There were 3,000 acres of market gardens in the parishes in and around the parishes of Brentford which was described as ‘the great fruit and vegetable garden of London. Thirty people were employed on every acre at harvest time, most of them women who travelled from Wales and Shropshire for the season.
The grounds we now know as St Paul’s Recreation Ground were originally orchards and part of ‘the great fruit and vegetable garden of London’.
Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee 1887
“if there ever existed any fears that the decorations by the inhabitants of the old county town of Middlesex would be behind that of their neighbours, these were speedily dispersed when the morning of Jubilee Day dawned” A great blaze of colour lined the streets in every direction.
Between 7 and 8 pm the crowds that had thronged the streets began to gather at what was to be the ‘’rec’’ to await the fireworks display and the lighting of the bonfires.
Notes from the Local Board, the equivalent of the present Council re the creation of St Paul’s Recreation Ground, Brentford.
The site for St Paul’s Recreation Ground was purchased on 28th May 1888 by Brentford Local Board from Dame Sophia Jane Lateward Croft Delpieirre with money that had been raised to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in 1887. It cost £2,500 and due to various delays it was not opened until 1889.
June 5th 1888 – Letter to Mr Montgomery, Hon Treasurer of the Recreation Ground Committee that notice would be given when a cheque for the purchase money would be required.
July 9th 1888 – Mr Walker, a local Councillor and employee of Montgomery’s asked for permission to erect a drinking fountain on St Paul’s Recreation Ground to the memory of the late Mr James Montgomery Esq, founder of the timber business that was between the High Street and the canal on the site of the current Heidelberg premises.
August 7th 1888 – Letter to Mr Walker according permission to erect a drinking fountain on St. Paul’s Recreation Ground and thanking him for the same.
November 20th 1888 – Tenders advertised for the supply of and fixing the Iron posts and railings round the Recreation Ground and for the supply of and planting the proposed trees. The trees to be planted to consisted of Black Poplars, Limes, Acacias and Wych Elms – many of which are still standing today.
December 4th 1888 – Estimate for railings £105 submitted by FW Lacey the Surveyor.
December 18th 1888 – Messrs Spooner and Sons tender for the trees accepted. Advertisements inserted in The Builder and Middlesex Independent and Middlesex County Times and Richmond and Twickenham Times newspapers invited tenders for levelling St. Paul’s Recreation Ground.
January 1st 1889 – Letter to Messrs Churchyard and Stark that there was no necessity for giving of cement to enclosing the Brook and that the expenses of the Board must be borne by them. The contract for the levelling was read but to stand over until the next meeting.
February 5th 1889 – Letter asking Messrs Stuart & Tull what steps they were taking for the redemption of the Tithe Rent Charge on St Paul’s Recreation Ground. (Presumably as it was then publicly owned there would be no tithe payable).
August 7th 1889 – Questions about the mowing of the recreation ground – the surveyor said he took responsibility and that the men were paid 3/4d per day and the Board had part of the crop and the men the remainder. There was a suggestion that men could have been found to work free of charge and keep the crop.
October 16th 1889 – Notice in the paper of the Opening on the following Thursday and the order of the procession from Brentford Bridge.
October 19th 1889 – ‘A Brentford Red Letter Day’
The only organised sporting bodies in Brentford prior to the formation of the Brentford Football Club on 10th October 1889 were the Brentford Rowing Club (founded in 1887) and the Boston Park Cricket Club (founded in 1885). There had been several attempts to start rugby or football clubs but these had foundered for the want of a good ground on which to play. It was hoped that the opening of the recreation ground (between Albany Road and Lateward Road) in 1889 would change this. In the event the football club never used the ground.
Bombs rained down on Brentford almost every night between September and December 1940.
As protection against air raids a trench type shelter was dug in St Paul’s Recreation Ground. The first casualties occurred on 26 September when a bomb fell on St Paul’s Recreation Ground; one person was hospitalised and 16 suffered minor injuries.
