Last issue we marked a hundred years of Abbeyfield Park as a public park. This issue residents share their memories of the park over the last 70 years.
In front of Abbeyfield House, looking across the park, there is now a five-aside football pitch which used to be the second bowling green, the first one is still next to Barnsley Road. Going back further there was a lake where children sailed toy boats, amongst resident swans.
At the side of the house are some small buildings, originally the stable block. In the 1940s the park keeper lived there and had a workroom where he could watch the park. He was very particular about keeping the park nice and might administer a slap on the legs to children going on 'his' grass.
Elizabeth Shaw, talking to Abbeyfield Bowlers
I first played bowls at Abbeyfield Park about 20 years ago when there were still two bowling greens in use. Anyone wishing to have a casual game of bowls had to get permission from the Park Keeper. His office was near the top bowling green. From there he collected green fees and loaned out the equipment: two Crown Green Bowls, a smaller Jack and a mat to stand on when bowling.
However, for the Park Keeper the most important consideration was that the player had the right kind of smooth soled shoes with no heel, to protect the grass. He was very keen on checking your shoes met his standards. If they didn't he would not allow you on the green.
Eric, the Park Superintendant, and Audrey Stokes lived at Abbeyfield Park House for many years. He was friends with both the older folk, who daily played bowls and dominos and the younger ones too. He worked hard to keep the park looking good.
The house had been a school many years ago and his wife and daughter told me that several people who worked there had, when it was quiet, heard children laughing and playing.
Sadly Eric is not with us now, but I'm sure he is remembered by many
Joyce, Firshill History Group
I remember Abbeyfield Park from when I was young. During the war there was a Nursery in the park near the duck pond which was just above where the playground is now. My mother worked as a 'buffer-girl'. Lots of women had to do factory work at that time because the men had all gone to fight. Provision had to be made for childcare whilst the women worked, so nurseries sprang up all over the place.
My brother, born in 1944, got a place in the nursery in Abbeyfield Park from being one year old I think - it was a really nice place and he always liked it there and didn't want to leave and go to school when it came time. I had to collect him in the afternoon after school, I was about 12 at the time and attended High Storrs School at Bents Green. After school I got a bus or a tram into town and then the tram for Firth Park and got off at Abbeyfield Park gates and collected my brother in his push chair. I then walked home up Orphanage Road through Roe Woods (no Firshill estate back then just allotments and woodland) to Fairbank Road where I lived. I don't think it was ever considered that it might not be safe for either of us. Sometimes we were even a little bit late getting home because we had stopped to look at the swans and ducks on the pond in the park - but that was okay too.
Later when our children were young, we lived in Roe Lane and visited the playground in the Park quite regularly. The nursery and the duck pond had gone but it was still a beautiful very well maintained park, but woe betide us if we walked on the grass….
Marion Graham, Firshill History Group
When my daughter was born in 1952 we lived on Grimesthorpe Road and I went in Abbeyfield Park everyday, to sit around the bowling green.
In winter the pond iced over and people would come and skate on it! We had some hard winters back then.
I remember Eric very well, he kept the park immaculate, it was lovely. There were little notices saying keep off the grass.
Flo, Firshill History Group
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