Category Archives: parks

Beefeater Gin Distillery

Kennington is the Home of Gin – Burnett’s White Satin gin was made in West Kennington from 1750 onwards, and London’s last surviving gin distillery, Beefeater, has been located on Montford Place since 1958 when it left Chelsea in a bid to move upmarket.

Beefeater Gin Distillery -

As part of their ongoing commitment to Kennington, Beefeater recently opened a visitors’ centre, so naturally we went along for a tour.

The museum part of the tour has plenty about the dark history of gin in London, when it was known as mother’s ruin.

Here are some different eras of Beefeater bottles:

Beefeater bottles through the years -

Only four people know the recipe for the Beefeater blend  – the master brewer Desmond and his three stillmen, Keith, Maxim and Leeroy. They all have to have their noses insured and under no circumstances are they allowed to visit Walworth. The visitors centre are happy to tell you the flavourings anyway, and let you sniff them: Seville orange peel, lemon peel, bitter almond, liquorice, orris root, angelica seed, angelica root, coriander, and of course juniper:

Beefeater gin distillery flavourings -

Then you step through into the distillery itself:

Beefeater gin stills -

Beefeater are aiming to make 36 million bottles this year, all of it distilled here, although then they transport the highly alcoholic distilled liquid to Scotland to mix it with water there.

Naturally the tour begins and ends in the gift shop, which plays heavily on the patriotism:

Beefeater patriotic gift shop -

They have a new brew called London Garden which is inspired by the flower garden in Kennington Park, and is only available from the distillery.

The visitors centre is open every day except Christmas Day, and costs £12 for adults, £10.80 for concessions, and is free for under 18s, although they miss out on the free gin and tonic at the end. From mother’s ruin to kid’s day out.

BeeUrban – Kennington’s own honey brand

We’re not just saying this because it’s from Kennington, but BeeUrban’s honey is the finest we’ve ever tasted. It’s so flavoursome and lemon-y, it’s not even comparable to the bland stuff you get in supermarkets. We’d go so far as to say you haven’t really tasted honey until you’ve tasted Kennington honey.

If you’d like to pick some up, and find out more about it, then get along to one of their Keeper’s Lodge open days at the Keeper’s Lodge in the middle of Kennington Park. They’re on July 26, August 30 and September 20 from 11am to 5pm.

They’re also running an introduction to beekeeping on August 17th. This lasts from 11am to 4pm and costs £50. Go to their website for more info.

Harleyford Road Community Garden

West Kennington has not one but two lovely community gardens. Harleyford Road Community Garden is adjacent to Bonnington Square, on what was wasteland until 1984 when the community once again stepped in and turned it into something beautiful. They are remarkably peaceful and lush considering their location. Keep an eye out for the invisible waterwheel.

Harleyford Road Community Garden -

More photos and information on the South Kennington Partnership website.

Bonnington Square

Imagine if a community took over an abandoned square and restored its houses and communal areas to their former glory, planted mimosa, beech and mulberry trees, lavender, vines, ferns and palms where there had been a derelict playground, and turned the whole square into an oasis of peace and beauty. Imagine they started a café and community centre where volunteers fed the residents vegan food while they rebuilt the kitchens in their derelict homes. Then imagine one of London’s finest delis and cafes opened on the square. Imagine no longer – this is Bonnington Square in West Kennington, a magical, tranquil yet vibrant area, just yards from the noise of the Vauxhall gyratory. The only thing you might have to imagine is the part where Coalition politicians make the short walk from Parliament to Bonnington Square, then have an epiphany about the positive side of squatting.

The square was built in the 1870s, and was earmarked for demolition in the late 1970s, until squatters moved in. This video from The Guardian’s website tells the story of the remarkable work the squatters carried out.

Here’s the community garden in the middle of the square, dubbed Bonnington Square Pleasure Garden in honour of the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens:

Bonnington Square Gardens -

Not bad for a former WWII bomb site. Channel 4 gardener Dan Pearson was amongst the residents responsible for it.

In 1998 the squats were legitimised when the housing cooperative the squatters had formed was allowed to purchase the buildings. Nowadays Bonnington Square is one of the most desireable addresses in London thanks to its beautiful houses and gardens, its location, the Bonnington Cafe, and Italo Deli. Oh, and there’s a ley line running directly through the square, which also takes in Brunswick House, Sally White and lane seven of the Palace Bowl in Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre.

Bee Ridgway writes evocatively about her time staying on Bonnington Square here.

Kennington Park Skate Bowl

Kennington Park’s skate bowl is London’s oldest, having been here since 1978. It was closed soon after due to a design flaw that made it easy to fall through the safety rail, which of course made it hugely appealing to skaters. Then in 2011 Converse came along and ruined everything refurbished it, making it safer, and it reopened in 2012.

Kennington Park Skate Bowl -

Quiet London

We were recently given the book Quiet London by Siobhan Wall, which features “over 140 quiet places to meet, drink, eat, sleep, read or browse”.

Nine of them are in Kennington:

* The Garden Museum

* The Cuming Museum which is currently closed due to fire, but their events programme continues

* Bonnington Square Garden, a magical place which we will write about another time

Italo Delicatessen on Bonnington Square

* The Tibetan Peace Garden in Geraldine Mary Harmsworth Park, which also deserves its own entry here, being one of London’s nicest and quietest parks

* G Baldwin & Co., a health food shop and apothecary on Walworth Road, which according to Siobhan has “probably the largest selection of essential oils you can find anywhere in England”. Entering the apothecary side of the shop does feel like stepping back in time (it has been open since 1844).

* Siobhan Davies Studio

* Danielle Arnaud Gallery – another of Kennington’s art galleries. It is based in one of the lovely Georgian houses on Kennington Road and we can testify as to how quiet it is – when we went we were the only visitors.

* The Ragged Canteen at Beaconsfield

Quiet London by Siobhan Wall

Quiet London by Siobhan Wall

Vauxhall Spring Gardens AKA Pleasure Gardens

Vauxhall Spring Gardens AKA Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens in West Kennington has the Vauxhall City Farm on its borders, as well as the Black Dog, the Tea House Theatre, and the Royal Vauxhall Tavern, whose customers spill out on to its edges. It is nicknamed Brokeback Mountain locally for its rugged scenery.

Vauxhall Spring Gardens and St George Wharf Tower -

It is currently playing host to the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens summer festival – details below (we borrowed the image from the excellent Tradescant Road blog).

The Museum of London have some info about the history of Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens here.