From Just Beyond London by Gordon S Maxwell

From Just Beyond London by Gordon S Maxwell, Methuen, 1927

Gordon Maxwell’s chapter, entitled A London Wonderland, described a day spent in Gunnersbury Park, shortly before it opened as a public park. These are short extracts.

As I stood upon the terrace in front of the two present mansions the view before me was one on which I could spend many a long day gazing before I should tire of it.

A lawn of the finest turf sloped down to the edge of the lake – a long narrow curved stretch of water that looks rather like the reach of a small river. On the right bank is the Orangery, a building that might have been there in the Princess’s time by the look of it. Beyond is a grove of magnificent trees as a background, and a shrubbery, which here and there gives a glimpse of grass walks.

Crossing the lawn . . . and going over the small bridge that spans the lake, I found myself in the famous Japanese garden. This is a truly wonderful spot. Exotic plants, little bridges over winding waterways and small stone “temples” or shrines scattered here and there give it a very real Oriental look. . . Baron Rothschild must have spent a small fortune on this part of his estate alone; I am told that his gardener went specially to Japan more than once for rare plants to adorn this Eastern wonderland.

Beyond this garden I was surprised to find what looked like part of a ruined abbey: it was very real at a distance and very unreal near to. On going behind the scenes I found the other side was a stable wall . . . And behind the ruins are the stables, with a picturesque bell tower over the coach-house and the spacious paved yard into which many a royal coach must have driven in the old days.

The Friends of Gunnersbury Park & Museum published a booklet, Gunnersbury Park in the 1920s, which contains the whole of this chapter, together with eight illustrations taken from some of the first postcard views of Gunnersbury. You can purchase a copy for £2.50 by post (please add 75p postage) from the Friends of Gunnersbury Park & Museum, 25 Hartington Road, London W4 3TL.