From rubbish dump to beloved city garden park
- Credit: Archant Library
Nestled against the sloping valley of the River Wensum is a well-loved Norwich park. Many of us will have visited there to feed the ducks, take a stroll and perhaps even splash through our first strokes as we learned to swim.
But the Wensum Park we see today emerged from life as a rubbish dump at the turn of the twentieth century.
The city council purchased the site in 1907 and a new bath was opened there later in the year. In the winter of 1908-9 unemployed labourers constructed a children’s bathing pond as part of broader social relief efforts at the time. Another was added after so there was a pool for boys and another for girls.
By 1910 development halted and the land was used as a dumping ground and for storage by the City Engineer’s Department. In November 1921 unemployed workers - predominantly veterans from the First World War - returned to the site under the direction of the Parks Superintendent Captain Arnold Edward Sandys-Winsch.
The official opening of Wensum Park by the Lord Mayor of Norwich (Dr George Stevens Pope) took place four years later.
During the Second World War areas of the park served as public air-raid shelters when bombs began to fall in the vicinity. The open-air pool sadly fell into disrepair after these bombings and was left to become overgrown.
In more recent years there have been several changes to the park. A picnic platform was built next to the river. The park’s original flower bed has been converted into a paddling pool for children. There is now a maze to traverse.
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Wensum Park may look slightly different to the sloping gardens and facilities that opened in 1925, but it still draws many visitors today.
It is a fine city park to take a stroll in, embrace a daily dose of local exercise to blow the cobwebs away and perhaps relive fond memories from the past.
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