Controversy may now surround the plans taking shape for the future of Gunnersbury Park, but these photographs from our archives paint a picture of the gradual dilapidation which has blighted the once-proud estate.

Originally a manor owned by the Bishop of London, Gunnersbury Park in the mid-17th Century came into the possession of lawyer and politician Sir John Maynard, who built the original Gunnersbury House while England was briefly a Cromwellian republic.

In 1760, the house and estate were bought for Princess Amelia, favourite daughter of George II, who used the estate as a summer retreat and made the area famous for parties and political intrigues.

After Amelia's death in 1786, the land was sold off piecemeal in 13 lots, all of which were eventually bought by two men - Alexander Copeland and Stephen Cosser - who established two separate estates, each with its own house.

Copeland built a large mansion which became known as Gunnersbury Park, while Cosser built a smaller mansion almost alongside which was recognised, confusingly, as Gunnersbury House.

Merchant and financier Nathan Rothschild bought the large mansion and park in 1835, and the estate was finally reunited in 1889 when his family acquired the small mansion and its grounds.

They extended it further to the west and north, and turned an old clay-pit in the south-west into the Potomac lake known today. The tile kiln next to it was adapted to become a boat house disguised as a Gothic folly.

It was the Rothschilds who finally delivered the park into public hands in 1925 when they sold the estate to Ealing Borough Council and Acton Borough Council for £130,000.

The move caused an outcry because there was a huge need for land which could be developed following the First World War. Neighbouring Brentford and Chiswick Borough Council opposed the loan of purchase money from the Ministry of Health, claiming that most of the land should be used for housing.

But Maria de Rothschild insisted that Gunnersbury should remain as a permanent memorial to her husband, Leopold, and should only be used for leisure - though she did allow 13 of the 200 acres to be used for building houses.

Brentford and Chiswick Council dropped its objection the following year and entered into joint ownership and management of Gunnersbury with Ealing and Acton, an arrangement which lasted until 1965 when the park passed into the hands of Hounslow Council. The creation of the Gunnersbury Park Joint Committee with Ealing followed two years later.

The dilapidation of the park and its buildings has been gradually worsening in recent decades as a result of pressure on council budgets diverting cash away form horticulture and maintenance.

English Heritage has named Gunnersbury Park - now home to the London Mela and many other events - as one if its top 12 at-risk properties because of the large amount of cash needed to carry out repairs.

The Gunnersbury Park Regeneration Board was formed last year to try to reverse the park's decline and protect it for future generations.

Proposals are being developed to transform it into three distinct areas of formal parkland, sports grounds and community space, and to restore derelict buildings such as the Gothic stable block the Orangery, which was built in 1836 by Sydney Smirke, the architect behind the reading room at the British Museum.

But the possibility that some land to the south of the park could be sold off for development has raised anxieties among those who wish to see the whole of Gunnersbury remain dedicated to the enjoyment of the public.

The large mansion at Gunnersbury currently houses a museum charting the history of Ealing, which is likely to be moved off site as part of the regeneration.