The Somerville was founded by local community worker Ron Martin in 1971. He believed that adventure playgrounds were a much-needed resource for children growing up in inner cities and worked tirelessly throughout his life to make the site accessible to kids.
Ron was a volunteer at a play scheme run from St Catherine’s Church on Telegraph Hill. Along with his fellow play scheme committee members he applied to Lewisham Council for the use of a piece of derelict wasteland on the main road by the fire station.
Ron was dedicated to the playground, working as the one member of staff in the daytime and then volunteering to keep things going in the evenings.
Children from all over the area used the playground and after 18 months new workers were recruited to support Ron. First John Richardson, then Pauline Urwin who stayed for five years, and eventually Hanneke Nicholson who worked alongside Ron for almost 15 years. On leaving in 1993 Ron said; “As I go into my retirement very often I see adults who were kids on the playground who tell me what great times they had. This made it all worthwhile and overall a very good period in my life.”
You can find out more about past volunteers and read Hanneke’s volunteering story in the Somerville archive.