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.

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 park’s 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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  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.


    • Geronimo says:

      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.

    • David Boxall says:

      My grandfather was the head park keeper at Lyle Park back in the 1940’s until the late 1950’s we used to live in the park house situated near the tennis courts, sadly the house was demolished years ago, the park then had three people working full time, a nice bowling green, putting green and cold frames where they grew there own plants for this and other Parks, the Park was always blooming with colour, now that has all gone. but even then the Park was never full with people, there was a bandstand and a small building with glass windows that you could sit in and watch the traffic on the river away from the weather, also a top entrance which allowed workers from the outside factories to come into the park, that entrance has now gone and the bit of land is being used by one of the factories. I lived in the Park house from 1946 until 1960

  2. Matt says:

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

    • Matt says:

      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 says:

    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 says:

      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 says:

    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 says:

    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.

  6. sumo73 says:

    I went and visited Lyle park recently and there were very few people around. I then walked over to Thames Barrier Park and the place had a lot more people in it but you have to remember that Thames Barrier Park is over 6.5 times bigger in size and has more amenities in it. Good news however was that the drinking fountain/tap in Lyle park works!

    Since the last reply here was in 2012 the area has changed further with more new housing being built with new people moving into the area. They will surely use both parks in the future.

    The Minoco Wharf (used to have status as a safeguarded wharf) redevelopment aka Royal Wharf is currently (2016) being developed. Earlier this year however Newham Council received a planning application for the demolition of Deanston Wharf and for the construction of 764 new residential-led mixed use development units.

    What’s new here is that the original plans for Royal Wharf stopped just before Deanston Wharf but if this goes ahead this development next to Royal Wharf will be right next to Lyle Park.

    Something tells me however this isn’t the last of the developments around this area. Expect more to come.

  7. Kevin says:

    Just discovered this park today. Deserted on a summer’s early evening. Surprising how well kept the place is, so many well tended trees and shrubs. And no drunks or drug addicts or litter. The drinking fountain tap was not working. The park is just west of the millions of new flats being built, and concrete factories, scrap yards, waste dumps, etc, lie to the west of it. Strange to see the row of maybe 10 small 1950s(?) houses just across from the park entrance and the one single house next to the two tennis courts – no other houses anywhere to be seen on this side of the main road.

    • Peter says:

      Finally had a chance to visit this lovely park. Sunday morning, not a person in sight. The grounds are well kept, many beautiful mature trees. All kind of building works in the area, looks like several more hundred flats going up around the corner. A quiet oasis that deserves attention and protection.

  8. So pleased my childhood Little park is still alive If I dream Iam always there playing ..beautiful park spent many a day feeding the swans this was in the 60/70s I remember the parks working away all with caps on and wearing wellies and big long aprons I’ve walk that little park a thousand times good times

  9. Terri edridge says:

    Love lyle Park been coming over for years and years.. Just wondering when the water fountains will be putting on this year. As I bring me dog over everyday. So handed to have it here. Thank you.

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