Paul Rabbitts    

Park Manager, Parks Historian, Author & Public Speaker


The ingredients of a great park?

Posted on 9 May, 2016 at 16:30

A blog that emanates from a great meeting with Historic England today in Swindon, and with their Head of Publishing. Why? Unlike many history publishers, Historic England are not prolific but seem to concentrate on quality, somewhat more academic but cover such great subjects such as Turkish Baths, Breweries, Cinemas and Seaside architecture. Its diverse and they are keen to widen their portfolio on parks hence the new book on the social history of the bandstand. 

But the discussion widened when chatting about the ingredients of a park and work that has been done on related subjects:-

  • Lidos and outdoor swimming pools - once a common feature in many of our public parks, most having disappeared but some still present in parks and in a few odd cases, restored. Having seen Brockwell Lido 2 weeks ago, I was taken aback by its popularity and its design. A lovely book available here called Liquid Assets - The Lidos and Open Air Swimming Pools of Britain by Janet Smith. 
  • Bowling Greens - who would have thought that the bowling greens would have a distinct history of their own. Again a great book and piece of work Bowled Over - the Bowling Greens of Britain - a book available here by Hugh Hornby. 
So what is missing? Clearly a more autoritative book on bandstands, which led to a discussion on "parkitechture" - gates, railings, fountains, glass houses, aviaries, buildings, lakes, refreshment rooms, statues and monuments. A book was done on the Buildings and Monuments of the Royal Parks but good luck if you can find it. 
So the purpose of this rambling blog? After the meeting I went to have a look at the Town Gardens in Swindon, and despite its need of investment, one of the loveliest parks I have seen with.... a bandstand, ornate park gates, fountain, statues, ornamental bridge, sunken garden, aviary, bowling green, amphitheatre and was simply beautiful. It was a perfect example of "parkitechture". Book No 10 now in gestation. 

The bandstand

Statue of? not sure but lovely

Main entrance 

The currently closed bridge 

Gates looking derelict but wonderful design

The amphitheatre

Fountain and pond

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Reply Stewart Harding
4:29 on 10 May, 2016 
This was Alan Barber's favourite park. It is a beauty but urgently needs lottery money to bring it up to scratch.
Reply Mohammed
6:35 on 17 May, 2019 
Stewart Harding the park is fine.