Child welfare

Lady Allen Trust: Godmother of Play

Famous Adventure Playground in U.K.


You will find Lollard Street Adventure Playground nestled in a neighborhood in London. At first glance, all you can see is junk and the lack of a neat and tidy look of a typical playground.


When children arrive at Lollard Street Adventure Playground, their little imaginations kick into full throttle. It is quite entertaining to watch them invent, pretend and create.


The living legacy Lady Allen left is present in each of the adventure playgrounds that are all over the world. Her concept and theory of play provided the stepping stone for the creations of these “junky” playgrounds.


What a Child Enjoys at an Adventure Playground


When a child arrives at an adventure playground, they are excited and ready to dig in and play. These playgrounds provide a productive environment to play. Children benefit from this concept of play in many ways.


  • Spontaneous Free Expression: the playground provides the space where children are free to choose their form of play.


  • Engagement in Types of Play: the playground provides endless opportunities to engage and have rich interplay with other children.


  • Exploration: children explore the playground with a variety of senses such as physical, social, imaginary, and emotional while allowing them to tap into both physical and psychological experience.


  • Social Interaction: children have the innate desire to use their imagination and a playground such as this provides the environment to do so.

  • Giving and Responding Cues: children can engage in play that is on their terms. They follow cues such as facial, spoken or physical cues using materials indicating they desire to play.


  • Participating in Cycle of Full Play: once children are done playing, their behavior or props are discarded indicating they are finished.


  • Flexible Shared Space: children create things within the playground such as forts or huts and leave these things intact so upon their return, they can continue playing.


Mission Behind Lollard Street Adventure Playground


The focus of this playground is aimed at supporting children and parents to have a place to play that is creative and encourages each child to be responsible for their behavior and play. Giving them space like this promotes self-expression while respecting what others have created. A sense of ownership is placed upon what they build and create.


By giving children a place to freely play and call their own, it takes their attention away from hanging out in streets, being in a rut playing video games and becoming couch potatoes. Adventure playgrounds provide the space to exercise while engaging their minds.

Inclusion of All


Lollard Street Adventure Playground does not discriminate or turn any child away. All children have the right to play freely. Inclusion breaks down barriers helping children to rise above.


Playworkers are employed on the playground who work with children and parents to ensure that every child enjoys the time of play without any challenges. The playground is a place of equality through dialogue as well as play.


What is offered at Lollard Street Adventure Playground?


Adventure and imagination provide the basis of play opportunities. Children are supervised by playworkers to ensure they play safe.


There are many activities the children can do:


  • Building a hut or fort
  • Ziplining
  • Table tennis
  • Swimming
  • Climbing
  • Painting
  • Gardening
  • Cooking
  • Sports



What is a Playworker?


Playworkers are employed within the adventure playground to not only facilitate play but to provide the resources to the children they need to create and play. These workers will assist the children to assemble, disassemble and do whatever is necessary to empower the children to play without risk.


Why aren’t there more Adventure Playgrounds in other countries?


Lady Allen not only lived in the U.K. but also designed adventure playgrounds which quickly caught on in Europe. However, they are slowly making their way to the United States.


Today there are only about a hand full of adventure playgrounds in the U.S. because of factors such as:


  • Parents that are over protective and safety obsessed not allowing their children to play in an open environment like this
  • Parents have their children overly involved in activities that leaves no time for play
  • Fear of litigation
  • Fact that play in general is declining because of video games and other technology

Lady Allen Trust: Discovery of Creative Play

New Perspective and New Possibilities

Lady Allen gained a whole new perspective on what children wanted to play with. A shiny new playground with everything in its place was not attractive to the children. Their imagination was sparked more so with nothing more than junk.

The parameters of these “junk playgrounds” allowed the children to dig, build and experiment. Adventure and creative play were significant factors in developing the playgrounds.

The First “Junk” Playground

Emdrup, Copenhagen was the home of the first “junk” playground. Lacking any man-made structures, this playground was built with junk materials. Children played in this playground where they could stretch their imaginations.

