Thornton Heath Recreation Ground Community Garden

SOME HISTORY OF THORNTON HEATH RECREATION GROUND

Thornton Heath Recreation Ground was one of the earlier open spaces to be acquired by Croydon Council. The first part of the ground was acquired in 1884 to serve the builtā€up area of Thornton Heath, however, by 1891 one of the clubs using the ground was complaining that it was "miserably small" for cricket and it was argued that the Council as a safety measure should forbid half the games played there on Saturdays. In 1894 a further 5 1/2 acres of ground were acquired and laid out. The footpath (pictured) that runs through the Park from Melfort Road to Bridport Road provides the divide between the two land acquisitions and is a right of way. Beside the footpath, on the site of the childrens playground, there used to be a bandstand were visitors to the park would gather in the summer to listen to visiting bands. The Park was so well used that it was reported in 1948 that "the ground has been used to such an extent that it is now bare of grass and in order to reinstate it to its former condition it must be closed for at least 9 months." Running along the western boundary of the park in a deep concrete channel is Norbury Brook, most of the time the brook is fairly shallow but during heavy rainfall water quickly drains from the adjacent built up areas and the water level rapidly rises. In July 1987 a new ornamental garden was opened by the Mayor of Croydon. While staff were constructing the garden they located a number of underground tunnels which had been built during the last World War to serve as air raid shelters. More recently investment in the park through the 'Parks to be Proud of' initiative has allowed substantial improvements to the childrens playground, games courts, the provision of a nine station outdoor gym and artificial cricket wicket.

A local resident, Viv Doyle, in the fifties recalls "When we moved from Norbury to Thornton Heath our house backed onto the 'rec' (recreation ground) where we played cricket and used the playground - swings and a roundabout. For years there used to be an old air raid shelter just inside the gate as you went in from Braemar Avenue, but that has now been pulled down.I only remember two accidents happening to children in the 1950s, despite the fact that we were allowed to play outside unsupervised by adults. One child fell off a swing in the Rec and an ambulance was called - very scary for those of us who happened to witness it because there was BLOOD. The other incident was when a boy tried to climb into the next door garden to retrieve a ball. The railings had spikes on them and one went right through his leg when he slipped - ouch! The fire brigade was called then to cut him free and he was whisked away - to Mayday or Croydon General hospital, I presume."

Do you have some memories of the Thorton Heath Rec to share? Please contact us and we can add them to the page...