Ilford Park was transformed into allotments for war effort
- Credit: East Side Community Heritage
Its one of Redbridge’s beautiful open spaces, but South Park has also been used for growing food and as a popular fishing spot, writes East Side Community Heritage’s Rochelle Scholar.
South Park was created by the purchase of 32 acres of Loxford Hall Estate by Ilford Council in 1899.
The landscaping – a lake formed by diverting water from Loxford Water, part of Seven Kings Brook – and the buildings, including a bandstand and tea shop, took three years and cost £19 4s 1d.
It was officially opened to the public with a grand ceremony on May 10, 1902.
During the Second World War most of the park was used as allotments by residents to provide fresh vegetables for their families and the metal in the bandstand and the park railings was taken away and used to make munitions.
Children would come to the park with their fishing rods or their jam jars and catch sticklebacks, with someone always keeping a lookout for the “parky”.
Fishing, although not allowed, was popular.
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For many years there was a team of park keepers and gardeners employed to manage the park. After the Second World War, Mr May became the head gardener.
Park user Michael recalled: “Mr May was a fearsome character. He was the head gardener for at least 25 to 30 years.
“On one occasion [he] got a couple of his gardeners to ambush me.
“I forget what I was doing at the time, it was clearly something I shouldn’t have been doing.
“And I was taken into this room. Mr May was sitting behind a very long wooden desk... I was told to get out of the park.”
Playing by the lake also whiled away hours, recalled Terry.
“Me and my friends used to go over there with our toy boats and they’d push away from the side.
“And if they didn’t look like they were coming back we’d throw stones and see if the waves send them back.”
Earlier this year East Side Community Heritage and the South Park Users’ Group held an exhibition about the history of the park. If any Redbridge groups are interested in borrowing the exhibition, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Do you have fond memories of growing up in Redbridge?
Write to us at Letters, Ilford Recorder, 7th Floor, Maritime House, 1 Linton Road, Barking, IG11 8HG or email email@example.com