  • A new community building (The Hub) has been built by the playground including café, toilets, classrooms and meeting rooms.
  • The Shell Theatre has been refurbished as a staff depot, and for performances
  • A new river channel has been created at the bottom of the main field, with new bridges. The old ‘ditch’ channel has been filled in as a nature corridor.
  • The old toilet block at the main entrance has been refurbished as Bike maintenance area.
  • Underground drainage pipes have been put in throughout the park.
  • The sports field has been resurfaced and reseeded.
  • New bike track A new BMX track has been built around the adventure playground and the spinney.
  • Meadows/trees Meadows have been created & additional trees planted in many areas.
  • Paths Some of the paths have been resurfaced, and more lighting added.
  • Outdoor Gym Lots of equipment for all sorts of exercise and fitness training.