Problems running the parks during WW1

By Malcolm Prosser and Jonathan Coope.

It is worth noting that anti-social behaviour in the parks didn’t stop simply because there was a war on. A number of instances of attempted theft from the penny slot machines in men’s lavatories are noted. The penalties for being caught could be harsh. A minute in November 1915 notes,

It was reported that the man, Leonard May, charged with breaking and damaging the penny-in-the-slot locks in the Arboretum Lavatories, had been sentenced to 6 months imprisonment at the recent Quarter Sessions.

With regular police numbers depleted the parks continued to afford opportunity for illicit activities.

A significant new challenge was losing staff who had enlisted. The early rush of volunteers and conscription introduced in 1916 would have had an impact upon the parks workforce. And while Nottingham saw its first women tram drivers and nationally women were taking on a wider range of roles, we find few indications of women filling the gaps left by men on the parks staff. But occasionally it happened. For example, in September 1915 we find this minute:

One of the 1st women conductors employed by the City Transport Dept - between 1915-18 Courtesy of Nottingham City Council and

One of the 1st women conductors employed by the City Transport Dept – between 1915-18
Courtesy of Nottingham City Council and

The Chairman reported that Mr Hales, the Steward of this Pavilion, was about to enlist, and that the Bulwell Forest Club suggested that Mrs Hales should be allowed to carry on the work in her husband’s absence.

RESOLVED that this Committee see no objection to this course, provided arrangements are made to the satisfaction of the Bulwell Sub Committee.

Another challenge was having to discipline staff who were known to question the war:

It was stated that a Police Report had been submitted to the Watch Committee as to a speech made by S. Bower, the Superintendent of the Coppice Road Recreation Ground, at a Public Meeting in the Great Market Place, on a recent occasion, which was considered to be detrimental to Recruiting.

RESOLVED that a special meeting of this Committee be held on Monday next, and that Bower be required to attend.

Things did not go well for Bower. He was prosecuted by the Military authorities and fined £10 and ordered to pay costs of another £4.5.0. His weekly wage was £1.8.0 – so that’s more than 10 weeks’ wages. Parks Committee requested he send in his resignation. But after writing a very apologetic letter, Bower managed to keep his job – and the occupation of the Lodge which went with it.

Another difficulty was financial. Revenues were lost due to reduction in the use of leisure and sports facilities – cricket and football pitches, bowls and tennis courts. Servicemen often had to be offered preferential rates. Organisations that had hitherto rented space from the City Council’s Parks Committee were soon pleading for “allowance from rent” because so many of their members had left to serve in the war. In addition, committees across the Corporation had to pay allowances to employees who had joined the services as well as war increments for those who hadn’t enlisted.

[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]


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