While Mr Tate of Tate and Lyle is famous for giving a gallery to the country, rather less known is the generosity of the other half of the company – which is manifest in a public park donated by Sir Leonard Lyle.

Abraham Lyle & Son was one of a number of food processors which came here from the west of Scotland and established a factory at Plaistow Wharf in 1881. In 1878 Henry Tate and Sons of Liverpool had moved to Thames Wharf where they manufactured sugar cubes. The two firms joined in 1921 although they kept their separate sites.

In 1924, Sir Leonard Lyle donated the land to West Ham and opened a park for the benefit of local residents. At the time, a lot of people lived in the area, crammed in around the warehouses and factories and the provision of a park was a rare oasis of greenery in the region.

Today, there is considerably less housing in the area as modern transport encouraged people to live further away from work and commute each day – but the park remains.

Lyle Park - by the riverside

Unless you know about it, the park is not something you will stumble upon by accident – it is on a small side street and all that is evident to the causal glance is a small park with a children’s play area dominating the space (map link).

Getting into the park proved a mini-challenge as the main gate was locked – but spying a parent with children inside suggested entry is possible – and a side gate turned out to be the entrance of preference.

What is not obvious is that around the corner from the children’s park is a long path, lined with trees and tended planting that leads the main park, which is split into two areas.

Path down to the main park

A football ground dominates the first half, with what looks like changing rooms to one side. The football pitch is still in use judging by the freshly applied paint to the grass and seems to be home to the Canning Town football club.

A raised area further along has had a varied history. Originally laid out with planting and a bandstand in the centre, this was redesigned in the 1970s with the bandstand removed and the area re-landscaped.

In 1994 a set of ornamental wrought iron gates was installed as a decorative feature. These are the original gates to the Harland & Wolff factory which was based in North Woolwich between 1924 to 1972 and handled repairs to ships.

Harland & Wolff factory gates

When I arrived the park was utterly deserted.

Generally speaking, if there is a park, it will have people in it, even if just drunken layabouts, but this park was utterly abandoned by humans. The aforementioned dad and two children did wander down for a short look around, but didn’t linger.

The lack of local housing and the parks distance from the rest of the businesses in the area is probably a large part to do with the lack of users but it did seem a bit of a pity. Admittedly, the fact that it is surrounded by a factory on one side and an aggregates store on the other might be an additional deterrent.

There are some nice touches though. I quite liked the litter bins, very much more the sort of thing I expect to see in a woodland park than the usual cheap metal bins you might expect in municipal parks.

At the bottom of the football pitch sits a water fountain which is also a war memorial. It appears to have moved at some point, as older photos show it being a in a more prominent location, but is now shunted a couple of meters to one side to sit next to the wall.

Memorial water fountain

The water tap didn’t work.

The inscription on the war memorial is still intact though, and strongly reminded me in style of the Postman’s Park plaques, although that could be pure coincidence.

Inscription on the water fountain

It’s a desolate park, and probably looks nicer and maybe busier during the summer months, and I am not the only person to have observed its emptiness. It rewards a detour from the nearby rather busier Barrier Park next to the Thames Barrier though.

The football pitch

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9 Comments

  1. A shame the place appears abandoned. I suspect my Nan and her brothers would have played there when they were kids as they were living in Canning Town inthe 20′s/30′s.

    Glen

    • Geronimo

      I worked at Tate and Lyle for over 38 years until 2003 and very often wandered down to Lyle Park.It was always well used and I can only think that when this report was written (in March) that it was a cool day. Go back in June and later to see throngs of folk enjoying the open spaces and childrens’ playground. A lovely oasis to be enjoyed by all.

  2. Matt

    Do we know if this park will remain with these plans for Minoco Wharf by developer Ballymore?

    • Matt

      Just to confirm, this new major development will be right next to this park but will not encroach on it. May mean in the future a lot more punters will use it.

  3. David Boxall

    The park used to have a park keepers 3 bedroom house inside the park, I lived there from about 1947 when I was 6 years old until the 1960′s (sadly this was demolished in 1970/80′s) , My grandfarther was the head park keeper and had two other men working with him, they had a hut with a coal fire stove, you would always find the local bobby having a cup of tea with them, They looked after Lyle Park and also another park a mile further away, as well as road side tree planting in the area. The park was a lot different then, a bowling green, putting green, lots of flower beds all arround the park , behind our house were a lot of cold frames where the keepers grew their own flowers for the parks. A lot of people lived in the area then, I have only been back a couple of times and feel sad to see it now, everybody now uses the Thames Barrier Park just a walk away.

    • jeff wiseman

      i worked in a factory next to lyle park,c moreland haynes,steel fabricators they were taken over by boulton and paul in 1959 the works team used to play football at lunchtime every day,and this training helped us win the walthamstow and district league about that time.

  4. sylvia mastin nee tranter

    my dadf where at tate and lyle since he was 15 yrs.old until he had to go to war in the 1939-45, he then went backj to t and l was became a pansman where he workd until ill health in the 708s. I have an illuminted address given to him for 25 years service. at that time the office manager was a mr. green.

  5. sylvia mastin nee tranter

    my dadf where at tate and lyle since he was 15 yrs.old until he had to go to war in the 1939-45, he then went backj to t and l was became a pansman where he workd until ill health in the 708s. I have an illuminted address given to him for 25 years service. at that time the office manager was a mr. green.

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