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Friends of Grosvenor & Hilbert Park

Oral History - The Memories of Phyllis Stace

Phyllis Stace was born in the mid 1920s and lived for eight years in Auckland Road. For her and her brother, who was two years older, the park was their local play area. Their father worked at the Gas Works on the other side (High Brooms) and they had an allotment in Sandhurst Road. In 1933 they moved to Cambrian Road, and Phyllis carried on walking through the park for three years, to St Barnabas primary school.

Swings in the Hollow

Before the Second World War the park keeper lived in The Lodge, Auckland Road. Everynight he went round locking the gates at sunset. Before he started, he would blow a whistle to warn everyone to leave, and he always walked round the same way, so you knew how long you had to get out. There were the gates at Auckland Road and Rochdale Road, as now. There was an entrance by the Council Works Yard. The zig-zag bridge was built about 1934/35, and Phyllis thinks a house on Upper Grosvenor Road must have been pulled down to make that entrance, she says there were gooseberry bushes all around the path( I went to have a look and no 176 Upper Grosvenor Road is missing, with 174 and 178 either side of the entrance ) The last exit then went into Folly Shaw, as the Hilbert Recreation Ground was still being constructed. Phyllis remembers it as the Charity farm, and there being cows kept on the fields. The otherside of the farm, to Sandhurst Park was nurseries and it was like being in the country.

The park layout at the time started in the South by Grosvenor Bridge with the caves and duck pond (or as we like to say: The Dripping Wells and Lake!). As these are fed by the Jackswood Spring, when the electricity works in Quarry Road were busy and took too much water it reduced the flow to the park. They used to sail toy yachts on the duck pond. Next was the swimming pool, which was dirty because of the soot from the passing steam trains. Between the existing bowling green and the railway line were tennis courts. By the Auckland Road entrance was a boat swing and a baby swing. The bandstand there in the North East corner near to Dorking road (official date for demolition is 1935), but Phyllis doesn't remember any bands playing there. In the hollow were the remains of the lower lakes, described by Phyllis as muddy pools, but still with their original railings. Above them, towards the railway line, was a levelled area with a shelter and swings. Cycling was banned, you had to get off and push.

Her husband was in the police force from 1935 – 1960, and he told her that after the war the swimming pool was filled in with various debris from the war.


Article: Carolyn T Gray

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