FoHP : History 4 : 1897-1945 (NH)

 

Fine Tuning

With the park’s opening behind them, the Pleasure Grounds Committee met on the 12th July 1897 to discuss its upkeep. Two men were employed as gardeners, but half of one man’s time was taken up with looking after a children’s playground on the Bristol Road. Councillor Cochrane said that ‘they could not do all that was required with one and a half men, really three men were required. Mr. Morris said that the mowing of the grass was more than one man’s work. It had to be done with a scythe, for until much of the ground was properly levelled it would be impossible to use a mowing machine, pulled by a donkey, as was contemplated. There was seven acres in the park, including the walks and shrubberies. The Chairman said there was also a great deal of weeding to be done, and Mr. Cochrane added that a quantity of rough stones needed to be removed from the plantations. It was decided that two men, paid 18s a week each, would be kept all their time at Henrietta Park and one man would be engaged to look after the Bristol Road playground’.

Other issues discussed were vandalism, both in Hedgemead and Henrietta Parks, resulting in a motion that notices be placed hoping ‘that the public will protect what is intended for the public enjoyment’. Another twelve seats were authorised with ‘some wire netting fixed to keep out the fowls’.

They also took a decision that would plague them for many years to come. The London and Provincial Automatic Machine Company installed ‘sweetmeat’ and weighing machines in public parks. They asked permission to place one each in both Hedgemead and Henrietta Parks for a rental of £5 per year, paid in advance. The Chairman agreed. It wasn’t long before the complaints began to arrive; the machines were encouraging gangs of boys who littered the park with discarded wrappers. In December 1897 the following letter appeared in the Chronicle:—


Sir,— The Corporation has laid out this park so tastefully, and it is kept so neat and orderly, that one hardly likes to raise a word of objection; but surely it is a mistake to allow the penny-in-the-slot boxes to be placed there, it is enough to vulgarise any place. There are plenty of shops within two or three minutes’ walk where children can get twice as many sweets for their pennies. It is said the Corporation gets 25s in rent but we cannot have got so low, even though the rates have been raised, that it should be necessary to vulgarise the park for such a trifling sum. When the Corporation knows what a strong objection exists the vulgar and offensive boxes will no doubt be removed at once and then we shall be able to say “as regards Henrietta Park the Corporation has done all things well”.


At the Council Meeting in late February 1898 the Town Clerk said that he was going to give notice to the Company that these machines had to be removed by the year end. Councillor Cochrane opposed the move, saying that they should not pay so much attention to every little agitation.’ Farwell ‘wished they would take the machines away, the papers from them made made the place very untidy’. Mr. Riddle, the Gardener, said that ‘they were a source of nuisance, they had a lot of trouble now with lads in the park’. Despite these objections the Committee voted to retain them. At the end of the year the Council renewed the contract after the Company offered to raise its rent to £6 a year. By 1910 they were in a state of dereliction, the Town Clerk writing to the Company asking for either their repair or removal. They were taken out the following year, the park keeper being ‘harassed to death with the things’.

Spring 1898 saw the wall running along along the back of Laura Chapel extended by 50ft. at a cost of £4-4s-0d, the stone being provided by Farwell from the Bathwick Estates North Road Quarry. A mowing machine was purchased for £12 together with a £3 donkey to ‘draw it when required’.

Also in the spring came the installation of a meteorological station. Dr. Symons, the city’s Medical Officer, had documented six deaths during the previous year which could be related to excessive heat. Whilst Bath marketed itself as a health resort it lacked data to justify its claim of having two climates, both of which were cooler than Greenwich. Dr Symons recommended two stations, an upper one in Lansdown and a lower one in Henrietta Park. He explained ‘the station would not be too near the river, giving the impression that the city had a very damp atmosphere. The basic instruments would cost £8-8s, to which must be added a sunshine recorder (£10-10s), a barometer (£5-5s) and fencing (£6-6s). The actual observations would be taken daily by my assistant. If we had this apparatus we could show we had both a cool climate and a warm one, and people could take their choice’. The scheme was approved and from 1st June the Chronicle began to report the readings from the Henrietta Park Climatic Station on a weekly basis.

