Tuesday 29 August 2017

King Eddies park in better days

Guest blog by Philip Grant
A recent blog LINK  told of the sad decline of Wembley’s King Edward VII Park, but this reminded me of some information and old photos that I could share with you from the park’s early years.

Wembley as a place has existed since Saxon times, with the first documentary record of “Wemba lea” (Wemba’s clearing in the forest) dating from AD825. My late Wembley History Society colleague, Len Snow LINK  was fond of saying that football fans, singing their way to Wembley Stadium, had actually got the name right! But it was not until 1894 that Wembley became a separate local government area, splitting off from Harrow as Wembley Urban District, and although small in population (only around 4,500 people lived here in 1901), it had some big ideas.

One of the schemes to provide a better place to live for its residents was to open its own municipal public park, and in 1913 it bought 26 acres of farmland in Blind Lane (not far from its developing High Road) for £8,050. By the next summer the park was ready, and on 4 July 1914 it was officially opened by Queen Alexandra (by then the Queen Mother), and named King Edward VII Park in memory of her late husband.

These first two photos were taken on the day of the opening, with many of Wembley’s citizens there in their “Sunday best” clothes to enjoy the event. The musical entertainment from the bandstand was almost certainly provided by the Wembley Town Band, which had been set up in 1910, with its smart green and silver uniforms paid for by local benefactor, Titus Barham. The school next to the park had opened in 1911 as Blind Lane Council School (the first set up in the area by Wembley Urban District Council, rather than Middlesex County Council), and with the change in the name of the road to mark the opening, it became Park Lane Primary. Like every good park, King Eddie’s had a children’s playground!

Some WM readers may recognise these photographs from Geoffrey Hewlett’s  “Images of London” book on Wembley (Tempus Publishing, 2002), and they are from a remarkable collection built up by Wembley History Society from the 1950’s onwards, including many donated by an important local photographer before he died in 1958, which is now held at Brent Museum and Archives.

These pictures were almost certainly taken by that photographer, Kuno Reitz, who was born in Munich in 1876, but moved to England in 1911, spending most of the rest of his life as a freelance photographer in Wembley. Just a month after King Edward VII Park opened, and these excellent photos were taken, England declared war on Germany, entering the “Great War” a week after it had first begun, because Germany had invaded neutral Belgium. Reitz was classed as an enemy alien, and spent at least part of the war years building roads, possibly for army camps and training grounds, in Northumberland.

Luckily, he returned to Wembley after the war, and the last photo is one he definitely took, for a “Wembley Guide” booklet published by the Urban District Council in 1930. The clothes may have changed a little by the inter-war years, but it was still a great place for children to play. Let’s hope that, despite the decline caused by cost-cutting and contracting out, the people of Wembley can still enjoy King Eddie’s Park for another century or more.


Unknown said...

Thanks Philip, what a joy to see a park being enjoyed as it should be. How have we lost the plot when it comes to using good urban metropolitan land. Bought for us, local residents to enjoy. What a sad demise, that now Brent Council whatever they are called have totally ignored the local population and are pushing through downright stupid idea's for saving money. They should be preserving this little haven of peace and tranquility to be enjoyed by all, including the wildlife who cause no problems whatsoever. I call on all residents who use the park frequently, Friends of King Eddies Park and all local Residents Association's to campaign to stop this right now. I will be contacting Field's in Trust to support us in this campaign.

Maggie Vickers said...

I can remember there still being a bandstand (where quite regular brass band performances were given on Sunday afternoons) and the boat sailing and paddling pool) in the early 1950s. I can remember paddling out to the middle of the boat sailing pool on a number of occasions when my brother's sailing boat had stalled in the middle when the wind suddenly dropped or he hadn't set the sails quite right!

Scott said...

Thank you for sharing Philip. The neglect and erosion of Green land around London, particularly that shown within the 'promotional 'history of wembley' materials' from Quintain is a disgrace. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uPk6ayjdlQ8

Maggie Vickers said...

And this is what riles many if us who know Wembley history and whose parents were an active part of its evolution from the start of the 1920's(and slightly earlier un my father's case) and then we were from post wartime onwards and we are being told their version by a development company who is intent on destroying as much of lt as possible and they have got their information from documents and records made by people like my parents and friends.

Karen Flaum said...

What an enjoyable read. Thank you.