St John's Park 6869

Burgess Hill, Mid Sussex, West Sussex, England

Brief Description

The public recreation ground of St John's Park is sited in the centre of Burgess Hill just to the north-west of the parish church of St. John's. It covers 4.9 hectares of level ground and provides a number of sporting and recreational facilities for the general public. Featured within its layout are lawns, flower beds, mature trees, a cricket pitch, tennis courts, playground areas and a skateboard park. At the park's north-west corner stands a Victorian lodge which currently houses a nursery school.

History

The land was part of St John's Common, which was enclosed in 1828. Part of the site was owned by Emily Temple, who died in 1874 and in her will left Park Field for use as a public park and recreation ground. The park was extended to the west in 1929.

Visitor Facilities

This is a municipal site for general public use. Please see: http://www.midsussex.gov.uk/page.cfm?pageID=2250

Detailed Description

BOUNDARIES

Western boundary and entrances

Approximately one-half of the western boundary borders London Road and at present most of that portion of the boundary is lined with ornamental cherry trees under-planted with flower beds (white roses and lavender). Around 1950 this part of the boundary was more open in aspect. Currently, one of the main entrances is situated between the cherry trees. It consists of a semi-circular area of paving edged with formal flower beds and leads into the east-west path.

The remaining portion of this western boundary then turns at 45° to the south-east to join up with the southern boundary and this is bordered by a mix of coniferous and deciduous trees.

Northern boundary and entrance

The northern boundary runs parallel with Park Road and the 1874 Ordnance Survey map shows it was lined with deciduous trees. There was metal fencing which has since been removed and replaced by a low single rail wooden fence with access gaps. At some time after 1964 (Ordnance Survey map) car parking places have been provided between the trees in the eastern section of this boundary. A row of mixed deciduous trees still exists, although some were lost in the Great Storm of 1987. The trees along this section of the boundary consist mainly of horse chestnuts and pine whilst those to the west are predominately lime. Originally there was an entrance to the park at the north-east apex which had metal gates but these no longer exist. To date, there is an entrance situated north-west of the cricket pavilion that leads into the main north-south path.

Eastern boundary and entrances

The eastern boundary runs from the corner of Park Road along St. John's Road to the corner of Lower Church Road. There was a line of coniferous trees and, as stated before, it was a condition by the Crunden trustees that these trees were to be retained. Unfortunately the Great Storm of 1987 resulted in a number being brought down. To date, only four coniferous trees remain but there has been some infill planting with deciduous trees. The original metal boundary fence has been removed and there is now the continuation of the low wooden fence from the northern boundary.

Southern boundary and entrances

The southern boundary runs parallel with Lower Church Road. It was originally lined with deciduous trees (Ordnance Survey map 1874) and metal fencing. It is believed these trees were limes and that they were kept pollarded, but none remain. At intervals there are now informal plantings of mixed deciduous trees and shrubs, together with a clipped beech hedge which runs parallel to this boundary.

One original entrance to the park lay just to the west of the apex of Lower Church Road and St. John's Road. There was once a metal gate leading into the park. The Ordnance Survey map of 1964 indicates there was a brick-built toilet block at this apex which has now been demolished and there are now four beech trees nearby. Approximately halfway along the southern boundary is an entrance with steps and paving leading into a diagonal path which runs north-west across the park. There is another entrance joining the north-south path. Originally this entrance had double metal gates with pollarded lime trees to either side. There is a further main entrance at the western end of the boundary.

