28 March 2017 | 6 °C

How To Get A Memorial Bench In London

How To Get A Memorial Bench In London

London's beautiful parks are peppered with touching memorial benches featuring inscriptions to loved ones. Here's a guide to getting one.

A bench in Holland Park. Photo: Andrea Pucci

Most parks are run by their borough — although this isn't always the case — so you should go through them to organise the bench. As with all great rules there are exceptions, such as the Green Chain walk. The route crosses five boroughs: Bexley, Bromley, Southwark, Lewisham and Greenwich, but if you want a bench on the walk, talk to the Green Chain instead of the borough.

Onto the process of dedicating a park bench to someone. Getting a bench in the first place isn't easy. Lots of boroughs have decided that they're at capacity when it comes to benches. Southwark, for example, has a policy of only replacing old benches.

What constitutes an 'old bench', we hear you cry?

Everyone loves a park bench. Photo: David Merrigan

In Southwark, you pay £1000 to dedicate a bench, but that only lasts 10 years. At the end of your bench's time, it can either be renewed for £200, or it will be replaced, opening up a coveted spot for a new memorial bench.

Even if a borough itself isn't full, the park you're after might be. That's the case in Kensington & Chelsea, where you can't get a bench in Holland Park, and Lambeth, where Streatham Rookery is at capacity.

So what's London's most expensive park bench? Our findings suggest that memorial benches in Bexley are the priciest, coming in at £1,583. These benches do look a cut above your regular wooden memorial, with black metal for the seat, with a stainless steel plate for the inscription.

The cheapest benches available are in Waltham Forest, specifically in Lloyd Park where a bench can cost as little as £500. That's a bargain, compared to neighbouring Enfield, which prices its benches at a tasty £1,500 — and again, that only lasts for 10 years.

Between these two price points, different boroughs seem to rank rather randomly along the scale. Some offer a range of prices depending on what package you choose — for example, in Richmond a bench can cost between £800 and £1,400.

A park bench on Hampstead Heath that you'd never see in Hackney. Photo: Dante Candal

So once you've acquired your bench, what can you have written on it?

Different councils have different rules as to what can feature on a bench's inscription. Hackney is very rigid on wording, allowing only "In the Memory of...", plus a person's name and the dates of their birth and death. No "this was his favourite spot" or "A beloved sister".

Enfield takes a more relaxed approach. The inscriptions have to be in English — so no quoting French romantic poetry — but that's the only guidance given. The inscription has a 60 word limit and must be approved by the council, presumably to make sure there are no offensive or overtly political messages.

Another thing to look out for when organising a park bench is whether the borough will deal with damage to the bench. Some boroughs automatically replace or fix a damaged bench, others see it as a chance to free up some vital space for a new bench.

Furthermore, the person memorialised doesn't need any connection to a specific location to get their name on a bench there. It would be tricky to prove that your loved one spent their time in a particular park, but it's odd that someone can so easily be remembered in a place that they never visited.

Still, for some it's a financial decision. If there's over £1,000 to be saved by hopping a border, then it could be worth it. Even if you've never been to Lloyd Park.

Last Updated 02 March 2017