We asked some long-term residents to share their memories of the Recreation Ground from the past. Thank you to everyone who contributed.
Ken Speers' Memories of Chislehurst (Submitted October 2010)
I would like to take you on a journey back in time when Chislehurst was still developing. As a lad I played with my friends along the path that runs beside the Library. There were a number of trees notably Oaks and Hawthorns and in particular a large Oak which was hollow inside. We had great fun climbing inside to hide. To enter the recreation ground you had to go through gates which were situated next to the Tennis Courts which had to be relaid and surfaced after two land mines fell in the vicinity of the cricket and football pitches. The keepers hut was situated next to the tennis court adjacent to Empress Drive.
A few yards from where the Red Hill School’s playing fields are situated was an underground air-raid shelter with two entrances/exists at either end and these sloped to two doors and the whole shelter was surrounded with chestnut fencing.
There was no entry or exit into Walden Road as this area of the park was private land and was fenced off along with the woods. The fencing was broken down, so naturally we did on occasions play there. This area belonged to the Whyte family. Part of the woods was a bird sanctuary. In the open area next to the woods were a number of apple trees. Some of which are still there today.
Excerpts from Sidcup and Chislehurst Urban District Council Minutes
“Through the munificence of Miss Whyte of the Briars, Chislehurst, this woodland has-been dedicated to the people of Chislehurst, and your Committee took the opportunity of conveying to her the grateful thanks of the inhabitants, and a graceful reply was received.”
Excerpt from previous information
“The War put a halt to any further progress in preparing the woodland for public access and extending the adjacent Walden Recreation Ground that had just been sold to the Urban District Council by the Chislehurst Athletic Association. After the War the Ratepayers’ Association became the Chislehurst Residents’ Association. |It was not until the Annual Report for 1948 that it could be reported, “Owing to the efforts of your Councillors, and extension to the Recreation Ground, with access from Walden Road, was opened in August 1948. At the same time, the beautiful woodlands presented by Misses Whyte, ten years ago, were at last opened to the public.”
Later swings were installed beside the woods in the top right hand corner, just before the gardens in Walden Road. On a sad note there was a tragic accident sometime after the swings were installed when a child was killed.
Two clubs played on the cricket pitch – Chislehurst Athletic and Chislehurst Cricket Club 2nd Eleven and later a team from London and Cranmore. Chislehurst Athletic Football Club used the football pitch and were members of the Kent Amateur League. The Sunday team later became Redhilll. It became necessary to fence off the football pitch with ropes to keep spectators off the playing field. Often there were crowds in excess of several hundred. The football club Chairman/Secretary was George Harland who lived in Bartham Road. Several players later joined top amateur teams, one became an international amateur and one turned Professional with Leyton Orient.
During the summer months on at least one occasion there was a circus on the football pitch.
By the pavilion was a drinking fountain where we were able to quench our thirst. There were also more seats alongside the path leading to the pavilion.
This was later named Walden Recreation Ground. Access to the top field was via Inglebey Way and from a dirt track which ran from behind the library from the footpath at an angle to join the top field just passing the end house/bungalow in Inglebey Way..
From Ingleby Way you entered the field on a concrete road and there were two possible three brick build air-raid shelters above ground. If my memory serves me correctly one on the left, one or two on the right further along. I am not sure if there was access from Victoria Road to these. This area was also used to park ambulances during the war.
A search light was placed on the site of Walden Manor (now the site of Ravensbourne College.)
After the war, during most summers fairs and circuses performed on the field. I can distinctly remember on one occasion a racing car track was completely destroyed by fire overnight.
The path leading to the end of Oakdene Avenue, Cranmore Road was called the Cow Path but in those days was only a track. There were no trees along this track which gave a wonderful view over London and on a clear day St Pauls and possibly Tower Bridge were visible. People would often say, if you wanted to see London go up to the top field. #There were swings over on the left hand side beside the woods.
Later there also a further football pitch which various teams used after Ingleby Way became a dead end.
The following is from Jean. Thanks Jean!
Does anyone remember Bill, the full time Groundsman who looked after the football and cricket pitches as well as maintaining the woods? There was also an aviary next to the pavilion that was burnt down one night but fortunately the birds were rescued.
The tennis courts at that time could be hired by anyone who wanted to play on them but were poorly maintained so weren’t very popular. Someone came up with the idea of forming a tennis club and, despite some local opposition, the plans were passed for a building to be erected and shrubs planted on the outside to soften the effect.
The children’s playground consisted of a couple of swings and some monkey bars situated on the edge of the woods opposite the present playground. There was a wide ditch with water and a “Tarzan” rope – which was very popular near the present playground.
There was only a tarmac path then joining Empress Drive to Walden Road. The circular path was added later.
The Cow Path connecting the top field to Elmstead Lane had open meadows on either side and on the right hand side was a large rambling “tudor farm house” standing in paddocks with a gate and horses. Does anyone know more about this house and possibly have any pictures? The house was pulled down and the land developed and is now Broadheath Drive. The Art College was built on the other side.
Problems with groups of young people were such a problem at this time that the Council allowed residents to close the gates to the park and lock them. The downside to this was that someone had to get up early in order to open the gates to the general public.