Shadbolt Park

Shadbolt House in October 2010
Shadbolt House in October 2010
Image courtesy of Peter Reed © 2010

In the 16th century, the land now known as Worcester Park was part of the Great Park of Nonsuch Palace. It was named after Worcester House, built for Lord Worcester who was the Keeper of the Great Park and of Nonsuch Palace. The Great Park was sold off and the original Worcester House was demolished and another built, and a farm established.

In the late 19th C, much of the land belonging to Worcester Park House and farm was sold for housing. In 1920, Ernest Ifill Shadbolt, a former railway engineer in India, bought a piece of land off The Avenue known as Darkfields, so called as a nearby copse cast dark shadows across the field. Mr Shadbolt was a keen plants man and gardener and was a member of the Metropolitan and Public Gardens Association. The Association, which was founded in 1882, worked to preserve open spaces, large and small gardens for the people of London.

Composite 1933 OS Map of Shadbolt Park - Click image to enlarge
Composite 1933 OS Map of Shadbolt Park
Click image to enlarge.

Ernest Shadbolt began to lay out the gardens around his new house and filled them with rare trees and shrubs from around the world. It was reported that he "converted the land from a wild field into a private garden" He had contacts with Kew and probably many of the rare specimens that he introduced in his garden came from there.

After his death in 1936, the houses and gardens were offered to the Epsom and Ewell Council and they were purchased for £3,500 in 1937. An additional small plot (0.21 acres) was also purchased to provide access from Edenfield Gardens.

Shadbolt Park was opened to the public in 1937. Mr W J Bean, CVO, VMH, compiled a catalogue of trees and shrubs in the garden, their origin, date of introduction to this country and their appearance for the Metropolitan Gardens Association (in conjunction with Epsom and Ewell Council). The introduction to the catalogue praised the Council for "their foresight and public spirit in purchasing the park.....which sets a seal upon the lifework of the former owner, Mr E Shadbolt"

Shadbolt Park can be described as a little gem - it is compact with level paths giving access to all of it. It is quiet and tranquil and is well used.

Conclusion: The layout of the park remains much as it was when the gardens were laid out and is a great tribute to Mr Shadbolt's design and planting. The trees have matured and while there have been some casualties, a replanting programme is ongoing.

In 2005/6 a new survey of the trees in the park was carried out by Jeremy Young, EEBC's Tree Officer accompanied by two members of the Surrey Gardens Trust. It was to identify trees that were in the 1937 catalogue and are still in existence today. Newer introductions planted after Mr Bean's Survey are also noted.

Shadbolt Trees 1
Shadbolt Trees 1 Shadbolt Trees 3
Shadbolt Trees 4 Shadbolt Park 2
Shadbolt New Pond
Some of the trees and the new pond in Shadbolt Park
Images courtesy of Carol Hill © 2010

Article researched and written by Carol Hill

Worcester Park and Cuddington, Rymill D, 2000
Epsom and Ewell Borough Council Minutes, 1937
Lost Farms of Ewell, Abdy C, 1995
Tree Survey of Interesting Trees in Shadbolt Park, Young J, 2006

Extract from The Times 18th June 1936



Ernest Ifill Shadbolt, who died at his home at Worcester Park yesterday near the completion of his 85th year, had a distinguished career in railway engineering in India, and with one exception was the oldest surviving member of the Coopers Hill (Engineering) Society.

He was born on July 15, 1851, and after private education went to the then newly: established Royal Indian Engineering College , at Coopers Hill. He passed out in the autumn of 1874 and was appointed to the Railway Branch of the Public Works Department. For the first nine years of his service he was assistant engineer on the construction of the Indore, Dhond-Manmad, and Bhopal State Railways. After being 'executive engineer of the construction of the Sind-Pishin Railway, his services were lent to the Bhavanagar and Gondal States for the construction of lines which are now part of the Kathiawar Railways. Later, he was engineer-in-chief of a number of railway surveys in the South - those of the Bezwada-Madras, Madura-Pamban, and Tinnevelly-Quilon lines. A work of which he was justly proud was the construction of the Kotri-Rohri bridge over the Indus, at the time one of the greatest engineering feats of its kind. The construction of large bridges was, indeed, a principal feature of his work. He was also engaged on the Shadipalli-Balotra Railway and in 1902 he was appointed Senior Inspector of Railways and Railway Secretary to the Madras Government. From 1904 to 1906 he was Director of Railway Construction to the Government of India.

In the 30 years which have since elapsed Mr. Shadbolt interested himself in the pro motion of open spaces, and was vice-chairman and treasurer of the Metropolitan Public Gardens Association. He was keen on music and on gardening and arboriculture, and his own garden contained some 40 different varieties of trees. He was unmarried, and his niece Miss Brimble, kept house for him.

The funeral will be at Norwood Cemetery tomorrow at midday.

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Lady Berkeley
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