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The Growth and Decline of Sidney Park – Part One (1898 – 1907)

Sidney Park may currently look forlorn to some, but arguably it has an honoured place in the urban history of the Sidney Sussex Ward.

At a time when our area, then known as New Cleethorpes, was developing at an alarming rate, our natural environment was equally disappearing piece-by-piece.

Sidney Park designed by Thomas H. Mawson. (Illustration from Mawson, Civic Art, op. cit., sourced vfrom RHS Lindley Library).

Sidney Park designed by Thomas H. Mawson. (Illustration from Mawson, Civic Art, op. cit., sourced vfrom RHS Lindley Library).

In response to this fast urban growth, the land owners in 1898, who were the Sidney Sussex College in Cambridge, granted 12 acres of valuable land for the use of recreation, on such terms as to allow a fairly satisfactory expenditure for its lay-out and construction, while a ‘well-known gardener from Windermere’ was engaged to best utilize it.

Little did they know that this gardener would later go on to be one of the most celebrated landscape architect of the Edwardian Era, eventually having clients that included Queen Alexandra and Andrew Carnegie. His name was Thomas Hayton Mawson (1861 – 1933).

Named Sidney Park in honour of the donors, Thomas Mawson designed the Park to be a rigorously formal recreation ground.

Initially there were only two entrances to the park, both on Brereton Avenue, with gates each bearing the Cleethorpes Coat of Arms on them.

These two gates connected with a semi-circular drive, which enclosed the Park-Keeper’s Lodge, where the first Park keeper, Mr H. Archer resided. All round the railings, which enclosed the park, were planted many varieties of bushes.

With symmetrical pathways and flower gardens, along with a bandstand and model yacht pond with rounded ends, it was laid out as a miniature version of the lake and grounds at Versailles in France, the plan of which was reproduced in his ‘Civic Art: Studies in Town Planning, Parks, Boulevards and Open Spaces (1911)’.

A couple of springs kept the water in the pond clear and fresh with an overflow pipe at one end keeping the water at about two and a half feet deep. Plenty of fresh water fish lived in the lake and at times could be seen leaping and splashing about.

On either side of the lake were two sloping banks, on top of which avenues of trees were planted.

Arranged at right angles from the central walk were side paths, bordered with trees, and having parallel avenues of trees planted at various distances.

Flower Garden in Sidney Park, 1905

Flower Garden in Sidney Park, 1905

The two flower gardens situated on either side of the central walk were both large plots laid out in the same style as each other, following an Italian method, each containing no less than twenty-three beds with richly coloured flowering plants, with neat metal labels in front of each plant bearing the names of the various flowers. Not to mention the borders of various tinted roses, altogether some eleven thousand trees and shrubs which were used for the initial planting.

Over in the north-west corner was a plot of land reserved for either bowling, tennis or croquet, while in this portion was also a nursery and forcing house where plants and shrubs were always in their readiness for out-door planting.

The park provided a focal point for relaxation, fun and community life, offering a range of facilities for all ages and for all sections of society.

Just a little after 3 o’clock in the afternoon on 4th August 1904, Sidney Park officially opened through a VIP ceremony.

The weather was everything to be desired and the invited ladies of the Cleethorpes Council attended in bright and extravagant coloured dresses, reported to ‘lend a picturesque view to the natural beauty of the park’.

The great interest in the opening of the park was manifested by the huge attendance of both Cleethorpes and Grimsby residents at the main entrance on Brereton Avenue. However it was reported that many people were disappointed, as they were not permitted to enter and take part in the ceremony because it was reserved for invited guests only.

Sidney Park Pond. 12-08-1907

Sidney Park Pond. 12-08-1907

The ceremony began with a novel arrangement of a fine 18 carrot gold curb chain bracelet fastened round the uprights of the large center gates. The Chairman of the Cleethorpes Council at that time, Councillor George Moody, asked the Master of Sidney Sussex College, Mr Charles Smith, to unlock the gate with a matching gold key, allowing for the large number of invited guests to pass into the grounds and proceed to the platform, which had been erected on the large lawn, where speeches and thanks took place.

The gold key used was then presented to Mr Smith, while the gold curb bracelet was presented to his wife. The top of the key beared the initials of the Master of the College, while on either side were the coats of arm of the Cleethorpes Council and Sidney Sussex College. It was enclosed in a plush case, which bore in gilt letters an inscription stating the occasion and date of the presentation.

The gold curb bracelet was also enclosed in a plush case, similarly inscribed, and at the end of the chain was fastened a pretty gold key and lock one side of which was to be seen the Cleethorpes Coat of Arms. Both items were supplied by Mr A C. Pailthorpe of Victoria Street and were reported to be pretty specimens of the Jewellers art.

The invited guests then assembled round the lake and after being photographed, they witnessed a series of swimming and yacht races in the afternoon. Then further races were watched by the general public in the evening.

Sidney Park Swimming Galas.

Sidney Park Swimming Galas.

The afternoon 50 yards race was a win for G.Page, with C.Richards second and J.Pett third. The polo match was between representative teams captained by A.Clarke and F.Templeman. The first half was played in the pouring rain and was well contested throughout. Captain Clarkes team eventually winning by three goals to nil.

In the evening the 100 yards race provided the best show of swimming, being won by J.Parkinson with C.Richards second and A.Clarke third. The obstacle race was full of fun, and a polo match was also played. Mrs Moody presented the prizes to the winners of the afternoon races and congratulated the recipients.

Swimming Gala’s continued to be held in the pond during the summer months up until 1925 when Cleethorpes outdoor bathing pool opened.

Click here to read Part Two – The Growth and Decline of Sidney Park (1921 – 2014)