Croydon Road Recreation Ground

Croydon Road Recreation Ground.

This park is in the centre of the Town with easy access from the High Street. It opened in 1891 after action by leading members of the community, led by the proprietor and publisher of the town’s newspaper, the Beckenham Journal, T.W. (Tom) Thornton. Beckenham’s population had grown tenfold since the railway arrived in 1857 and they feared there would be no open spaces left.

The park proved to be a popular venue for recreation, civic activity, fairs and exhibitions. In 1905 it saw the launch of the first airmail in a gas filled balloon.  Harold Bride, the radio officer on the Titanic was given a heroes welcome when he was carried around the park shoulder high and asked to speak from the band stand. Charity events raised large sums for Beckenham Hospital and the annual flower show matched Chelsea.

It was part of the Charter celebrations when Beckenham became a Borough in 1935 (see newsreel film here).

The most significant event in the post war years was the use by David Bowie and the Beckenham Arts Lab who held a Free Festival in the park in 1969 – the first of the future King of Rock’s four formative years in the town.

During the last 20 years the park became neglected. The bosses in the NHS decreed that all funding for the Hospital should come from HMG and it was saved from closure by protests chaired by Nurse Eileen Howard. The only regular event was the bonfire night fireworks display. In particular, the bandstand showed signs of neglect until a young lady from Russian arrived in Beckenham in 2012. She galvanized the Friends of the park to support her idea to stage a Bowie themed event in September 2013 which raised £8,000 for a new roof.  This spurred the Borough Council into action and an appeal for support  for a bid for money from the Heritage Lottery Fund has been made.  See below: