From rubbish dump to beloved city garden park

Wensum PArk in the 1930s

Children bathing in the paddling and wading pools at Wensum Park, Norwich in the 1930s. - 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

Boys by the paddling pool in Wensum Park

Boys enjoying the sunshine, near the paddling pool in Wensum Park in Norwich. Date: April 8, 1969. - Credit: Archant Library

But the Wensum Park we see today emerged from life as a rubbish dump at the turn of the twentieth century. 

Two ladies and a little girl at Wensum Park in spring

Two ladies and a little girl enjoying the spring air. The Weeping Willows by the riverside at Wensum Park are just starting to bloom. Date: April 9, 1964. Buy photo prints from our online store at https://archantnorfolk.newsprints.co.uk/. - Credit: Archant Library

Feeding the ducks at Wensum Park in Norwich

Visitors to Wensum Park, Norwich duck-spotting with the aid of the identification panel. Date: August 30, 1971. Buy photo prints from our online store at https://archantnorfolk.newsprints.co.uk/. - Credit: Archant Library

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.

Map of Wensum Park in Norwich

Ground plan for Wensum Park, published in the Eastern Daily Press on September 10, 1925. Search our archives at localrecall.co.uk - Credit: Archant Library

The official opening of Wensum Park by the Lord Mayor of Norwich (Dr George Stevens Pope) took place four years later.

Lord Mayor of Norwich opens Wensum Park in Norwich

The Lord Mayor Dr George Stevens Pope opens Wensum Park in Norwich. Published in the Eastern Daily Press on September 10, 1925. Accessed via localrecall.co.uk - Credit: Archant Library

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.  

Fishing along the River Wensum in Norwich

Fishing on the river in Wensum Park, Norwich. Date: 1960s. - Credit: Archant Library

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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.

Wensum PArk in 1963

Taking a stroll in Wensum Park. Date: September 1963. - Credit: Archant Library

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.

Old photos like these and many more besides are available in our new vintage photography website The Story Of. Explore photos by place and time, create collections, share your own pictures and help preserve the tales these places tell by creating an account at thestoryof.uk.


    

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