John Innes Park History and Context

John Innes (b.1829) and his elder brother, James, were from a prosperous London family. They traded in wine and property with considerable success and in 1864 formed the City of London Real Property Company, which later became part of Land Securities plc.

John Innes acquired a large amount of land in Merton intending to develop housing with an easy rail link to the City. He never married and by 1871 was living at the Manor House on Watery Lane, Merton (now part of the Rutlish School).

Innes played an active role in the life of Merton with schools and local politics engaging his considerable talents. He was generous to his employees and neighbours, and children especially benefited from parties and outings.

The Masonic Hall and the Manor Club on Kingston Road and the Merton Boys Club had his active involvement. He controlled the development of housing in Merton with great care.

John Innes died in 1904 and was buried at St Mary the Virgin in Merton Park where his tomb and memorial window can be seen. The bell he provided in 1897 is still rung.

With no family of his own and an even richer brother he bequeathed the John Innes Park to the people of Merton, and his will created the John Innes Horticultural Institute. This world-renowned research organisation developed the John Innes range of composts in the 1930s. It later moved from Merton to Brayfordbury in Hertfordshire and is now at Colney near Norwich.

The park created from the former garden of the Manor House contains many varieties of holly, which was a favourite plant of John Innes. These can still be appreciated today as can facilities for tennis, croquet and bowls. The park is in the care of Merton Council.

The John Innes Society of Merton Park plays an important role in preserving the park. In 2004 the fountain and other features were restored to commemorate the centenary of Innes’s death and Music in the Park concerts are  held near the bandstand.

A major event was the festival in 2009 to mark the centenary of the park's opening on 1 July 1909, with a costumed re-enactment of the ceremony, activities for all ages, and the dedication of a specially bred rose.

In 2009 John Innes Park also gained one of Merton Council's new civic awards.

In 2010 the park was granted a Green Flag award for the third consecutive year. This is a national standard for parks that are welcoming, well maintained and supported by the local community.

The John Innes Park remembers a great man who provided practical help to those around him, as does his legacy today.

Friends

The Society has formed a specific subgroup, the Friends of John Innes Park to take an interest in the upkeep and development of John Innes Park.  We hold regular meetings, including practical working groups in the Park itself. In 2004, the Friends group raised more than £40,000 (from Living Spaces and matched by LB Merton) to enhance the Park to mark the centenary of the death of John Innes. This upgrade included the reinstatement of the Rose Arbour, restoration of the pond (including a competition to design and produce a new fountain) and major tree work along the Serpentine Walk. The Park was awarded a London in Bloom Special Award in 2005 as a result of these activities.

To join the Friends please contact us on 020 8540 5159 or email mail@johninnessociety.org.uk