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The Growth and Decline of Sidney Park – Part Two (1921 – 2014)

Some time after Sidney Park’s grand opening, further additions were made improving it further, but unfortunately it wasn’t to last.

Whalebone Arch in Sidney Park.

Whalebones in Sidney Park.

In 1921, Mr Douse offered to the Cleethorpes Urban District Council, the jawbones from a whale that unfortunately had washed up on the foreshore back in 1892. At that time, removal of such a large animal was not easy and consequently the birds had a feast, whilst local residents near the beach, together with visitors, had to put up with the stench of decay for many weeks. These jaws measured 17ft long and in the 1950’s, were fixed in Sidney Park. They remained as an entrance to the rose gardens for many years until they started to fragment and then mysteriously disappeared.

Later in 1923, a recreation ground was added. Tennis players could show off their skills, or lack of the same, by hiring a grass tennis court for one shilling an hour. Potential golf champions could practice their putting skills on the putting green for three pence a round and members of the bowls fraternity each paid two pence per hour to use a green.

Furthermore, in 1925, Sidney Sussex College donated a further four acres of land to add to the park. The Unemployed Grants Commission gave a grant towards the cost of levelling, fencing and drainage work, in order to provide work for the unemployed. This extension was, and still is, used for the football pitches and a children’s playground, and has also hosted circuses and fun fair events.

On Saturday 20th May 1933, beautiful summer like weather prevailed for the opening ceremony of a new pavilion and hard tennis courts in the park. The £600 brick pillared stuccoed structure was 64 feet long by 30 feet wide, with verandas all round which provided ample accommodation for shelter. Designed by Mr Leonardo W, Pye, surveyor of Cleethorpes Council, there was also an enclosed shelter 15 feet by 12 feet for the use of tennis players. A ticket attendant’s office and a clock on the tennis courts on the west side, which was given by the contractors, Mr C. Simons and Mr H. Pinion, were also installed.

The newly laid three hard tennis courts replaced the three old grass tennis courts at a cost of £230. They were full championship sized, absolutely level and described as ‘Griselda’ courts, the surface being specially graded Malvern granite.

The long awaited Cleethorpes Borough status arrived in July 1936.

Some idea of the importance of this achievement can be clearly seen as the celebrations covered a full five days. The official presentation of the Charter was on the 23rd September 1936 which occurred within the boroughs pride and joy, – Sidney Park. At that time there was a procession of dignitaries, speeches and a full presentation, followed by singing, band music a religious service and a display of dancing.

Then came World War Two in 1939 where discussions were reported for plans of brick communal shelters in Sidney Park and for the Sussex Recreation Ground.

In 1944, American Soldiers used Sidney Park to temporarily station numerous vehicles, waiting to go to war. They knew not where, but it turned out to be the D-Day beaches of Normandy.

Subsequently, during the 1960’s all of Sidney Sussex College’s freeholds were sold and the land of Sidney Park was given to the Council – in trust for the people of Cleethorpes to enjoy in perpetuity.

Thomas Mawson, the designer of Sidney Park, effectively created green lungs for the growing town of New Cleethorpes that would refresh the air, improve people’s health, provide a place for exercise and would be an alternative form of recreation to the pub; said to elevate the spirit.

However, over time this well designed park has deteriorated, becoming a mere shadow of its former self, perhaps due to the removal of existing features without considering the way this might affect the overall design.

The bandstand was demolished in June 1957.

The traditional park keeper became a victim of budgetary cuts resulting in the park being unprotected. Although the building of the park keeper still stands, the Council sold it in 2014.

1992 saw the end of the bird aviary.

Bird Aviary in Sidney Park

Bird Aviary in Sidney Park

In 1996, the Cleethorpes Urban District Council paid £5,000 to a London sculptor, Polly Ionides, to create a solid black and white speckled stone Pelican that was placed in the middle of Sidney Park’s pond extension. 5ft tall and cut from one piece of stone brought over from Portugal, it was seen as an ‘outgoing parting gift to the borough’. However it was met with much controversy as many people thought of it ‘a waste of taxpayers money’. The Pelican was later removed from Sidney Park finding a new home at the Waterfall on Cleethorpes Sea Front where it still resides today (2014).

Gradually the symmetrical gardens were removed becoming unrecognisable, the last of the original garden grassed over in 2014 despite a local community group, called Sidney Park Friends, attempting to save it.

Sidney Park is now perhaps best know as the starting point for the annual Cleethorpes Carnival Parade, but as a living work of art, Sidney Park deserve the highest care. As an important refuge from the urban hustle and bustle, Sidney Park is much too important to be overshadowed by its current state of neglect.

Sidney Park 1925

Sidney Park, 1925

Sidney Park, Google sky view, 29th June, 2014.

Google image of Sidney Park 2013