The opening of Norwood Park just fifty years ago on 14th June, 1911 brought to success a campaign which local people had waged for years. As long ago as 1894, two fatal street accidents to children had led to an agitation for an open space where the boys and girls of Norwood could play in safety. A proposal was in fact made to buy a portion of the land now included in Norwood Park, but it did not materialise. By 1903, however, the movement to acquire the park had engaged the attention of an enthusiastic band of workers, among them Sir Ernest Tritton, M.P. for Norwood and a generous donor of funds, and the Rev. W. Baxendale, who worked so hard as the secretary of the local committee.
The Parks and Open Spaces Committee of the L.C.C. and the Lambeth Metropolitan Borough Council agreed to ask the ecclesiastical Commissioners, then the freeholders of most of Norwood, whether they had any land around Gipsy Hill which they would sell for an open space. Eventually, the Commissioners agreed to sell nearly thirtythree and a half acres for £15,000. Today’s value would be something like that an acre. The L.C.C. agreed to contribute half the money and the Borough of Lambeth £5,000. This was mainly due to the efforts of Councillor H.W. Britton, who fought so hard to acquire the park and who at the great age of 97 is still hale and hearty. It is believed that he is the sole survivor of the original Lambeth B.C. whose signature appears on the title deeds of Norwood Park.
At the opening ceremony, speeches were delivered from an improvised platform erected under an awning. The Chairman of the Southern District of the Parks Committee presided and the Upper Norwood Temperance Prize Band played the National Anthem. In his speech, Sir Ernest Tritton said it was a very happy day for him; he had long had a burning desire to see the park opened. It had long been wanted in Norwood, and he spoke as one who had lived there for sixty years. In his early days, he said, there was a winding path where the Crystal Palace Parade now ran, and there was no Gipsy Hill: only a gipsy encampment. Now, Norwood had a splendid park, one that would be a great help to the health and happiness of Norwood people for all time to come.
Before the Park.
Fifty years ago, what is now Norwood Park was a property of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners let out as ‘Philbrooke’s Farm’, allotments and grazing for ‘Bacon’s Dairy’, near where Elder Road and Gipsy Road meet. The allotmenteers were restricted by church observances and not allowed to ‘work’ after 11 o’clock on a Sunday, but it was a charming sight to see the families visit ‘Dad’s allotment’ during the Day of Rest, and the Harvest Festivals were very truly in the spirit a town dweller can scarcely visualise. Norwood, in those days, especially ‘Lower’(now West) Norwood, was very much a community.
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