On the 11th July 1898 Morris attended a meeting of the Pleasure Grounds Committee to present drawings prepared by his son Seton for a combined public shelter and lavatory. Farwell and Captain Forester had already seen and approved the sketches. He suggested ‘the structure be erected in a position back towards and obliquely with what was formally Laura's Chapel and not interfere with any of the paths or the general contour of the grounds. A path hidden by shrubs on either side should be placed at the rear as a workman’s entrance’. Contemporary maps position them on the site of the present day public conveniences. The plans were unanimously approved and Morris promised to obtain working drawings by the next meeting. They were formally agreed at the end of August and tenders advertised.

The contract was won by a Mr. Underhill, but, before an agreement could be drawn up, he wrote to the Council saying that he now found it necessary to increase his tender to £145. His revised offer was rejected. The next lowest offer, that of £134-18s-0d, submitted by Seton Morris, was accepted in its place. The building was completed in June 1899:


HENRIETTA PARK SHELTER

The Chairman said the shelter in Henrietta Park was now practically complete, only one more coat of paint having to be added to finish the work, and thought they would agree with him that the shelter was very well put up. He would like to propose a vote of thanks to Mr. J.W. Morris for the kind way which he had started the whole thing and got his son to draw up the plans for it. Secondly he would like to propose a vote of thanks to Mr. Morris, Jun, and expressed for the kind and liberal way he had presented the plans to the city. The Chairman explained that Mr. Morris had made no charge whatsoever for his work. It was a splendid piece of work and very nicely done. A vote of thanks was passed to Mr. Farwell for providing stone for building purposes.

 

Unruly Children

At the Council Meeting on the 3rd September 1901 the subject of unruly children in Henrietta Park came up. There was disagreement whether this was a perceived problem, or a real one:

Mr Knight called attention to the clause in the report dealing with the nuisance at Henrietta Park. He had been there a great deal himself and saw no nuisance caused by the children. The park was not made to be an adjunct for the houses in Henrietta Street. He hoped the restriction which the Committee were endeavouring to put would not result in the children being harassed and driven about from one part of the park to another.

Alderman Rubie said that when he was present in the park one Sunday evening, the children came in gangs of six or eight, unattended by anyone capable of taking care of them, and they were consequently allowed to run anywhere. He was not at all pleased to see some of them drag the iron chairs upon the beautiful lawn. The children required their father’s or elder brother’s with them to keep them in order.

Alderman Tucket said he was pleased to see the children use the park, they were no nuisance to him or to anyone, so far as he knew.’


Knight and Tucket were to find themselves on the losing side of the argument because later that month a uniformed park attendant was appointed. Nine months into his job he was becoming a little too zealous:

Our attention has been called by indignant ratepayers and parents to what would appear to be the arbitrary rule in Henrietta Park. Little girls, with their nurses, playing with a soft India rubber ball and a small racquet on the lawns, merely knocking the ball about, have been peremptorily ordered to desist by the caretaker. What are children without lawns of their own to do? Hard and fast regulations of this kind are absurd, and destroy one of the real objects of such open spaces, to give pleasure and health to our little ones.’


In September 1915 the complaints resurfaced again, the children ‘were jumping on the seats and damaging them, the chairs not being fit to sit on as a consequence, the children were exceedingly rude and jeered at ladies who spoke to them, there being no-one in control of them, the park attendant was powerless, not being invested with any authority’. The suggestion of providing them with a sand pit to play in was met with derision, ‘better they went to the seaside!

Allegedly 1929 was no better: ‘Complaints of Henrietta Park being a ‘bedlam’ and the resort of ‘young hooligans’ were received at Monday’s meeting of the Bath Park’s Committee. A resident in Pulteney Street wrote asking ‘ whether steps might be taken to stop the use of Henrietta Park as a playground for boys and girls who behave like hooligans, and whose main pleasure consists of screaming at the top of their voices. The riding of bicycles was also complained of by the writer, who stated that, in spite of the hot weather, he had had to keep his windows closed until the park was shut. He added ‘ I know cases of people having turned away when they have seen the bedlam in the park’.