A report by a fire watcher in a station at the bottom of Grosvenor Road was reported as saying that when she was on the phone to headquarters during a raid the ground opened and there was the Brook rushing along under her feet!
An annual carnival was revived in by the Brentford Community Association to celebrate the current Queen’s Silver Jubilee. Thirty-eight colourful carnival floats drove through the High St, the prize for the best going to the Brentford Evening Women’s Guild. In the afternoon there were stalls and funfair on St Paul’s Recreation Ground and an open air disco in the evening. The carnival has been held most years since.
The history of Brentford had been immortalised in a mural on the wall of the children’s playground in St Paul’s Recreation Ground. It was commissioned from artist Nic Boothby by the Brentford Regeneration Partnership it was colourful, informative and amusing. However, sadly it has mostly been lost to an attack of mindless graffiti and very little is visible. However, there are images within the gallery section of this site as it was in its former glory.
A personal history from a local resident
As a kid, I, like a lot of others spent most of my waking hours in “The Rec” (that’s all it was ever known as) and I pretty much knew every square inch of it! My mum could call me from our back garden on Grosvenor Rd when it was time to eat or sleep. I was born in 1953 so most of my memories would be from then onwards. The park used to have a permanent keeper and was locked every night when it got dark and the keeper would chase us if we rode bikes in the park too! The keeper had his own hut (more like a miniature house really) in the top right hand corner of the playground which had a stove, cooker etc. and was very cosy. The keeper would maintain the park, sweeping all the paths, gardening, litter picking – it always looked immaculate. I used to help the keeper sweep up, gather litter (I had a piece of broom handle with a nail in the end to stab the litter!) and my grandad made me a little wheelbarrow too. In the bottom right of the playground was a walled off area where the keeper would burn all the leaves, twigs and litter from the park, so the autumn brought clouds of smoke and that lovely smell of burning leaves and wood. I remember some of the keepers, the first being Tom who was a lovely old chap with a country burr to his voice, then there was Butch, a big growling bear of a man who was quite scary followed by another scary bloke who I think was called Fred. The last keeper was a chap called Bill Glover, a lovely man, who was a neighbour of ours in Grosvenor Rd, I’d known Bill and his family all my life and they were very close to ours.
The Rec was a place of crazes for us kids, if somebody got something, then we all did! There were bows made from a bamboo cane and string with arrows made from sharpened plant sticks with cardboard flights – we could stick them in the tree trunks and fire them over the trees that divided the greens on the Lateward side! I’m surprised nobody was hurt. We made barrows out of 4 old wheels and planks and raced them round the park (we scavenged the bits from old bombsites and derelict houses on Albany Rd). There was also a model shop on the high street (Morrison’s car park now) who used to sell balsa wood model planes and plastic delta wing ones which would also be a craze with loads of them whizzing about – my first piloting !!!
The local council did more with the park then, in the summer holidays a couple of students would have a big basket on a trolley, full of sports stuff you could borrow for free, cricket, football, rounders’ and big games would be organised during the days and evenings. One summer, probably in the late 60’s the council built an adventure playground in what is now the dog square, it had all sorts of swings, climbing frames and there were a couple of blokes there who would help us build things and teach us to use tools. This was all very well until a neighbour decided to climb in when it was shut, fell and broke her wrists – so that was that !
I remember the carnival finishing there on a few occasions, one year they had a stage with a band playing in the evening and my uncle was the singer – I think they were called The Corvettes. One time a load of Mods – girls and boys – gathered in the playground and it was rumoured that a load of bikers were coming for a tear up, so me and a couple of mates sat at the top of the slide waiting in our grandstand seats. Nothing happened in the end but I distinctly remember all the Mod girls looking really cool in their leather coats and high heels and the blokes in parkas and smart suits. There’s probably a few of those old faces still around in Brentford. There was always a big Sunday morning football game on the Lateward green side but if you turned up to play you had to wait for someone else to keep the sides even but it could get up to 15 – 20 a side sometimes, with jumpers for goalposts !!
So, a few of my memories of The Rec, a place I can still happily wander around to this day and a place I hope will be around for very many years to come.
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