King Edward Memorial Park
|King Edward Memorial Park|
|Administrative area||Greater London|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|Police||City of London|
It was opened in 1922 in memory of King Edward VII. With an area of 3.3 hectares, it is the 11th largest park in Tower Hamlets. Along with a few others in the borough, it has received the Green Flag Award for quality, and is considered to have good biodiversity value.
The park includes a bandstand, waterfront benches, children's play area, bowling green, all weather football pitch and tennis courts. The paths and public toilets are accessible to wheelchair users. The Thames Path passes through the park.
King Edward Memorial Park was opened in 1922 by King George V and Queen Mary with the following dedication: "In grateful memory of King Edward VII. This park is dedicated to the use and enjoyment of the people of East London for ever." The Park proved to be a huge asset to the community from its very first day. In his first-hand account of the opening in 1922, George Jones writes:
“The ‘New Park’ proved to be an absolute bonus to the whole community and its planning was of the highest order, using the contours of levels and slopes down from The Highway to that new excellent promenade by the riverside amply provided with many bench seats and popular with senior citizens. Seen from the upper levels the huge vista of the then very busy Thames was an ever-changing kaleidoscope of colour and activity, of wharves and cranes and ships from all nations.” 
The site of the park itself is steeped in history. In May 1533, Sir Hugh Willoughby set off from what is now the park with three ships in search for the Northeast Passage to India. Nowadays a stone and plaque placed near the listed Rotherhithe Rotunda commemorate Willoughby’s courageous enterprise.
The Shadwell Fish Market was opened in 1885 in the area where the park is now. It didn’t do very well however and the land became used for informal football matches and a play area by local children. A report in The East London Observer on 23 December 1911, gives a report of a planning committee meeting about the setting up of the King Edward Memorial Park. Proposals and sketches of the plans appeared the next year. King George and Queen Mary both attended the official opening on 24 June 1922. In the printed order of proceedings for the opening it stated that the Queen would give a speech. ‘Her Majesty will … declare the park open to the public for ever.’
Placed at the crossroads of four Tower Hamlets wards (Shadwell, Wapping, Limehouse and Stepney), King Edward VII Memorial Park is the only riverside park between Tower Hill and the Isle of Dogs and the only green space available in this portion of the Borough. Local schools use it for their sports days, religious festivals take place there and it is overall the focal point of the lives of four vibrant communities.
The importance of King Edward VII Memorial Park to local people is shown by the number of nearby residents with memorials there. The park benches on the riverfront are always adorned with flowers in remembrance of beloved family members and also many trees have been planted in honour of local people now passed.
Proposed use for Thames Tunnel works
Thames Water has proposed to build a new sewer relief tunnel along the Thames, to avoid discharging sewage into the river as frequently as is currently necessary. The preferred route takes it past this park, and Thames Water proposed that part of the park should be used for construction of the tunnel, leaving a permanent access road through the park from The Highway and a ventilation shaft built on an extension to the foreshore.
Tower Hamlets Council announced official support for an option which would at least leave most of the park accessible during construction, and reinstate it at the end.
However, after looking at Thames Water's plans in more detail, it has emerged that the preferred option could make the park unusable for several years. The community has come together and created an action group that opposes the plans for the park and asks Thames Water to build on a brownfield site instead. In response to the campaign, many councillors and Cabinet Members have spoken against this project and Mayor Lutfur Rahman himself is a supporter of the SaveKEMP campaign.
On 2 February 2011 a motion to oppose Thames Water's plans and protect King Edward VII Memorial Park and its foreshore was passed with unanimous vote by the full Chamber of LBTH  effectively overturning the position taken in December. The plan is also being officially opposed by Jim Fitzpatrick, Labour MP for Poplar and Limehouse who said, "I have been impressed by the energy and vigour of local people, for whom King Edward VII Memorial Park is an important part of their lives. The current proposal will turn one of London's vital green lungs into an industrial site and leave a permanent scar on the banks of the river. Thames Water needs to listen, to do its homework more thoroughly, and to come back with alternatives. Yes to reducing water pollution; yes to keeping King Edward VII Memorial Park green." John Biggs, Labour politician and elected member of the London Assembly for City and East London has spoken strongly against Thames Water's plans:
"I support the call by residents of Limehouse, Shadwell, Stepney and Wapping for Thames Water to review its preferred options for the Super Sewer and to focus specifically on brownfield sites for this development. I speak as someone who both endorses the Super Sewer and who knows the Park very well. It is clear to me that the current plans to build on the foreshore of the Park will damage an important local amenity which is more widely used than Thames Water has appreciated. Additionally, the park has an important role as a part of our heritage in the East End, and it needs to be treated with sensitivity. Despite the limitations of the current consultation, local people have seized the initiative to make their voices heard. Thames Water has said that it will use information gathered during the current consultation "to address any concerns which may arise". Local concerns are very clear. Thames Water should look again at options for brownfield development, beyond the options currently identified, so that reducing water pollution does not mean that a vital green space is irreparably damaged and for several years turned into a major construction site."
A large number of residents raised an online petition against the plan and have organised a protest group, as the riverside path would be closed to the public for up to seven years and the community would lose the only riverside park between Tower Hill and the Isle of Dogs.
Thames Water issued a modified proposal. The route of the access road has been changed to run next to the Thames Path from Glamis Road. This would reduce the impact on the park during construction, and also mean that, on completion, the access road would merge with Thames Path, slightly extending the park and making a wider section of the Thames Path.
Thames Water finally received permission to use the park for sewer works, but agreed a £4 million programme of improvements, to be completed before starting the sewer construction. The improvements will include new sports and play facilities, a community building and extending the park onto the foreshore. Moreover, construction works will not take place on Saturdays, to reduce the impact on weekend use of the park.
- Shadwell: Opening of King Edward Memorial Park, 1922 (photo), Tower Hamlets Local History Library & Archive
- King Edward Memorial Park Management Plan 2007–2017, Tower Hamlets Council
- Parks, Tower Hamlets Council. Retrieved 17 December 2010
- King Edward Memorial Park, Tower Hamlets Council
- King Edward Memorial Park – Green Flag Award
- The opening of the park, Save KEMP
- Knowledge Of London
- Green Flag Awards
- Trees for Cities
- King Edward Memorial Park Foreshore, Thames Water consultation document
- Call for riverside park to stay open, Tower Hamlets Council, 13 December 2010. Archived 2011-01-12 at WebCite
- Keep King Edward VII Memorial Park (KEMP) Green
- Mike Brooke. "Thames river 'super sewer' plans cause wave of protest in East London". East London Advertiser. Archived from the original on 30 September 2011. Retrieved 30 September 2011.
- Nadia Sam-Daliri (10 January 2011). "Protesters rally against super sewer infringing on East End park". East London Advertiser. Archived from the original on 30 September 2011. Retrieved 30 September 2011.
- Keep King Edward VII Memorial Park Green: Quotes
- King Edward Memorial Park Foreshore – phase two site information paper
- "£4m of park improvements". East End Life. Tower Hamlets Council. 22–28 September 2014.
- King Edward Memorial Park, Tower Hamlets Council
- King Edward Memorial Park Foreshore (Wapping) Tideway construction site
- Save King Edward VII Park, local campaign against proposed tunnel works in the park
- Thames Tunnel web site from Thames Water
- Wapping campaign to save King Edward Memorial Park, What's in Wapping? Local community website