The second letter came from an address in Argyle Street, was in similar terms. The ‘offences’ mentioned in this case were high jumping, football and tobogganing in perambulators, the use of trees as cricket stumps and noise.

The Chairman remarked that with the opening of Cleveland Bridge the children came over from Walcot. He had often seen them playing in the park and like to see the youngsters doing it.

Councillor Bray said that he had often visited the park and never seen any horseplay. If our park’s are as well looked after as Henrietta, then they are looked after well.

Councillor Chivers said that lads of seventeen were playing football, to which Councillor Smith said that was not the case, all they were doing was kicking a rubber ball about.

Councillor Southwood appealed to the Committee not to take privileges away from little children, to which Councillor Bray said taking everything into consideration they behave themselves very well (hear, hear).’


Challenging Covenants

1908 was a year of high unemployment and the Government encouraged local authorities to introduce job creation schemes. Henrietta Park benefited by having the railings and shelter repainted and the outer path resurfaced. In October came a suggestion, ominously not rejected out of hand, that the Pleasure Grounds Committee ‘provide tennis lawns and bowling greens in Henrietta Park’. A ‘Bowling Greens Committee’ was formed to look into the matter. In October 1909 they recommended that the City Surveyor prepare a report on the ‘possibility of constructing a green in Henrietta Park’. It was presented to the Council in February 1910:

The Committee were unanimous in choosing Henrietta Park as the spot for a public green. The property, thanks to the generosity of Captain Forester, belongs to the city, and his agent, Councillor E.W. Farwell, favours the laying out of a bowling green in that charming pleasuance. Mr. Fortune, the City Surveyor, is to prepare plans and estimates for the new green.

The plans were ready in April and discussed at the Council Meeting the following month. Although Mr. Windebank, the Surveyor, accepted that the local residents had raised a petition against the scheme, he suggested ‘that this petition should be shelved for the present, and that the work on the bowling green should be proceeded with, and carried out at once. Bowls was a good sporting game, and he felt sure that if they carried out this green in Henrietta Park it would be a great convenience to both ratepayers and visitors, and of great importance to the park.

Colonel Arnoll Davis, Chairman of the Pleasure Grounds Committee opposed, saying ‘the park was a very small one, and they had an alternative site in Sydney Gardens, which when laid out would provide room for a fine bowling green. A bowling green would spoil Henrietta Park.’ A vote was taken and Arnoll Davis was defeated by eleven votes to seventeen.

The Ladies of Pulteney Street’ then took matters into their own hands, firstly by writing to the Chronicle:

Sir,— The Ladies of Pulteney Street beg to thank the Corporation most cordially for proposing to have a bowling green in Henrietta Park. It is just what they would like, a croquet and tennis lawn, and if the gentleman have their bowling green they cannot refuse the ladies their playground, although they have never dared to ask for it, because what was understood when the park was given by Captain Forester no games were to be allowed and children have always been stopped in playing bat and ball. The ladies do not approve of a bowling green as the artistic beauty of the park will be entirely spoilt by one; and Colonel Arnoll Davis, who has always taken so much interest and pride in the park is greatly annoyed of the idea of a bowling green. The park is too small for one, but should such an obstruction be made, surely there can be no stop made to a ladies tennis lawn, and if the rate payer money is spent for the men, it can also be spent for ‘THE LADIES OF PULTENEY STREET’.

Secondly by appealing directly to Captain Forester. They received an encouraging reply: ‘Captain Forester hopes that the proposed change will not be made. If bowling greens are required he hopes that they will be constructed in a more appropriate spot’.


By late July they had won: ‘negotiations have been commenced for the acquisition of the land in Green Park for a bowling green in lieu of the site in Henrietta Park being vetoed by Capt. Forester.

In 1921 there was another attempt, this time for tennis courts. Again it was argued that their construction would provide work for the unemployed and a source of revenue for the Council. The subject came before the Park's Committee on Monday 15th July:

The question of making further provision for bowling and tennis in the city came before the Committee, and it was decided to approach Captain Forester with a view to getting removed the restriction respecting the playing of bowls and tennis in Henrietta Park. It is considered that there is space in the park which can be utilised without too much expense, and without in any way interfering with the amenities of this charming pleasure ground.’

