The park we know and enjoy today was opened almost 100 years ago in 1913, but its’ history can be traced back as far as the 12th Century when the Kelsey area was owned by the Lord of the Manor of Beckenham.
It is popularly believed that the beginnings of the Kelsey Estate originate from 1408 when William Kelsiulle was granted a lease of two meadows where he built a house close to the lower waterfall.
In 1472 William Brograve took over the estate, which remained in his family for the next 200 years until 1688 when it passed into the Burrell family. William Brograve made various improvements during his tenure including the addition of an Oratory or Chapel in 1479 after being granted a licence by the Bishop of Rochester.
Four generations of the Burrell family lived there over the following 130 years until it passed briefly to Edward Gross Smith in 1820 and then on to the Hoare family in 1835. The estate had undergone extensive landscaping during this period (reportedly by the well known designer Repton) and stretched out over more than 3,000 acres as far as Elmers End. The upper lake mansion house was also constructed then. However, the first mansion had fallen into disuse by the turn of the 19th Century and was demolished, as there was no mention of it in the sale papers in 1820.
The Hoare family were the owners from 1835 until 1909 (Hoare banking family). During this time they made a number of improvements to the estate, including building two lodges, a cottage hospital, fire station and a chapel.
After Charles Hoare (3rd generation) inherited the estate he set up stagecoach services between Beckenham and Sevenoaks and enjoyed driving the horses himself. He was a good cricketer (like his father before him) and with HG Wells’ father as coach was selected to play for Kent. By the mid-1890s Charles had lost interest in the estate and leased it out as a convent. Upon his death in 1909 Kelsey was sold.
The original intention was to build a prestigious gated housing estate, but the owner of the Beckenham Journal, Tom Thornton, ran a successful campaign for Beckenham Council to buy the estate. They purchased 21 acres and set up the park. The Opening Ceremony took place on 31 May 1913.