© Friends of Oaks Park
Oaks Park was formerly part of a much larger estate of some 180 odd acres and was the site of one of the great 18th century sporting country houses in England.
It was here that the 12th Earl of Derby and his friends established the two prestigious horse races in The Oaks and The Derby, which survive today. The Oaks was also the scene of a famous Fête Champêtre in 1774 (a rural festival) to celebrate the betrothal of the Earl to Lady Betty Hamilton. No expense was spared and would have been attended by the great and the good of Georgian Society.
After passing through several ownerships, the estate was acquired by Carshalton Urban District Council in 1933 and was developed as a public park and a golf course. By a deed of October 1945, the Urban District Council covenanted with Surrey and London County Councils the use of the park and declared the land to be part of the London Green Belt around London.
The house was demolished between 1956-60 leaving the Bakehouse and outbuildings, some of which, namely the Former Stable Block and the Grotto, are Grade II listed in recognition of their importance.
In 2009 an excavation was carried out by a local archaeological team and the Friends of Honeywood Museum to locate the tops of the foundations of The Oaks which was demolished and which was now covered under the meadow land of the park. This enabled the site of the house to be marked out on the grass in chalk and with public realm funding from the Local Committee, a number of interpretation boards were commissioned around the park telling the history of the park. In addition, in September 2009 the 19th Earl of Derby visited the park to formally open the markings of the site of the house and planted a commemorative oak tree. In return, he gave us ne of the Derby’s racing colours, which resides in the Honeywood Museum.
A further archaeological excavation was carried out in 2011 to try and locate the famed cockpit reputed to have been built into the floor of one of the rooms in the east wing where birds were pitted against each other. Unfortunately, no trace was found of the cockpit, although the dig served to increase our understanding of the building.
Books for further reference
Paul Williams: The History of The Oaks Volume One: The Stanley Years.
The History of The Oaks Volume Two: The Victorian era to modern times.
Both books are available from Honeywood Museum, Carshalton.