Paul. A. Rabbitts    

Author, Parks Historian & Public Speaker

Public Speaking

With the obsessions have come a number of opportunities to speak to a wide range of community groups and organisations over the years. This has ranged from Women's Institutes to Church Groups, Rotary Clubs, Townswomen's Guilds, Sports Clubs, U3A, Museums, History Societies, Academic Institutions and lobbyist organisations.

I was on the approved list of speakers for the County Durham Federation of Women's Institutes and am currently on the Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire Federation's approved list of speakers, as well as a regular with local U3A's.

I offer a light hearted but entertaining talk which groups find interesting, informative and enjoy. Five talks are now available.

NB: I am now an accredited lecturer for the Arts Society. 

Talk ONE - Bandstands - History, Decline and Revival

A talk on the history of the Bandstand, from their origins in the mid-18th century to their heyday during the Victorian park making era, and their subsequent decline post World War Two. This talk is a slide show that follows this fascinating history and the recent revival of the bandstand in our public parks. This is a highly illustrative talk that engages many and fascinates the listener and has had excellent feedback from those who have heard this engaging talk. THIS IS A VERY POPULAR TALK

Talk TWO - A Concise History of our Great British Parks

This really is a fascinating insight into the history of one of our greatest ever institutions - our great British public park. We have all enjoyed them at some time in our lives but what do we really know about them? their origins? did they really start in the Victorian period or do they go even further back? This talk illustrates their origins, talks about the need for parks, the Victorian heyday, what makes a great park, with examples of lodges, lakes, bandstands, fountains and floral displays, to their great decline in the sixties and seventies. However, the subsequent revival has led to a major shift in interest in our parks and once again we are much in love with them. This is also a highly illustrative talk accompanied by slides with examples of parks from across the UK and their designs and architecture. This is a particularly popular talk and always goes down well as we can nearly always recount our own experiences with our own local park.

Talk THREE - Parks, People and Places - A Life in Landscape

This is really a talk about me!! from my beginnings as a landscape architect in Jersey to Carlisle City Council, to Middlesbrough Council, into consultancy at Halcrow and then as Head of Parks at Watford. Its a journey through my career, telling the stories of many of the small to large projects over the years I have worked on - multi-million pound park restoration projects to small scale community projects with local unemployed men, to wandering around the Scottish Borders or the Isle of Wight looking at allotments and play areas. I also have designed many private gardens over the years and tell the stories of some of the more bizarre requests from clients, to more recent escapades in writing and researching bandstands across the country. 25 years and counting, it is another talk that is engaging and enlightens the listener into the world of the landscape architect and parks manager with a weird slant on why I am obsessed with bandstands and is also illustrated with slides.

Talk FOUR -  Cassiobury, The Ancient Seat of the Earl's of Essex

One of the remnants of the great lost estates of the United Kingdom, Cassiobury Park is now the largest park in Hertfordshire, and the principal park of its primary town, Watford, covering an area twice the size of Hyde Park in London. But this is no ordinary town park.
In 1661, Arthur, the 2nd Baron Capel, was made the Earl of Essex and, by 1668/69, he had moved to Cassiobury permanently. By 1707, Cassiobury was a significant estate, and Charles Bridgeman was employed at Cassiobury in the 1720s. In 1800, the 5th Earl of Essex employed James Wyatt to rebuild the house. Humphry Repton was employed at Cassiobury, and the landscape was captured by J. M. W. Turner in a number of paintings. By 1881, there were many deer in the park, often traded with the royal deer parks at Richmond, Bushy and Windsor Great Park.
By the beginning of the twentieth century, large areas of the park had been sold off to Watford Borough Council for public parkland. By 1921, the lease was surrendered and, in 1927, Cassiobury House was demolished. Much of the remaining land was bought by the council becoming further parkland for the expanding Borough of Watford. This talk tells the significant story of a remarkable estate, family and parkland that has never been told before.

Talk FIVE - A History of London's Royal Parks

London's royal parks are among its most beautiful and beloved spaces: just as much as the Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace or St Pancras Station, the mere mention of Hyde or Regent's Park is enough to evoke the capital in all its glory for residents and tourists alike. They have a grand history - some were royally owned as far back as the Norman conquest, others were acquired by Henry VIII during the Reformation - and since being opened to the public during the eighteenth century, they have hosted some of London's great events, including the Great Exhibition and innumerable jubilees and celebrations. This talk tells the story of all eight of the parks from the point when they were acquired by the monarchy until the present day, including the major historic moments and events with which they are associated.

Cost and availability

Please contact me for costs as they vary depending on the group, size and location. Mileage is charged at 27p per mile.

Each talks lasts approximately 60 minutes but again can be tailored to suit.

Evenings are preferred but also occasional daytime availability too (subject to work commitments). If not already booked, short term notice can also be catered for.

All I ask for usually is a screen or a blank wall to display the slideshow which is powerpoint. I have a laptop and projector with extension.

Telephone 0791 5602358 or email [email protected] to book.