A HANDSOME GIFT – A PARK AND RECREATION GROUND FOR COALVILLE.
The Coalville Times of February 10 1899 reminded its readers that the ground, intended for many years to be a Park, was to be handed over to the Council. Better late than never!
The transfer of the Sports Ground from the Trustees of the Sports Committee to the Coalville Urban District Council, for the use forever as a park and recreation ground by the inhabitants of the urban area, took place on Wednesday, March 8 1899.
A large and influential gathering processed from the Council Chamber, in High Street, to the ground for the handing-over ceremony. The Chairman of the Sports Committee, Mr. Sheffield, announced that the deeds for the six and a half acre area were to be handed over for the future use of the town by Mr. Jones, Chairman of the Trustees of the Athletic Sports Club, to Mr. W. D. Stableford, the Chairman of the Council.
Mr. Jones pointed out that they had worked for this object for about 20 years and it gave him great pleasure to pass on the deeds of the land free from debt. Mr. Stableford gratefully accepted the deeds on behalf of the ratepayers, noting that the ground had been acquired by dint of hard work by local people over a period of years and would therefore be more prized than if it was a gift of a rich person, who might easily afford it.
Mr. Jones said that it was 20 years since they started and their object was to do something good for the district. Despite some difficulties in deciding how to spend their funds he believed that the committee had chosen the right thing. Mr. Sheffield added that the Sports originated in 1884 and in their first year they made a profit of £60 11s 5d and in the following year £100 5s 6d. In their first 11 seasons they had cleared £566 13s 5d and received £267 18s 1d in public subscriptions. They had secured the estate for £2,500 and sold frontage plots amounting to £2100, leaving the six and a half acres with two good accesses. He was proud to have been associated with the movement and was convinced the Council would spare no effort in carrying out the wishes of the donors.
Mr. T. H. Heward, C.C., Vice Chairman of the Council, reported that the Council had planned a layout, which divided the area into two parts, one for the exclusive use of children and the other for older people. The children’s part would have swings and other equipment and the second would have walks between shrubs and flower beds, all looked over by a caretaker He welcomed the handsome gift worth between £2-3000
The meeting then adjourned for a complimentary banquet at the Masonic Hall, provided by Mr. and Mrs. W. Sheffield and costing upwards of £80. After the meal, further speeches were made, which touched on some division of purpose in the Sports Committee, some preferring a Cottage Hospital. or an Alms House, or schools but an amicable agreement had been reached. However, he was sorry to note that there was one person who preferred not to attend.
Mr. Heward suggested that the Park might be the forerunner of other similar public institutions such as a library, baths and wash-house, something the mining community would really benefit from.
Mr. W. D. Stableford advised that, since the first Local Board was formed in 1892, no less that 785 houses had been built and with an official occupancy rate of about 5 per household this suggested an increase of some 3,800 souls. The rateable value had increased from £32,000 to £52,000.
A sewerage scheme for Coalville and Hugglescote costing £18,000 was about to commence, but the £16,000 scheme for Whitwick had been delayed. These developments, with the added provision of their own gas and waterworks, would make for healthier people who would value the Park.
The procession to the park site was led by three of the Sports Trustees: J. Jones C.C, W. Sheffield and J. W. Stableford and followed by members of the committee, namely Messrs Joyce, F. Brunt,
F. H. Peplow, J. Amos, F. Upton, W. Higgins, F. W. Illesley, J. Wortley, W. Colver, T. Smith, T. Brooks and J. Anson. Then came the Council members: Messrs W. D. Stableford J.P, T. H. Heward, C.C., W. Lindley, J. N. Dean, J. Farmer, M. McCarthy, A. I. White, O. Lindley, T. Jesson, clerk, W. Wilkins, L. Maddocks, Dr. Jamie, L. L. Baldwin, Surveyor, F. Hurst and T. Heward, asst. surveyors, J. Deacon and Pegg, rate collectors.
On June 16 it was announced that the council had agreed that the site should be fenced and on November 10 the Council Minutes reported that a contract for the necessary ground works had been placed. However the work took so long to do that the Coalville Times was critical that the new park had not opened until May 25 1900, when the event has gone unannounced and unnoticed by the Council.
Everything then seemed to go quiet until it was noted on October 11 1912 that Oliver Lindley, who was commissioned to provide the Old Sports Committee’s obelisk to be fixed in the Park, commemorative of the committee’s gift of land adjoining London Road, had completed the design, which was to form a “pretty centrepiece” of the park. The funds for the land had been raised from profits of the Annual Sports.
The obelisk was of black polished “Bon Accord” granite was to be unveiled shortly. On one side are Forest Granite panels bearing the names of the Old Spots Committee and on another the names of the Members of the District Council who attended the handover in 1899, only a few of whom were still alive. The obelisk was mounted on a base of white Mansfield stone.