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Record number: WCP546

Sent by:
Alfred Russel Wallace
Sent to:
London County Council

Sent by Alfred Russel Wallace, N/A to London County Council [address not recorded] on  [1890].

Record created:
01 June 2002 by Lucas, Paula J.


No summary available at this time.

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  • letter (1)

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LETTER (WCP546.546)

An author's draft handwritten by author in English and signed by author.

Held by:
Natural History Museum
Finding number:
NHM WP1/8/75
Copyright owner:
ŠA. R. Wallace Literary Estate

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Physical description

Transcription information




To the London County Council

Waterloo Park


2Having read seen the proposal of your Parks and Open Spaces 3 Committee to spend nearly £10,000 for alterations improving the Park 4 the most important [illeg.] being the pulling down of the wall around the park and putting another in its place which now surrounds it and making exclusive paths, a proposal which has apparently not met with the approval of a majority of your members at all events for the present, I beg leave to offer for your consideration a few remarks on upon the subject.

Although I have not myself seen the park in question, which you have recently acquired, am greatly interested in all questions [illeg.] of everything relating to public pleasure grounds and their treatment and especially in the cultivation of a taste for the beauty woodland natural scenery and an interest in afforded by to be derived from the varied beauty of trees, and shrubs, and flowers, cultivat when grown in a natural and picturesque manner. I am equally interested in the various phases of the land question; and with which this matter question is concerned is of the retention [[2]] or destruction of the wall is closely connected. On both of these aspects of the subject I propose to make a few remarks.

(1) The value of Advantages of retaining the Wall. -- Every one who has had practical experience in the growth of ornamental trees plants is aware of the great use value of walls around the pleasure ground. as a protection from the wind. As a severe wind guard they are of the greatest value, and usable as to facilitating the growth of many beautiful shrubs and low trees under its protecting shelter which we would should not be able to do never thrive where fully exposed; while many even of the hardiest are greatly benefited by the such protection when young.

In the next place a wall is invaluable as affording suitable places means of growing the many beautiful climbing plants which adorn our private gardens but which, owing to the general absence of walls, are seldom seen in our public parks. Among these are the Wisteria, the Magnolia, the Passion flower, the varied kinds of [[3]] Clematis, the splendid trumpet-flowered Bignonia, the Aristolochia with its grand foliage and strange jug-like flowers, the various Jessamines, Cotoneasters, honeysuckles, Roses, and at least a score of other beautiful shrubs and climbers which luxuriate with the protection of a wall. Even on the northern aspects the various ivies, Virginia Creepers, Climbing Roses and many others will flourish in perfection, while if, when they reach the top they are allowed to grow unchecked, many of these plants will form grand overhanging masses of picturesque foliage and glowers, concealing the rigid outlines of the wall and presenting to the visitor's eye effects which can be obtained in no other way.

If, as I presume is the case, the wall is in some places too prominent an object, and in others conceals a distinct landscape, both these evils can be obviated in a far simpler, better, and cheaper way than by pulling down the wall. Where it is now prominent and unsightly [[4]]5 may be easily concealed by planting masses of shrubs and evergreens near to it, while in many part the creepers will, as already pointed out, soon change it to a thing of beauty. It in any portion of the boundary the wall shuts out an enjoyable prospect, this can be obviated by a small amount of earth-work, the soil taken out in front of near the wall being thrown up a little further off this producing a ridge or gently rising mound from the summit of which the view may be enjoyed exactly as if the wall were removed, and in all probably far better, while the wall itself can be masked by shrubs and the view they rendered still more agreeable. From some experience of this kind of work I know how much more cheaply cheaper this it is can be done than than by the [illeg.] of any kid of fence or wall. Earth work is also preferable because it adds so much [[5]]6 to the picturesqueness of the ground by aiding in the formation of winding dells which when judiciously planted are invariably attractive and enjoyable.

Another consideration of the highest important is the possibility the wall affords of rendering giving this particular park decidedly a character and individuality of its own, whereas if the f wall is removed and the usual style of fences and shrubleries [sic] put in its place, the park will be rendered more like every other existing park. Surely a diversity of picturesqueness is to be desired rather than monotony, and where the materials for that diversity already exists it appears to me a grievous fault to spend a large some of money in destroying it.

Another important use to which some portion of the wall may serve at some future time is to enable facilitate the formation of winter gardens at a very [[6]]7 modest cost. This could be done by choosing straight the more sheltered portions of the wall with a south or south-west aspect and enclosing with a glass roof and sides a space from twenty to thirty feet wide in front of it, and say a hundred or two hundred feet long. In such a house, without any artificial heat or any special care many beautiful half-hardy shrubs and creepers will grow and flower though the bleak months of winter and spring, affording at [sic] nice [five words, illeg.] shelter & the enjoyment <of> to the visitor beautiful shrubs and flowers. There again would be a means of giving this park a distinctive feature, at far less cost thatn will be involved in bringing it down to the usual public park common-place pattern. of The enjoyment of thousands in the houses at Kew Gardens show how greatly the diversity particular form of such a winter garden and sheltered house would be appreciated. [[7]]8

