The history of Downhills Park is a continuing project: research has revealed some mistakes in the story we published at the Centenary in 1903, and the text here should be regarded as provisional!
Downhills was a big house, first built before 1728, and rebuilt allegedly in 1729 or 1730, but more probably shortly before 1789. It was sometimes confusingly called Mount Pleasant; there were two other, later, big houses called Mount Pleasant further to the east. Downhills stood at the top of the hill, in the largest private park in Tottenham, and approached by a south drive, now part of Downhills Park Road, and a grand north avenue of trees. The Townsend family owned the land from 1763 to the 1890s. (A statement in the Victoria County History that the British Land Co. bought it in 1881 is wrong, although that company rented some land from the Townsends and also seems to have bought land further east).
We don't know who laid out the grounds, though by 1789, when a banker called Rowland Stephenson lived here, they included fishponds (probably some on the site of the present pond, and possible medieval moat, in Lordship Rec). The grounds proper then covered 10 and a half acres (about four hectares), and included a garden, plantations, shrubberies and a farmyard. Much of the garden remains. Henry Hare Townsend, who lived here from 1823 to 1826 – the only owner to reside, other occupiers being tenants – and is said to have extended the house, may have planted some more of the ornamental trees.
The house stood at the north-east corner of the present park, with, by 1864, outbuildings to the west. Beyond them were a pond with a fountain, a croquet lawn and thatched arbour, and a wood with wandering paths and an ice house. On the south front were a terrace, with balustrades and a raised mound, and wide lawns, with cedars. Between the wood and the lawns were formal Italian gardens, with a fountain in the middle, and a shrubbery/rockery. South of the shrubbery was a hornbeam avenue. By 1890 there was also a gardener's cottage, but we don't know where it was.
The last tenant of Downhills house, Bertha Cummins, and her gardener, Frank Woolmington, left between 1897 and 1899, and some of the estate was sold for building in 1899.
After a campaign by local residents, Tottenham Urban District Council bought the house and grounds in 1902. It demolished the house and incorporated the gardens into a new park, opened to the public in 1903. It bought nearby fields and extended the park southwards, to cover 30 acres by 1905. On the west, it straightened the boundaries, made a recreation ground, and laid out Midnight Alley between rec and park.
The council kept the terrace, the woods, the hornbeams, the Italian gardens and fountain, and the croquet lawn and arbour. It restored or created the rockery, and improved the swan pond. Between 1902 and 1913 it built a superintendent's house, a conservatory, a bandstand in the recreation ground, and a children's playground. In the 1920s it created tennis courts and a bowling green, with a clubhouse. By 1938 it had built a pavilion in the rec next to Midnight Alley, and planted plane trees next to the bandstand.
After 1939 many features were demolished or destroyed: the fountain in the Italian gardens by 1947, the conservatory between 1962 and c. 1980, and by then also the pavilion, the bandstand, the swan pond, the thatched arbour, the superintendent's house, and many of the hornbeams.
Council built new children's play facilities in the 1980s and 2002,
and in the 1980s planted the bandstand site with trees. The old
playground became a wildflower meadow in 2001. The bowling club closed
in its 100th year, and the clubouse was demolished about 2007. In
2010-11 a cafe was built on the site.