This time the residents of Pulteney and Henrietta Streets were ready; once more they organised a petition and appealed to Captain Forester. The Chronicle thought these tactics underhand:

That the opportunity which presented itself for the laying out of tennis courts in Henrietta Park, and thus extending the very limited possibilities of public recreation on municipal courts, should have been frustrated by a “round robin” of protest by residents in the vicinity of the park, is unfortunate. One would have thought that the pleasant animation associated with tennis courts could have offered no possible offence to any resident in the neighbourhood. There are no disturbing noises proceeding from the courts; no wild excitement at the nets to distract even a resident of neurotic tendency. That there should be any opposition at all to so decorous a game is astonishing, and I incline to the view, expressed by Alderman Wills at the Council meeting, that many who were signatories of the round robin signed it without appreciation of what they were doing. That we need more tennis courts in Bath is not to be contested, and in Henrietta Park the level ground would have enabled the Committee to lay out the projected courts at comparatively small expense. The round robin seems to me to have been a particularly selfish procedure on the part of its instigators; but the mischief, it is to be feared, has been done.’

The petition had the desired result. Mr. Paget, Captain Forester’s agent, wrote a letter to the Committee stating that ‘since a large number of residents had objected to the proposal, he could not advise Captain Forester to withdraw the embargo placed upon organised games in the park, and in these circumstances the clause prohibiting games would not be revoked”. Not wishing to displease their benefactor, the Chairman immediately back tracked; the Committee, he explained, ‘simply desired to have the clause taken out, and there was no intention to ask the Council to agree forthwith to a tennis court’.

Not widely publicised at the time, in 1964 the Council tried for a third time to circumvent Forester’s ban. On the 20th July it was suggested to the Recreational and Cemeteries Committee that Henrietta Park would benefit from a children's playground. The Town Clerk reported back on the 16th November to say that this was not possible due to the restrictive covenants agreed to in 1897. Nevertheless, he was instructed to investigate further. This he did, reporting on the 18th January 1965 that unless consent was granted from the late Captain Forester’s representatives the covenants were still legally binding. The Committee instructed him to ask for such consent and they had their response two months later:

On the 15th March The Town Clerk read a letter from the Bathwick Estate Company stating that the Company and the personal representatives of the late Capt. F. W. Forester are favourably disposed towards the Committee’s proposals to children's play equipment in this park, and ask to be supplied with a plan showing the exact position of the play equipment and of the fencing proposed to be erected around that equipment. The Parks Superintendent had been asked to supply that plan.’

This plan was clearly not to Bathwick Estates’s liking because at the next Council meeting they had to admit defeat:

On the 17th May 1965 the Town Clerk read a letter from the Bathwick Estate Company stating that the Company and the personal representatives of the late Capt. F. W. Forester are unable to give their approval to the erection of children’s play equipment in this park, because in their opinion such usage would not be in accordance with the donor’s intentions at the time the park was given to the Corporation.

The Committee noted the above decision with regret and instructed the Parks Superintendent to report on the question of siting the children’s play equipment in Sydney Gardens.’


Wartime

During the First World War Henrietta Park was used for drilling youth groups and volunteer organisations. A separate entrance into the park from Nos 20 and 21 Henrietta Street was authorised in 1914 and a similar request from the Pulteney Hotel (now Connaught Mansions) was granted the following year.Apart from two nights, Henrietta Park had a quiet Second World War. The Baedeker raids occurred during during the nights of 25 -27 April 1942. Three bombs straddled the park; one exploded in Henrietta Mews at the junction of Daniel Street and Henrietta Gardens. It damaged the southern facade of No 1 Daniel Street and blowed out the windows of Nos 36 and 37, the Pulteney Arms. Henrietta Mews itself was strewn with rubble, twisted railings, branches and shrubbery. The other two bombs exploded harmlessly in the park in a line 100 yards apart; the craters were filled in by the end of June.

On the 24th October 1942 the following short article appeared in the Chronicle:


BATH PARK GATES FOR ‘SCRAP’

ALL RAILINGS TO GO

It was reported at the meeting of the Bath Parks and Cemetery Committee on Monday afternoon that all the railings in all the parks and cemeteries, including the gates at Victoria Park, are to be removed and sent to help to make weapons of war.’