Emdrup playground proved to be the beginning of many to come.

Moving On

Lady Allen went on to sell her home and moved into a new house which she renovated and built a garden around. During this time she wrote several books about gardening. Again, her attention was drawn back to the playgrounds for children.

She began a new campaign to produce “adventure” playgrounds based on the Emdrup playground.

The campaign for Adventure Playgrounds

It was time to move forward with plans and development of Adventure Playgrounds. The process of negotiations, dealing with neighbors that did not support the idea and the fundraising presented challenges. The first Adventure Playground opened welcoming children.

These playgrounds were at full capacity as children rode trolleys down slopes, used sticks and such to dig, creative play was in full force with an atmosphere that was friendly and happy.

Many more of these unique playgrounds followed and are now adopted in the design concept of playgrounds worldwide.

The Vision Fulfilled

Lady Allen’s vision to provide children with a place to play was realized. Her legacy thrives throughout the world with the theory of play that is evident in playgrounds. Children’s play had returned to a more organic root and is not forced, but rather allowed to bloom.

Read about Our Lady Allen

Lady Allen Trust: The Plight of the Children

Following the Passion of Gardening


Marjory Allen (Lady Allen) was a passionate leader who carried the joy of her childhood forward in her work. Her skills and talent in gardening placed her in the eye of the public as her reputation preceded her accomplishments.

Creation of Play Parks


Lady Allen designed play parks throughout the world. Her vision was to create environments that fostered child’s play while incorporating her love and designing skills in gardening.


Upon the death of his husband, she threw herself into work and the war effort as a means of distraction and healing from his death. Her best friend helped her to stay busy by planning the design of children nurseries to be established all over the U.K.


In doing so, she became the Chair of the Nursery School Association. She and her peers developed, designed and fabricated easy to erect nurseries complete with staffing, toys, and furniture.


The Discovery of Suffering


During her work, Lady Allen discovered the suffering of orphan children while in the care of the state. The wretched living conditions these children were living in were not being monitored. After seeing the cruel and harsh environment the orphans were subjected to, she sought to bring about awareness to the public by contacting the local media.

One such case of abuse these children were living under was Dennis O’Neill. He endured abuse that was fatal because of the foster home he was in and the lack of supervision from the state.


Lady Allen wrote and published an awareness pamphlet called “Whose Children” which had factual information on the system’s failure to protect these children. As a result, a law was passed (Children’s Act 1948.) Fifty years after the law went into effect, the “Universal Nursery Education” was founded by Lady Allen.


Following her Passion


Marjory Allen made it her passion and life’s work to spread awareness for the advocacy of children. Awareness peaked as a result of a documentary film that was created by J. Arthur Rank highlighting Lady Allen’s children’s nurseries.


Rank went on to make hundreds of films that were targeted towards children. These films became the foundation for the Children’s Film Foundation of which Lady Allen was Chair of. One particular film by Rank sparked a movement. His film “Double Thread” personified the plight of children.


The Design of Play


The success of Lady Allen’s work in helping displaced children led to the request of her becoming a part of the European Initiative. This group was devoted to finding a way to provide the security and education for orphaned children as well as those that were displaced from the Holocaust.

Traveling through Europe with a stop in Copenhagen, Lady Allen visited the Froebel Institute to view a prospective new play area. While there she met Architect C. Sorenson.  He was unhappy with the design of the playgrounds he created. He noticed the children playing more on building sites as opposed to playgrounds that were finished, neat, and tidy. The building sites were messy with junk strewn about. It was amazing how the children loved this.


Based on this discovery of what the children prefer to play with, he began to design playgrounds centered on what the children played with more.

Junk served as tools the children used to create and invent. Sorenson went on to create more and more playgrounds based on the “messy and junky” playground concept.


Taking a bold step, he designed a playground full of junk on a small parcel of land. Lady Allen witnessed a “flash of understanding” from this junky playground.  The world of play was transformed by providing the children with what they wanted to play with.


Creative play required nothing more than simplicity!

Read about Lady Allen