Not Greenwich Park, number 3: Manor House Gardens

Run by: Lewisham Council/Glendale Services
Distance from Greenwich Park? 1.6 miles on foot – cross Blackheath and walk via Heath Lane (map)
Manor House Gardens in a sentence: Secret haven in the back streets of Lee.

It took me until 2010 to discover Manor House Gardens. Why would you if you don’t live in the immediate area? Tucked away off the Lee High Road, and hidden on three sides, it’s easy to miss. I came across it by accident while on an early cycle ride – I wheeled myself in, and found myself gawping at a fountain in the middle of a beautiful lake. How had I missed out on this place?

So my knowledge of Manor House Gardens is limited. But I do know it was restored in 2000, bringing nature back to what had been a dead lake and breathing life back into the park. It’s dominated by the manor house itself, once owned by the Barings banking family but sold to the London County Council in 1901. The following year the house became a library and the grounds became a park, and things have stayed that way since.

Just below the manor house is an ice house, recently restored and opened to the public occasionally. But that’s not the main attraction these days – that honour goes to the first Pistachios in the Park cafe, a favourite with local families.

Come during the week and you’ll find a secluded getaway, with kids playing and mums chatting – but at weekends Manor House Gardens is buzzing with local families. Once inside, it’s deceptively large, but it’s only when you walk around the streets surrounding the park that you realise how small it is.

The revival of Manor House Gardens has provided a template for revamping green spaces all over London; followed even more closely in East Greenwich Pleasaunce and Hilly Fields, Brockley, which have both gained their own Pistachios branches.

If you’ve never been, it’s worth a look. You’ll wonder why you’ll never been before – but be grateful that this part of London can still offer such pleasant surprises, even to those who thought they knew it all.


  1. Keep meaning to comment on this, being as it’s my manor so to speak, but haven’t managed to find a spare moment until now. Manor House Gardens is a lovely park, but it’s become very very bugaboo-mummy, so I guess if listening to mummies bemoaning the fact that they can’t get their kids into the local schools is your thing then it’s a good place to go. 🙂 I used to like the cafe but had a few instances of poor service and a couple of friends have had bad experiences. The coffee is adequate, in that it contains caffeine…. The playground is good for small children, but once they hit 3 they’ll be bored.

    Just down the road is the lesser known Manor Park, which also now has a cafe. I haven’t tried it myself.

    Mountsfield Park is a bit further along again, on the “wrong side of the tracks”, i.e. west of Hither Green station on the borders with Catford. It has the potential to be a fantastic park, but at the moment it’s just that, potential. Lewisham council seem to have chosen to invest their cash elsewhere in places like Ladywell fields and Hilly fields, so Mountsfield Park remains very much the poor relation, despite its great views, fun playground (suitable for older children as well as littlies) and of course being host to peoples day when the Olympics isn’t in town. 🙂

  2. Interested to see these comments. I fell in love with this park in 1992 when my kids were little. At the time it was still pretty much devastated by the 1987 storms. We left London the following year but I remembered Manor House Gardens and used it as a pivotal scene in the novel I’ve written set in Edwardian London and the South Africa of the Boer War. I have returned twice. The first was on a very crowded hot day in the summer of 2010 when schools had just broken up. The second was on a quiet mid week morning in 2011 and sitting on a bench just by the lake could see it just as I’d seen it in my imagination. Wonderful !

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