A new pocket park has appeared in Bermondsey recently, hidden within a housing estate that’s also open to the public, most of the time.
A former industrial estate – once home to the tannery trade, which flourished in Bermondsey in the 19th century, as well as a factory where Crosse & Blackwell manufactured pickle for over 60 years — has recently been redeveloped into housing, using a mix of modern and restored older buildings.
At the heart are two public facilities, a pocket park and a contemporary art gallery, the Drawing Room, which occupies a space that’s also being leased out to artists.
The pocket park space sits in the heart of a newly created central square, which was created from some of the site clearances and is mainly made up of tall, slender trees sitting in their own individual squares planted with rich grasses. A number of tables and chairs are slotted in between the trees to give people a reason to sit here rather than just walk through.
Although obviously more of use to the local residents, the developer built a public art gallery as part of the local community contributions, so the seating is likely to get much more use as the art gallery gets more attention.
The art gallery building has been leased to the Drawing Room on a low rent agreement for the next 25 years, giving them a permanent home for the first time since the arts organisation was created 20 years ago. Away from the new exhibition space, there are also a number of artist studios with large ceiling windows that are being rented out by Tannery Arts.
The rest of the Tannery estate is a mix of semi-industrial buildings that have been converted into either housing or new office space for renting out, and several private parks for the residents only.
You can’t see it unless invited in, but there’s a very impressive staircase made from dark-coloured concrete that almost looks rubbery from a distance until you get up close and touch it. It was designed by Coffey Architects, who were also responsible for the rest of the estate conversion.
The public pocket park and the walkway leading to it are open during the daytime, but the gates are closed at night except for access to the art gallery if they are having a late opening.