The level site is situated on the North Downs and surrounded by the extensive housing estates of the parish of South Gillingham. The park is laid out as mown grassland with some mature trees (mainly oak) and a late C20 planting of ornamental trees providing an open landscape.
According to Hutton (‘Off the Beaten Track’), it was a complaint in the early 1960s that there were no parks in the area which led to the creation of both Wigmore Park and playing fields at Kings Frith. By 1964, the Council had secured ownership of the northern two thirds of the central area, and Wigmore Park was opened by 1978.
SUMMARY AND STATEMENT OF SIGNIFICANCE
A late 20C park created by Gillingham Corporation in response to local demand in the early 1960s, in an area of rapid housing development, demonstrates the role of the local authority in providing public open space and, in so doing, protecting an area of ancient woodland. A more recent planting of deciduous trees and mixed shrubs creating an effective screen from the surrounding houses and thus the park provides a quiet green oasis to which local residents can retreat. It is also an open space, for a variety of recreational activities with a children's play area and tennis courts, which is valued by local residents and, at the same time, providing a meeting place where people greet each other.
LOCATION, AREA, BOUNDARIES, LANDFORM AND SETTING
Wigmore Park lies 4.5km southeast of Gillingham and 3km southwest of Rainham. It is reached from junction 4 of the M2 via the A278 where a roundabout 0.6km north of this junction allows access to Wigmore village to the east. The park is reached 1km north along Wigmore Road.
The 3ha site is roughly triangular in shape with a maximum length of 300m and width of 200m. It is bordered by the houses and gardens of Wigmore Road to the west, Fairview Avenue to the south and Bredhurst Road to the east, the park's boundaries with all three formed from varied wire or wooden fences and hedges, including sections of 2m high spiked steel fencing.
The level site is situated on the North Downs and surrounded by the extensive housing estates of the parish of South Gillingham.
ENTRANCES AND APPROACHES
There are three entrances to the park, one from each of the surrounding roads. Each is approached across the pavement and marked by a 1m high steel safety barrier on the edge of the road. At the Bredhurst Road entrance, 2m high spiked steel double gates (2m x 2m) are placed centrally in the 20m length of similarly-designed fencing. Immediately to the south of the gateway (outside the fence) is a very large sweet chestnut tree (c.6.5m in girth).The entrance in Fairview Avenue has similar gates in its perimeter fencing but set 20m back from the road, the approach path being bordered on either side with low growing shrubs. Set immediately inside these gates is a swinging steel gantry to prevent high vehicles entering the park. On Wigmore Road, the steel fence and gates are similar in size but of a late C20 design. All the gates are closed and locked at night for security purposes.
GARDENS AND PLEASURE GROUNDS
The park is laid out as mown grassland with some mature trees (mainly oak) and a late C20 planting of ornamental trees providing an open landscape. From the Bredhurst Road entrance a 4m wide tarmac pathway extends westwards for 40m. It is bordered by grass and low mixed shrub borders with occasional flowering cherry and silver birch trees. At its westward end the path joins a another tarmac path which runs on a roughly semi-circular course from the Fairview Avenue entrance in the southern corner north-westwards to the Wigmore Road entrance, forming a perimeter route round the eastern and northern sides of the park.
The 200m northward and westward length of the perimeter path is irregularly lined by mixed deciduous trees and c15 dawn redwoods (Metasequoia glyptostroboides) the park was opened in the mid-seventies. In the furthest north-west part of the park, 50m east of the Wigmore Road entrance, is a children's playground.
Immediately south of the playground is a group of mixed conifers planted in the last 40-50 years. Further south, these adjoin a belt of more mature trees which extends for 180m along the whole of the park's south-west boundary. It comprises first a group of ash and then sweet chestnut interspersed with oak. There are a number of isolated oak trees scattered over the central grassland and, together with this boundary belt, these more mature trees are probably survivors of the earlier woodlands recorded on the OS map (2nd and 4th eds.).
At the south-eastern end of the boundary belt, the southward section of the perimeter path leads to the entrance on Fairview Avenue. Two hard tennis courts are laid out 100m north from the entrance, on the west side of the perimeter path. Between the path and the boundary fences to the east is grass with some mixed shrub planting and, near the entrance, three rose beds.
G. Hutton, ‘Off the Beaten Track; A Short History of Bredhurst, Wigmore, Parkwood and Hempstead', 1993 (Meresborough Books)
Ordnance Survey 1st edn. 25" map (1861). Sheet 20/13
Ordnance Survey 2nd edn. 25" map (1897)
Ordnance Survey 4th edn. 25" map (1932)
Land Registry maps, 1965 and 1971, Medway Council legal department
Sales details Wigmore Estate, Messrs Cobb, London, 1902, 06a DE SERIES 1001_1200/DE 1033 (MALSC)Miss Emma Harvey, papers, 1926, 08 Medway Council MTC MR SERIES, MTC MR 093 (MALSC)
Detailed description contributed by Kent Gardens Trust 27/11/2015
Research by Hugh Vaux
Virginia Hinze, editor.
Final approved version September 2014
CHRONOLOGY OF HISTORIC DEVELOPMENT
Wigmore Park lies in the hundred of Chatham and Gillingham and the parish of South Gillingham. An area of ancient woodland, it formed part of the 174 hectare Wigmore estate lying in Gillingham, Bredhurst and Rainham belonging, at the time of his death in 1885, to Edward Winch of Chatham. Bequeathed to his sons, Richard and George, the estate was sold to Emma, wife of Percy Portway Harvey of Westcliff-on-sea, in 1909 for £6500. At this time, the estate consisted of orchard, arable and woodland with a small farmhouse in two tenements, a gamekeeper's cottage and homestead (sales details Wigmore Estate).
By 1900, maps (OS 2nd ed.) show considerable felling had taken place and, in 1914, a 16 hectare area of woodland lying between three woodland tracks marking the line of the future estate roads, Wigmore Road, Fairview Avenue and Bredhurst Road, was sold by Emma Harvey to individuals for building, under strict conditions. The plots, roughly 10m x 40m in size, lay around the perimeter of the woodland site leaving the central 3 hectare area open. This was initially managed as pasture and then orchard (OS map 4th ed.) The plots were required to be fenced and either a single dwelling house to the value of £200, or a semidetached house of £350, could be built. The rest of the plot could be used as garden or meadow (Harvey papers).
Some access had been left to the central area which, during and after the Second World War, was partly used for allotments. Following the war, Gillingham Corporation started to acquire some of the properties as they came up for sale ‘for the purposes of their functions' and at least one was bought by compulsory purchase. Access was needed from all three surrounding roads because, in 1952, there had been plans for a health centre which was never built (Medway Council).
According to Hutton (‘Off the Beaten Track'), it was a complaint in the early 1960s that there were no parks in the area which led to the creation of both Wigmore Park and playing fields at Kings Frith. By 1964, the Council had secured ownership of the northern two thirds of the central area (land registry maps) and by 1971 had sufficiently secured the future of the park and accesses to be able to sell off several unwanted properties which it had acquired 20 years earlier, to private buyers (Medway Council). The park was opened by 1978; exact date unrecorded.
Detailed history contributed by Kent Gardens Trust 27/11/2015