King George V. Memorial Garden

King George V died on the 20th January 1936 at Sandringham. At the time his uncle, Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught, was spending winter at the Pulteney Hotel. In late February, shortly before he left for Bournemouth, he planted a commemorative oak tree adjacent to the entrance to Henrietta Road. During the ceremony the idea was floated that maybe a memorial garden to his nephew could be built close to the spot. This news was received with equanimity by the Parks Committee whose budget was already fully committed. It was not until the 1st July that they discussed the proposal seriously:

The creation of a memorial garden to King George V in Henrietta Park was discussed at a meeting of the Bath Parks Committee on Monday afternoon, when a letter was received from the Bathwick Estate Company indicating that Capt. Forester had no objection to the incorporation in the scheme of an architectural feature.

Alderman Hacker expressed the hope that they would do something worthy of the scheme, and not just put up a paltry thing which was going to cost £100, and about afterwards they would be sorry.

Mr T. Hopkins (Parks Superintendent) pointed out that whatever was done had to be in the nature of a picture within a picture. They had a lovely park there, and would have to be very careful, or they would spoil the whole place. A well known landscape architect had been to see the gardens and take photographs, and other particulars.

The Chairman, Mr. Biggs said that he was not in favour of putting a building there. He thought that there was no immediate hurry to proceed.

It was decided that the landscape architect be written to and asked for some ideas as to what the cost would be.’


The Chronicle picked up on the apparent lack of enthusiasm, commenting: ‘if the memorial garden is to be laid out it must be done in no paltry way. Better it were left alone than that.’

Towards the end of the month the design was submitted to the Committee:

Bath Parks Committee decided to lay out a King George Memorial Garden in Henrietta Park at a cost of £450. The idea came when the Duke of Connaught planted a tree there. The site lies near the Henrietta Road entrance, which will be shifted to give length to the garden.

Bordered on one side by shrubbery and on the other by an ornamental hedge to give an atmosphere of seclusion, there will be a pergola of teakwood, 90ft by 45ft bearing climbing flowers and a lily pond at the centre 30ft by 15ft, with a depth of water of 18 inches, fed from the waste water from the Laura Place fountain. One of the chief items of expenditure will be conveying the water. No fountain is proposed.

A drawing was shown by Mr. T Hopkins and unanimously approved.

In early September the Parks Committee ‘did not intend to make an immediate start in constructing the memorial garden to King George V in Henrietta Park, but to wait until a more appropriate season of the year’. In October tenders were obtained for the erection of the pergola whilst in November ‘everything was in readiness for employees of the City Engineers department to construct the concrete work necessary for the building of the pool’.

Surprisingly, in early February 1937 the Chronicle was able to announce:

HENRIETTA PARK GARDEN ALMOST COMPLETED


The garden in Henrietta Park, commenced in the autumn as a memorial to King George V, is now almost completed. There is already a good deal to see, but it will be necessary to wait until the summer to appreciate the attractiveness of what will undoubtedly be a great asset to the park and to the city.

The enclosure is oval in shape, being about 200ft long by 100ft wide, and the line of the oval will be marked by continuous floral shrubbery, except where the gravelled path gives access to the garden. It is in the corner of the park near Henrietta Street, and, in order to obtain the space needed for the memorial, the entrance from that side has been moved some 20 yards nearer to Laura Place.

In the centre of the enclosure is a large teak pergola, and within the pergola is an oblong lily pond. Teak seats to harmonise with the pergola are to be introduced. The pergola is being planted with clematis of various colours— purple, pink mauve and white. This will present a very beautiful appearance.

The whole works has been carried out by the Parks Department, under the direction of Mr. Thomas Hopkins, and the indications are that in due season this Royal memorial garden will have possibly the choicest floral display to be seen in any park or public garden in the city.’


Later in the month the Parks Committee had to justify why they were overspent; ‘providing pergola at Henrietta Park, not estimated for’ was one reason. In 1939 they were to spend a further £14 2s 6d on a bronze tablet commemorating the memorial’s dedication.