(2) The disadvantages of removing the Wall. __ It seems to be proposed to pull down the wall because it "excludes the park from view." Let us then consider what the will

be the effect of opening the park freely to view from the outside. The immediate, certain, and very important effect will be to create valuable building frontages all round the park, and to greatly increase the value of any that already exist. The equally certain, though somewhat later effect and one that will be not be very long delayed, will be to cause the park to become entirely shut in by a continuous belt of lofty houses, excluding altogether the distant prospect and finally destroying whatever air of seclusion and rurality now pertaining to it. Instead of a wall ten or twelve feet high which, as I have shown, may be easily adorned or concealed in some parts, and over which a view may be obtained in others, you will have walls and chimneys from forty to sixty feet in height, which you cannot neither adorn nor conceal. and for which no district is it worth while spending It will require very cogent reasons to justify the expenditure of [[8]]9 thousands of pounds in order to benefit certain a number of land-owners and speculative builders, to the certain and irreparable injury of the park itself.

(3) Roads and Paths. --

Although this question of the wall is that on which I more particularly wish to submit for your consideration, I cannot refrain from a few remarks on the proposed expenditure of £3,350 for paths I believe myself that the less gravel and the more grass and wood there is the more enjoyable the park will be, and that everything beyond one good dry path surrounding the part for use in damp weather and for invalids, is unnecessary. And even this should wind among the trees and shrubs so as to be as little conspicuous as possible. If

The statement made by one member of your Council, that if a heavy expenditure were not made "the park would be ruined by the public on the first Bank Holiday" it appears to me so incomprehensible to myself as to require explanation. If Supposing that nothing be spent in the making paths and pulling down walls in what way will that lead to the park being [[9]]10 ruined? Does is mean that the grass will be worn bare here and there? But nature herself will restore this in the interval between the dreaded bank-holidays. I cannot suppose it is intended to fence in the paths or even to forbid people to walk on the grass, and therefore the more grass there is the more the people will spread themselves about and the less hard will be done. I believe myself that the less there is spent upon artificial work of any kind the better. Encourage the growth of tress and shrubs, of hawthorn and brambles, of gorse and fern; try and naturalise [sic] our common wild flowers so that people the children of the poor may enjoy the sight of wood conifer and of buttercups or daisies; of hawthorn and wild roses, primroses and wild hyacinths wood- conifer, do not make too rigid rules even against gathering these wild flowers in moderation, allowing each child at all events to take home a modest nosegay; and you will do more for to encourage the true and innocent [illeg.] enjoyment which such an [[10]]11 oasis of beauty is calculated to afford than the expenditure of unlimited thousands in gravel paths and fenced in shrubberies.

Alfred R. Wallace [signature]


It thus appears that, whether as regards we consider the many suggested advantages of retaining the wall and the opportunity it gives to producing picturesque effects rarely found in public pleasure grounds, or on the other hard take account of the permanent [illeg.] injury that effect of its removal on the character of the park as a place of rural seclusion and rural escapes from the sights and sounds of a populous suburb, which would be caused by its removal, the question of its removal or treatment of its utilisation [sic] is the most important one of the utmost importance and demands a full deliberate and unprejudiced discussion of the evidence and the arguments on either side. [[12]]13


Being greatly interested in all questions relating to public pleasure grounds and their proper treatment, and having read with surprise the proposal of your "Parks and Open Spaces Committee" to spend nearly ten thousand pounds in alterations and alleged improvement the greater parts of which appear to me to be, prima facie, calculated to deteriorate rather than to improve the park as a place of relaxingation and intellectual as well as physical enjoyment not only unnecessary but [illeg.], ask permission lay before you a few remarks mainly upon the g two points, -- the need for removing replacing the existing boundary wall by an open fence, and the necessity for any large expenditure on new paths.

(1) The advantages of retaining the Wall. --


1. A letter "D" written in pencil appears in the upper left corner, and the following text is written in the upper right corner, also in pencil: [WP1/8/75] | [C1890?] | [F1 of 3]. This text appears at the lower left hand corner, also in pencil: [old Ref WP4/13]

2. A single line is drawn diagonally from this point to the right lower corner of the page, apparently indicating that the entire page of manuscript was intended to be discarded; the original has the appearance of a very rough draft. Replacement text for this page appears at the end of the document.

3. This text is encircled above the main text of the letter, its insertion point designated with a line.

4. This text is encircled above the main text of the letter, its insertion point designated with a line.

5. The page number "4" is encircled at the top center.

6. The page number "5" is encircled at the top center; this text appears in the extreme upper right corner, in pencil: [WPI/8/75. | 2of3]

7. The page number "6" is encircled at the top center.

8. The page number "7" is encircled at the top center.

9. The page number "8" is encircled at the top center.

10. The page number "9" is encircled at the top center. The following text appears in the extreme upper right, in pencil: [WPI/8/75 | (f 3of3)]

11. The page number "10" appears in the top center (not encircled).

12. The following text appears in the extreme upper right corner, in pencil: [WPI/8/75, | f3of3]

13. This page is a new draft of the first page of the letter.

Please note that work on this transcript is not yet complete. Users are advised to study electronic image(s) of this document, if available.