Features
  • Cricket Pavilion
  • Description: In 1871 a Working Men?s Club was formed and the members were allowed to play cricket on Park Field. Then in 1873, Emily Temple erected to the north-east of the park the St. John?s Institute (now the `Park Centre?) for the Club?s use and, as stated earlier, she willed Park Field to the community and cricket has been played here ever since.The 1874 Ordnance Survey map marks the cricket ground with clumps of coniferous trees planted at intervals around its circumference. A summer house is also indicated to the south-west of the ground but by 1897 these trees and the summer house had disappeared. Around 1902 there was another small summer house to the north-east of the cricket ground and at some time this was replaced by a bigger wooden pavilion. In 1993 this was in turn superseded by a larger brick-built and tile-hung building which is still in use. Cricket nets occupy a small area to the north of the pavilion.
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  • Path
  • Description: North-south path When the park was extended westwards, a new path was laid running north-south from Park Road to Lower Church Road. This followed the far western edge of the original park and ran approximately along the old line of the field boundary. In time this path was planted on either side with mixed deciduous trees with predominantly horse-chestnuts to the north, some of which remain to this day. Elsewhere, over the years, there has been felling and planting of replacement trees.
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  • Path
  • Description: East-west path The other main path was laid from the western entrance in London Road to connect with the north-south path. An illustration of the 1930s shows formal flower beds laid to the north and south of the path, but these are no longer in existence. There was also a roundel just to the east of the western entrance (Ordnance Survey map 1964) which had a central flower bed with formal bedding and planting around the perimeter. These flower beds were bordered by a very low metal fence. Today?s semi-circle of tarmac probably indicates its original position. To the north and south of this are some large rectangular flower beds.South of the tennis courts there is another large roundel laid out with shrubs and grasses. Lime trees have been newly planted at intervals to the north and south of this east-west path.
  • Path
  • Description: Diagonal (north-west to south-east) path The 1964 Ordnance Survey map shows a path running from the tennis courts at 45? south-east to one of the entrances in Lower Church Road and bisecting the south-west corner of the cricket field. To date the alignment of the path has been slightly altered and it now follows a more curving line. There is a row of flowering cherries to the south-west and a double row of mixed trees to the north-east. At the southern end of this avenue of trees there is a copper statue entitled `Figure of Stability?. It was cast in 1972 and erected in the nearby Martlets Shopping Centre to commemorate the centre?s completion. It represents sand-blown blocks in the desert and was made by the sculptor Shaun Crampton. It was, however, moved from the shopping centre and repositioned in the park. Over the years a number of additional paths have been added connecting the various play and sporting facilities.
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  • Gate Lodge
  • Description: This Victorian lodge is situated at the corner of London Road and Park Road and is marked on the 1874 Ordnance Survey map (No. 252). The building is L-shaped in plan, brick-built with a slate roof. Unfortunately, it has not been possible to establish its original use. When the park was extended westwards in the 1930s, it was incorporated into the park. It is believed it was then used as the park keeper?s lodge, after which it was leased out to various tenants and is now being used as a Montessori children?s nursery. In recent times a conservatory has been added to the south side of the building.
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  • Pool
  • Description: In 1935 an open-air pool was built in the northern area of the park to the west of the tennis courts. Rectangular in shape it measured 30.5 x 12.2 metres and cost #3700 to construct. At the eastern end of the pool was a high-diving board, beyond which lay the pool plant-house. To the north of the pool was a terrace where a large circular fountain was situated (Ordnance Survey map 1964). Beyond this was a raised terrace and wooden changing rooms whilst to the west stood the ticket office. The pool proved highly popular and between 1946 and 1968 it received three-quarters of a million visitors. There was once a line of trees to the south of the pool area.By 1968 the changing rooms were showing signs of wear and tear, so it was decided to build an additional indoor pool to the west. This was opened in 1975 and measured 25 by 7.2 metres. It was housed in a single-storey timber and brick building and the whole of the western side consisted of bronze- tinted glazed windows. The old outdoor changing rooms were then pulled down. With the opening of the Burgess Hill Triangle sports complex in 1999 the two pools were demolished and filled in. To date the only remaining feature of the pools is the raised brick terrace and the whole area is now laid to lawn.
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  • Pool
  • Description: This boating / paddling pool was situated in the south-west area of the park (Ordnance Survey map 1964). Rectangular in shape it proved highly popular with children. In the mid-1950s, when the pool was annually drained for the winter months, it was used on Good Fridays as a venue for the popular game `Bat and Trap?. However, the pool was closed in 1988 due to the lack of water filtration and the pool area was incorporated into one of the children?s playgrounds.
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  • Tennis Lawn
  • Description: The grass and all-weather tennis courts were laid out in the 1930s and are situated in the northern section of the park where it borders Park Road.By the 1950s the grass court(s) had been removed. The 1964 Ordnance Survey map indicates a car park had been added to the west, while to the south stood a line of mature trees (now removed). The courts and car park still exist and are partly surrounded by hedging.
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  • Lawn
  • Description: In 1933 a putting green was set up to the south of the present east-west path. This activity proved highly popular at the time and was in use for many years. Recently, however, there were problems with its misuse and it was closed down.
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  • Garden Feature
  • Description: Originally there was one playground situated to the east of the paddling/boating pool. An illustration from the 1950s shows an array of play facilities which have now been replaced with updated equipment. To the north of this area is a further playground for younger children. Both areas are surrounded by beech hedging.
  • Garden Feature
  • Description: Built in 2000, this is sited to the west of the younger children?s playground and can be used by skateboards, BMX bikes and roller blades. The course was extended in 2005 and was designed with the assistance of local youth groups. There is also hedging around this area. West of the skateboard park is a grass bund made from the soil excavated from this site. To the south of the skateboard park is a basket- ball practice area.
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Access & Directions

