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Emslie Horniman's Pleasance

It was in March 1914 that London County Council received a letter from one Emslie John Horniman, himself a former council member. In the letter, read out a council meeting, Horniman wrote:

"Recently I have been able to secure nearly one acre of land, which I consider suitable to lay out as a public garden, with sand-pit, etc., and, having now completed the purchase, I have much pleasure in offering the same to your council, and am ready to make over the freehold, the only condition being that the land be dedicated in perpetuity to the people of London as a recreation-ground. I propose to clear the land and lay out same at my own expense."

And that is the origin of Golborne's much-loved park, Emslie Horniman's Pleasance, sandwiched between East Row and Bosworth Road. The Pleasance has an array of facilities including a charming children's playground, a kiosk café open from April to October and an all-weather floodlit sports area.

But the Pleasance has much more than that. There's a secret garden tucked away in the south-east corner, a peaceful haven with gorgeous flower beds, and an ideal spot for a contemplative moment surrounded by nature. Then there's the large open grass area, great for picnics or working on your exercise regime. Plus the Pleasance is where the Notting Hill Carnival launches every year with Panorama, the steel band competition.

Perhaps the star attraction of the Pleasance is the Grade II listed Voysey Garden. Horniman commissioned eminent designer Charles Francis Annesley Voysey to create this walled garden. At its centre is a large oak pergola with luxuriant planting below that's surrounded by a moat.

Voysey is known for country homes, fabrics, and furniture that he designed in the Arts and Crafts style popular in the late 19th and early 20th century. So his creation of this urban park in North Kensington is something of a departure from his normal work. In fact, it's the only public park that Voysey had a hand in.

Emslie Horniman

So who was this Emslie Horniman who bequeathed us this glorious park? Born in 1863 into a wealthy family - his grandfather John Horniman had founded the Horniman's Tea Company in 1826 - Horniman attended the Slade School of Fine Art. In his youth he travelled the world and is said to have been a keen collector of artworks and curios.

As a collector, he took after his father Frederick John Horniman who founded the Horniman Museum in London's Forest Hill in 1901. It has an extraordinarily eclectic collection of artefacts ranging from musical instruments to fossils to 4,700 butterfly specimens and much more.

Later in life Emslie Horniman took to politics, and was elected to the London County Council in 1889 representing Chelsea on the Progressive Party ticket. He went on to serve for three terms on the council. Then in 1906, he turned to parliamentary politics and standing for the Liberal Party he was elected as M.P. for Chelsea. He lost the seat at the next election in 1910 to the Conservatives.

Horniman died in 1932 but obviously his name lives on in the shape of Emslie Horniman's Pleasance. And all of us in Golborne have good reason to be grateful for his philanthropy.