Pavilion Café

The Refreshment Pavilion, now the Pavilion Café, in c.1910


The Pavilion Café has been providing refreshments to the park’s visitors for more than 100 years from its site near the Royal Observatory.

Before the café was built, the only place in the park to buy refreshments was a small kiosk near the Blackheath Gate, which opened in 1875. When this burnt down in 1899, the Office of Works replaced it with a tent which proved expensive to maintain. Early in 1906, they secured an agreement to build a permanent venue and awarded the construction contract to a company called Boulton & Paul.

Sir Henry Tanner, Principal Surveyor of the Office of Works, designed the Pavilion, which opened in 1907. It was first known as the Royal Observatory Refreshment Pavilion: octagonal in form, with a decorative dovecote and a wind vane topped by the figure of Nelson looking through a telescope.

When it was originally built, the ground floor seating was open to the elements and sheltered by the upper storey. This was also used for seating and had a cast-iron railing running around it. The enclosed central part of the building housed the kitchen, toilets, and stairs to the upper floor. Today the upper floor is unused and the lower floor fully enclosed.

Mr J. Hendry was the first caterer at the café, providing “First Class Refreshments….at Popular Prices” according to his newspaper adverts. In 1922, he added an 18-hole putting green in the café enclosure to keep his clientele entertained. One hundred years on, the Pavilion Café continues to refresh park visitors come rain or shine.