Improving the local neighbourhood
The Oval Public Realm Scoping study prepared for Lambeth and the Oval Partnership (OP) in 2008 and included in the Lambeth Development Plan, identified St Marks Churchyard and the Oval Farmers’ Market (FM) as one of the projects to improve the Oval.
The full report can be downloaded here
A slide show showing the options that were consulted on can be seen at the bottom of this page
St Marks Church is an historic landmark of the Oval, but appears shabby due to the chaotic parking arrangements in front of the church, the broken railing and the appearance of the churchyard as something of a wasteland used principally as a short cut by commuters to and from the tube station. While the new hotel development at the Oval cricket ground also seeks to improve the area, the immediate environs of the Oval will remain shabby and neglected with a feeling that there is nothing here but cricket and traffic - unless the public realm is improved. Our project will improve the visual impact of the area for the many visitors coming into the area by bus and tube - and for people going to the Oval Cricket Ground and hotel for business and leisure events. It will also offer additional facilities that can be used by cricket goers and other visitors. This will in turn help the local businesses and enhance a sense of liveliness in the Oval.
Aims of the project
The intention of the project is to celebrate the appearance of the church and its heritage status, and to improve the churchyard so that it becomes a valuable green open space while providing a central ‘hub’ and meeting place. The project will include a range of measures to effect these improvements and will include changes to the parking arrangements so that parking is significantly reduced and not in front of the church, repairing the railings, improving the paths and paving in front of the church, removing dangerous trees and Japanese knotweed, improving drainage and putting in electricity and water points in the churchyard for use by the FM, as well as for any other community or cricket events. The project seeks to increase usage of the grounds without the churchyard losing its natural, green, feel.
The church and its site are rich in history. It sits next to the old roman road that ran all the way from London Bridge to Chichester. It was the site of the old Kennington gallows as well as of Kennington Common which was famous for its boxing matches and markets, and whose crowds were so large that it attracted large numbers of public speakers. It is also the site of a WW1 war memorial. All of this history will be made prominent by the project so that St Marks Churchyard becomes a site of interest to visitors.
The importance of the FM in this project lies in the fact that it is spearheading a revival of St Marks and its grounds. Unlike the rest of the week, the churchyard is filled with people on Saturdays using the FM to buy food, but also as a meeting point and as a family outing. The FM has become well established in the last couple of years and has a loyal and growing following. It is one example of the potential for community events in an area that has long lacked a real focus, partly because of the busy road system. During recent consultation about the project, it was clear from the over 350 responses received from market users that the site has become a focus for much more than a weekly shopping trip. This shows that the site clearly has potential to build on a sense of local community, which will help to combat the sense of the Oval being a transient and sometimes quite hostile place to pass through and to live.
This is the first project undertaken by the OP and Lambeth from the scoping study and would, on its own, result in a significant improvement to the public realm in Oval.
As a not-for-profit organisation run by volunteers the OP’s overheads are almost nil but we do need to rely on outside funding if we are to progress projects at the speed we would like. The initial funding of the project was due to come from section 106 money from hotel planned at the Oval Cricket ground but this has been delayed.
We already have some £5,000 but need a further £5,000 to help finalise the plans, get English Heritage Assessment, and obtain full planning permission.