Park’s Victorian gems

Thousands celebrate progress of £3.3m refurbishment
22th July 2015 – Crawley News


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Report : Dave Comeau
Photos : Ian Stratton

A CHANCE visit to one of Crawley’s parks following an instance of vandalism led to the restoration of an incredible piece of the town’s history which was celebrated by up to 2,000 people on Sunday.

Huge crowds flocked to Worth Park, many of them wearing Victorian outfits, to take part in games and play on rides typical of that era to celebrate the progress of the park’s £3.3 million refurbishment which began in 2013.

Worth Park 1

Spectacular turnout : Up to 2,000 people are believed to have attended the picnic

Worth Park 2

Historic Moment : The fountain was turned on permanently for the first time in decades

Worth Park 3

Choir Attire : A Victorian choir performs for the crowds

Worth Park 6

Bathed in History : People dressed up in Victorian outfits, including bathing costumes

Worth Park 4

Making up her own rules : A youngster enjoys the Croquet lawn, but not as intended

Worth Park 5

Concentration : The Croquet lawn proved hugely popular

Worth Park 7

I kid you not : there were as many children as there were adults at the picnic

Worth Park 8

Celebration : The hard work of all those who made the restoration and the event possible was applauded

Worth Park 9

No quarter given : a barbershop quartet gave it their all with performances in the park

Crawley Croquet Club were busy throughout the event, in the park off Milton Mount Avenue. Pound Hill, with visitors eager to have a go at the Victorian sport on the croquet lawn.

Many brought their own picnics to sit on the grass, turning what has often been regarded as a hidden gem into one of the most popular public spaces in the town.

Anne Jenkinson, secretary of Worth Park Friends and of Crawley Croquet Club, hopes the park’s new found popularity will continue.

The resident of Home Close, Pound Hill said: “Worth Park is difficult to find; even the people who live in Pound Hill sometimes struggle, but it was absolutely packed on Sunday “We were so busy on the croquet lawn I had a job to eat my lunch. It was a fantastic day and we hope it will continue to be as popular.”

Sally Blake was a councillor for Pound Hill North in 2004 when she went to the park to investigate some criminal damage to Camellia Walk.

She invited then Pound Hill South and Worth councillor Claire Denman, who is a keen local historian, to join her.

It was after seeing the fountain, which was turned on officially for the first time in decades at Sunday’s celebration, and other features that Mrs Denman realised the park’s historical significance, after having carried out some research.

That led to a bid for Lottery money and the eventual start of the project.

Credit

Mrs Blake, who stepped down from the council in May said: “You could put it all down to Claire Denman and her knowledge of local history I was a bit of a bystander really so she deserves a lot of the credit.

“Sunday was really wonderful. There has been two or three years’ work so far and there have been some difficulties along the way, with the fountain flooding in the storm (around Christmas 2012).”

The project will run for about another 18 months but all that is left is the remainder of the landscaping, which will be coordinated by head gardener Sam Worsey The hard-standing features have been restored, which is why the celebration event took place now. There was a Victorian roundabout and swing boats set up, and a photographer was there with a working box camera to take pictures of the event.

There was an archaeological talk based on what had been uncovered during the restoration project, and an exhibition of old photos from Worth Park was on display While Mrs Denman, who has since moved to Pulborough, did not attend Sunday’s event, she was delighted to hear of the progress being made at the park.

She said: “I look back and remember what it was like when I first saw it in 2004. “It was like the bones of a beautiful woman; like when you see an old film star and see there was once great beauty there. “The fact it doesn’t come across as a museum now is wonderful. It’s a living, breathing park which is to be enjoyed.”

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