Access Contact Details

This is a municipal site for general public use. Please see: http://www.midsussex.gov.uk/page.cfm?pageID=2250
Authorities

Civil Parish

  • Burgess Hill
History

Detailed History

St. John's Park occupies land which was once part of St. John's Common. In 1828 this common land was enclosed to form a network of small fields (Keymer Enclosure Map). Of these, a six-and-a-half acre plot known as ‘Park Field' (Field No. 260, 1874 Ordnance Survey map) was owned by a local benefactress, Emily Temple, known also as ‘Madame Temple'.

Emily Temple died in 1874 and in her will left Park Field for use as a public park and recreation ground. It now forms the eastern portion of the present park which includes the cricket pitch. Three trustees, Dr. James Braid, Mr. Thomas Brown Crunden and Mr. Frederick Crunden, were appointed to oversee the upkeep and running of the park. Provision was also made in her will for the park to be kept in good repair.

By 1891 the trustees decided to gift the freehold of Park Field to the Burgess Hill Local Board and the St. John's Park Charitable Trust was set up to oversee the management of the park. One proviso was that the row of fir trees on the eastern boundary should be retained. This Charitable Trust continues to this day and has fifty-two trustees, including Mid Sussex District Council which manages and maintains the park for the benefit of the local community.

By 1898 the Burgess Hill Local Board had become Burgess Hill Urban District Council. It was then planned to erect a cricket pavilion and to extend the park westwards as far as the London Road at an estimated cost of £750. As it appeared that Madame Temple had owned these fields as part of her estate the Council approached the trustees of the Crunden Estate to see if they were prepared to sell the land to the Council. They agreed to this with a proviso that the fields were subject to a covenant that the land in question be forever used as a public park.

A public enquiry was held but opposition caused the proposed extension of the park to be refused. Finally, in 1929 Burgess Hill Urban District Council appears to have secured the land to the west. In 1931 the Council wished to develop the London Road frontage of the park with the erection of a row of houses, but this was rejected by the Crunden trustees.

By the early 1930s, this new area of the park had been fenced and levelled at a cost of £300 and was subsequently opened to the public. The new facilities in this area were very varied and included an open-air swimming pool, tennis courts, a children's paddling/boating pool, and a putting green. New paths were laid together with formal flower beds. Later on a children's playground was added and by the 1970s an indoor swimming pool had been built.

To date both swimming pools have been demolished, the paddling pool has been replaced by a children's playground, the putting green has disappeared and there is now a large skateboard park. The tennis courts remain together with the cricket pitch. Over the years the paths and tree planting have been increased in number. Some formal flower beds still exist and new planting has been added.

References

References