This is a large triangle of green that gave its name to the wider area and although nearly lost to development, survives as a public park.
The pocket park, and later the wider area was named after the rectors of the parish of Fulham whose residence once adjoined this patch of land. From the late 17th-century onwards, the area surrounding the green became the focus for fine houses and grounds built by merchants and the gentry within easy distance of London, yet in a more wholesome location away from the urban noise and pollution. A number of Georgian houses have survived, some of them replacing earlier Tudor and Elizabethan buildings.
The triangular plot of land is clearly visible in John Rocque’s map of 1746, with houses on the eastern side and the parsonage on the right. Much of the rest of the area was still mostly fields though. By the late 19th century, the triangle of land is clearly marked out as a park, with paths across it and trees running along all three sides.
The green was common land, until it was bought by the Metropolitan Board of Works in January 1881. There’s a suggestion that the Board of Works bought the land for development as they swiftly fenced it off, but were later required to open it for the public.
The rectory that gives the area its name was demolished in 1882, and St. Dionis Church was built on its site. The church is named after St Dionis Backchurch, a parish church in the City of London of medieval origin, which was rebuilt after the Great Fire of London to the designs of Christopher Wren. After being declared unsafe, it was demolished in 1878.
St. Dionis, Parsons Green, was paid for with the proceeds of the sale of the site in the City of London. The name “Dionis” is, in fact, a corruption of Denis, the name of the traditional apostle of France who was beheaded while trying to convert the Parisians in the 3rd century.
The church, therefore, is dedicated to Saint Denis.
The park itself has been managed by Hammersmith and Fulham council since 1971.
Today it’s mainly a large triangle of grass with paths crisscrossing it, and a lot of very old trees around the edges adding shade and character to an otherwise fairly plain triangle of grass. That is part of its appeal though – plenty of grass to lounge on in summer, with enough large trees casting shade so that it doesn’t become a barren heat trap either.
There’s a sign at the edge of the park giving a short history of it and has been there without change for a long time, as it refers to the London Borough of Hammersmith, which ceased to exist in 1979.