Warminster Lake Pleasure Grounds
Asked to do a piece for Local History Month I was considering various buildings and people of Warminster. Then with the ongoing Covid virus affecting us all I remembered my lunch time walk through the town park. A glorious spring day, people were meeting friends and family. A joyous sight, seeing grannies and grandads meeting up with young grandchildren, not seen for weeks, friends were picnicking from a distance. There was a lot of smiles and laughter. A real tonic for people after a long lockdown. We are so lucky to have this lovely environment to go to. Long may it be a place for meeting friends and family, for children to play in the playground, and paddle in the paddling pool. For friends to sit on bench’s round the lake, admiring the ducks on the lake, the glorious trees and lovely flowers. The Smallbrook Nature Reserve to walk through with lovely wildflowers and lots of birds, what’s not to like!
The History of the Park
The idea for the Town Park was originally suggested and designed as a Remembrance of the Coronation of King George V in 1911. This did not happen then, but was brought up again in 1922. After the First World War unemployment was high so it became a work creation scheme. A loan was received from The Ministry of Health in the December, and the Unemployment Grants Committee also paid an unemployment grant. Half the £8,000 cost of scheme was wages for the workers.
The site chosen was the town’s Old Refuse Tip in Weymouth Street, a boggy area, and the need for a major removal of soil, then levelling the site.
In the plans were digging of a lake, building a bandstand and a boathouse, and swimming pool on Weymouth Street entrance. Having once being the town’s rubbish tip, the land was boggy and unstable, meaning the foundations for the concrete swimming baths had to be strengthened.
On the 26th July, 1924 at 4p.m ‘The Lake Pleasure Grounds’ were opened by The Marquis of Bath. The Grounds contained a large swimming bath, a miniature Golf course, hard and soft tennis courts, a Bandstand and a lake of 4 acres with a Boathouse. The day included sporting competitions, Warminster Town Band playing and other entertainments. In the evening the park was illuminated by lights and fireworks. There was also a Wireless concert from 9-11p.m with music from Bournemouth, Birmingham and Cardiff broadcasting stations.
To keep the grounds in good condition a Park Keeper and Gardener was sought. The job came with a house with the appointed Mr W.J.Cope being classified as a servant, the Council having to take out a licence for a male servant, this cost 15 shillings for the year. It was not till 1925 that the cottage and the park were completed, due to bad weather.
On the death of King George V in 1936, it was thought to create the playing field that had been part of the original idea for the park. It was not till 1938 that the committee for King George’s Foundation approved the children’s play area under a scheme for a National memorial for George V, and a grant of a £100.
The committee insisted the field be called ‘King George’s Field’. Also the committee required an entrance suitable for the Heraldic panels to be erected. These panels are still on the gates into the children’s area.
The Park evolved over time. A popular addition was the paddling pool in the children’s area in 1947. Many local people can remember the fun had by all in the long hot Summer holidays -even Granny’s rolling down their stockings to paddle with the children!
The play area was extended to include swings for the older children and climbing frames.
In more recent times a skate park has been added, this is always full of the local children doing their stunts.
The area around the lake has been planted with lovely trees. Warminster Town Council have just produced a tree trail brochure; trees include Italian Alders, Cockspur thorns, Lime, Swamp Cypresses, Norway Maple, and Dawn Redwood and make a lovely display all year round. The insects and birds love this environment, and it is a very pleasant walk. Many people sit on the benches and watch the world go by.
If you are feeling sporty the tennis courts are available for hire - alas the putting green is no longer running- you can sit in the old site and have a picnic though!
A new addition to the park is the Lakeside Centre. The building houses many groups and societies. Built in 1972 it is popular place to meet. Various events take place here, including cake sales and coffee mornings.
The opposite side of the tennis courts is the Park café. In what used to be changing rooms for the tennis courts, you can buy snacks, drinks and ice cream.
To mark the Queen’s Silver Jubilee in 1977 a project to landscape the Ridgeway Slope was set up - this involved some unemployed people and echoed the creation of the park with its work creation scheme after the war.
The park has been further enhanced by opening up Smallbrook Meadows to the east of the park. This has become a Nature reserve with a path created to lead you through to Smallbrook Lane. A haven for birds and insects alike it is a thrill to spot something - even if it is a fleeting glance!!
Ann, Warminster Library