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6) How did people enjoy themselves in our park?

6) How did people enjoy themselves in our park?

How did people enjoy themselves in our park?

1) Background information

Many people visited parks to admire the various floral displays, shrubs and landscaping amongst which they could relax, stroll and meet people in pleasant surroundings. Others visited for more recreational purposes, either with friends or as families, listening to music or indulging in a range of pursuits depending upon what local bye-laws permitted and what they could afford.

In addition to walking, some of the first large parks had separate routes for carriages. These were later used for horse riding and cycling.

Parks were places to go at weekends and on holidays. Sundays was the most popular day, on which thousands of people would visit, dressed up in their ‘Sunday best’. However, Sunday was also the Lord’s Day and many parks did not open until after church in order to encourage people to attend services. Play, frivolity and work was forbidden and no games were allowed. In some parks, their boats were tied up and playground swings were chained up.

In summer, evenings could be spent strolling or listening to concerts or bands playing in the bandstand.

In winter or during wet weather, heated pavilions enabled clubs or groups of retired men to meet and take part in chess or drafts. Gambling was strictly prohibited, however.

With increased emphasis on more active sports, councils began to develop areas for activities such as tennis, bowling, croquet, quoits, archery, skating and putting, which required specially prepared and maintained surfaces. Where space allowed, pitches were created for team games such as football and cricket.

How did people enjoy themselves in our park?

2) Sources of information

Use old photographs and documents from your local archives or record office. You could also use images in what people did in parks which show the range of typical activities in public parks around the country.



Many towns, collieries, factories, mills and organisations had their own brass bands and performed in the park’s bandstand for free at weekends or at special fundraising concerts in the evenings.

Image: © South Shields Local Studies Library

Diaries & journals


Documents such as diaries or journals can reveal what people were able to do in a park.

Image: © South Shields Local Studies Library

How did people enjoy themselves in our park?

3) Oral histories and interviews

Local studies libraries and museums may hold recordings of people’s memories of their local park. The recordings listed below describe people’s memories of South Marine Park, South Shields, and are typical of parks across the country.

To listen to the interviews (in mp3 format) left click the link or right click and select 'save link as/save target as' to download and save the interview to your computer.

Interview 1

Marjory Woodmass recalls the illuminations - a grand display of lights music and fireworks held in the park in 1938.

Interview 2

Alice Walton recalls the bandstand erected in 1904.

Interview 3

Grace Rowe talks about visiting the park with her family and friends as a child.

Interview 4

Derick Hutchinson talks about the parachute mine that landed in the park during the night of 25th April 1941.

Interview 5

Vera Beaty talks of the park during the Second World War and the missing railings.

Interview 6

Marjory Woodmass remembers 'Dig for Victory' and the effect it had on the park.

Interview 7

Alice Horton reminisces about romantic walks in the park.

Interview 8

Alice Walton talks of family days out in the park and having to wear her 'Sunday best'.

Interview 9

John describes the staffing structure at the park.

Interview 10

Dave recalls the spectacular beds of violas in the park.

Interview 11

Susan Petch talks of going to the park in her school holidays and of her father who ran the rowing boats on the lake.

How did people enjoy themselves in our park?

4) Activities in school

Using images and documentary sources compile a list of things that people can do in your park. Which might be free or charged?

How many of these activities do people still do today?

What might families or groups have done on visits to the park?

How would people who had little money spend their time in the park?

Look at how people are dressed in photographs and postcards. Compare with today. What can children surmise about the people in them?

Explore the social aspects of a visit to the park, such as what people wore, which activities women participated in, or how many men can be seen pushing a pram?

Ask children to talk to parents or grandparents about their experiences of visiting the park when they were young. Share with others what they have found out.

Invite people connected with the park into school to talk about their memories of the park. For example members of a ‘Friends’ group, former gardeners, club stewards and local elderly people. Prepare questions in advance to ensure children maximise this opportunity.

What sounds would have been heard in your park in the past? Why would you not hear them today?