Living near Bushy Park as I do at the moment, I sometimes walk past an old monument, surrounded by an appreciative clump of weeds, with a sign next to it explaining the story of a local man who made a great impact upon the local landscape and upon society’s attitude towards public access to privately-owned land such as Bushy Park. The park was owned by King Henry VIII from 1529 onwards and it was then that he established it as a deer park. It has remained a Royal Park ever since. Public access to Bushy Park has varied greatly over the years. In the most extreme movement against access, in 1734 the 2nd Earl of Halifax had a wall built around the park, which cut off any access to the paths that had previously allowed people to pass through the park.
This caused a loss of business for one plucky cobbler, Timothy Bennet, who decided that he would not put up with the Earl’s actions and threatened him with court action. Bennet was furious that the closure of the path through the park meant that people had to go the long way around it to get to Kingston Market and so no longer passed his little shop, which lay at the end of a short cut through the park. Amazingly, the cobbler consulted an attourney and served notice of court action to the Earl. Even more amazingly, the Earl (perhaps fearing the public humiliation of a defeat in the court by a cobbler), decided to allow the creation of a public byway through the park – now known as ‘cobbler’s walk’. What a story! Benett’s motto was:
“I am unwilling to leave the world a worse place than I found it”
I think this is a motto that I’d love to live by, too.
From the mid nineteenth century, visitors have been encouraged to visit Bushy Park and enjoy it for its beauty. Here is a glorious piece of prose about the park. And if this does not make you want to visit, you are a lost soul 😉
“How soothing the various commingling sounds that, in quiet harmony, blend on the attentive ear: the ceaseless hum, busy yet obscure, of a thousand insects quivering in the sunny beam: the satisfied cluck-cluck of snow white chanticleer, leading his dame partlets to some favourite food: the tinkling of the distant sheep-fold, and the merry peal of neighbouring church bells swelling the minor sounds and giving them substance: the cleanliness and comfort that pervade the place: quiet, gentlemanlike dogs – silky-legged spaniels, wagging their fringed tails when you appear; lady-like, thin waisted greyhounds, approaching, wooingly to make your acquiantance; cleanly, white-bristled terriers, scorning to imitate the vuilger heard of curs by barking at the stranger,; and, more domestic and home-like grimalkin sunning her tortoise-shell coat on the ledge of a projecting casement; such are the homelike pictures one stumbles upon in strolling through Bushey Park” (John Fisher Murray, A Picturesque Tail, 1849)