Heritage conservation Potomac Tower GunnersburyGunnersbury Park had a series of illustrious and wealthy owners, including the Rothschilds, who purchased the estate in 1835. When Baron Lionel de Rothschild inherited it in 1850 he began a programme of modernisation and expansion. In 1861 he acquired an old clay pit and kiln, which he converted into a boathouse and pleasure lake with the help of James Pulman and Son, the company behind Duck Island in St James’ Park.

Using their own brand of rocklike cement, known as Pulmanite, they created a two storey Gothic tower over the kiln for use as a boathouse and built a small island close to the shore. The pit, which was filled with water, became known as Potomac Pond. There are a couple of theories as to why, including the possibility that the name references a cease fire during the American Civil War; at the time ‘all quiet along the Potomac’ was a popular expression.

Gunnersbury was eventually sold to the Boroughs of Ealing and Acton in 1925. A fence was erected around the perimeter of the lake to prevent access, and over the years the tower fell into disrepair.

However, the lack of human intervention has also had some surprisingly positive effects, with the lake becoming a real haven for wildlife in southwest London. Working with Gunnersbury CIC, the organisation behind the restoration of the mansion and park, the Environment Trust is hoping to sensitively restore the tower and lake to its former glory. We hope that with careful management, the lake will become a valuable educational resource for children in the local area and continue as a thriving natural environment.

If you are interested in getting involved with the project contact our Heritage Conservation Manager, Emily Lunn.