To what extent did WW1 change the priorities in the parks?

By Malcolm Prosser and Jonathan Coope.

Life on the home front – and in the parks – continued much as it had before. The Royal Show went ahead as planned in Nottingham’s Wollaton Park in June and July, 1915. But as men continued to die in the war, the Parks Committee members continued to approve that clippings from holly trees in the Arboretum be distributed to local hospitals at Christmas. And as events intensified or unravelled on the battlefields of Europe and beyond, the Parks Committee minutes continue as if oblivious – observing only the day to day business of decision-making of a less momentous kind.

Sherwood Foresters, The Forest, 1914-18 Courtesy of Nottingham City Council and www.picturethepast.org.uk

Sherwood Foresters, The Forest, 1914-18
Courtesy of Nottingham City Council and www.picturethepast.org.uk

While some normal municipal activities had been in abeyance for much of the war, by 1917 resolutions began for establishing the shape of the Nottingham and its parks in the post-war era. For example, in July 1917 the Council resolved to use the tennis courts next to the Arboretum Refreshment Rooms as the site for an open-air school for ‘delicate’ children – particularly those from poorer areas thought to be most susceptible to tuberculosis. This was one outcome of a national and international campaign for such provision, based on the assumption that fresh air and park surroundings would be conducive to recovery and health.

Also it is worth noting that the parks authorities did not always accede to the wishes of the military. For example, in May 1916, we have the following minute:

“SPECIAL MEETING OF THE PUBLIC PARKS COMMITTEE

BOWLING GREENS
The Committee considered the question asked by Mr C. Ford at the meeting of the Council this day, as to wounded Soldiers being allowed to play, free of charge, on the Bowling Greens.

RESOLVED that Colonel Battersby, the Officer-in-charge of the Military Hospitals in Nottingham be informed that the Bowling Greens are open at all times to Wounded Soldiers, but the Committee do not see their way to allow the Soldiers to play free of charge.”

Similarly, in April 1918 we find the following minute relating to the WAAC which had been occupying the Arboretum Refreshment Rooms:

THE ARBORETUM. (W.A.A.C. CORPS)

Read a letter from the Medical Recruiting Controller, Northern Command, asking that in addition to the use of the Grass Lawn in front of the Refreshment Rooms, they may be permitted to enclose the greater portion of the asphalt path in front of such Lawn, for use by the W.A.A.C.

The Chairman reported that the Arboretum Sub Committee together with the Mayor, had met the Representatives of the Corps on the ground, and explained to them that it was impossible to accede to their request.

It seems that the Parks Committee would not allow itself to be simply bullied into decisions against its wishes, even when it was the military doing the bullying.

[DRAFT. This is an extract of a forthcoming article by Malcolm Prosser and Jonathan Coope. Please do not quote without permission of one of the authors. Comments welcome at jonathan.coope@nottingham.ac.uk]

 
 

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