Bowie’s Bandstand

Beckenham Croydon Road Rec. – “Bowie’s Bandstand”

Summary of information provided to Historic England supporting a request that the Bandstand be added to the Register of Historic Buildings; EH Ref No 1434796 refers

The Bandstand was built in 1891. This was after the Beckenham Urban District Council, having considered 25 designs from 16 contractors, placed orders for the Bandstand’s architectural ironwork with McCallum & Hope as shown in the illustration below left; and additional orders for the foundations and the outer surround of bow top iron railings.

The photograph below right shows David Bowie on Bandstand at the Free Festival, 16th August 1969, with the Lodge at the main entrance to the Rec. in the background.

            

The following colour photos are of the bandstand as it is today; still in place in its original fencing surrounding flower beds which make the bandstand the central feature of the park.

     

Compiled by Cliff Watkins, designer of the 2001 Bowie Plaque on the “3 Tuns” in High Street .                                                                                       

Bowie’s Bandstand and Paxton’s Palace

Bowie’s Bandstand and Paxton’s Palace

Bowie’s iron Bandstand was built in Croydon Road Recreation Ground in Beckenham  at the end of of the 19th Century. For 120 years it has been the centre of attraction of the park, the venue for all major public events.

In 1854 Paxton rebuilt the Crystal Palace on top of the hill covered by the Great North Wood in South London on what is now Bromley Council’s Crystal Palace Park. At that time the area covered by the park was 2/3rds in Penge and 1/3rd in Beckenham. The new and greatly redesigned and extended palace and grounds cost almost twice that of the 1851 original in Hyde Park (£1,300k v. £150k)

To oversee the construction of his new iron and glass palace, Paxton had moved into Rockhills (1852 to 1865) an elegant Georgian building with views across the park extending to Vale of Beckenham. After just 84 years Paxton’s iron Palace was destroyed by a mysterious fire in 1936.

By that time iron which had been used in most major buildings and products of the British Empire, had been replaced by steel products by the visionary inventor Sir Henry Bessemer. Henry’s grandson Henry William lived for many years in a 17 room mansion called ‘Park Hurst’ at 12 Westgate Road, on the corner of Foxgrove Road.

In 1969, David Bowie moved into the home of Mary Finnigan in Foxgrove Road. With friends, the couple organised the Free Festival in Croydon Road where David and fellow musicians performed on the bandstand.

44 years later (in 2013) Natasha a young lady from Russia moved into Beckenham, close to the Rec in which she discovered the bandstand. It looked familiar. On her bedroom wall in her flat in Moscow, she had displayed David Bebbington’s iconic photo of Bowie on the bandstand in 1969. Nat asked her neighbours who confirmed it was Bowie’s Bandstand. He had performed virtually on her doorstep. Aghast at its condition she persuaded the Friends of the park and Bromley Council to allow her to organise a concert on the bandstand to raise funds for its restoration.

Natasha contacted Mary who gave her the names of those who had performed in 1969 and others who had come to Beckenham in 2001 to celebrate the unveiling of the Bowie Plaque on the Three Tuns’ pub and/or perform in an evening concert during the Pub during the evening. Movie coverage of this event filmed by Brett Allen is on the BHG site.

I spent 6 months of 2001 inviting support from Local residents (CCARA), designing and obtaining quotes for the Plaque, contacting the media and radio broadcasts, using the Bowie Wonderworld site to invite Bowie himself and fans from all over the world. Some years later I was interviewed for the BBC TV Breakfast Show outside the pub.

In 2013, Nat consulted many Bowie fans, including Mary Finnegan and myself. Nat’s plan caught the imagination of the media and she was interviewed on BBC London news which publicised the forthcoming concert. On the day, it rained but this did not deter the many Bowie fans and former colleagues who had been Bowie’s 1969 Free festival from enjoying a typically wet Glastonbury afternoon.

I attended the Friends of Croydon Road Rec AGM later in 2013. Nat had raised some £8k which she thought would be enough for the Bandstand’s restoration.

But the Friends had got a quote for a complete restoration costing nearer £100k and the AGM attendees were told that a bid would be made for HLF funding.

In 2014 Nat organised a second concert in the park when this time she was assisted by Wendy Faulkner who both contacted Bowie fans worldwide and obtained signed Bowie records and posters. This concert raised £9,000k.

Surely this was good platform to demonstrate to HLF that Beckenham people supported Bowie and the aim to restore their local park’s bandstand?

No, fresh from their failure to secure HLF money for the Priory Museum, Bromley Council’s bid was for a project costing £300k or more, to which Bromley Council, as far as we knew, was prepared to contribute nothing.

Bowie Bandstand Historic England Release

Here is the wording of the press release from Historic England regarding the granting of listed status on the bandstand.

Bowie Bandstand, Croydon Road Recreation Ground

Overview
Heritage Category: Listed Building
Grade: II
List Entry Number: 1465007
Date first listed: 08-Aug-2019
Statutory Address: Croydon Road, Beckenham, London, BR3 3PR

Location

Statutory Address: Croydon Road, Beckenham, London, BR3 3PR

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County:Greater London Authority

District:Bromley (London Borough)

Parish:Non Civil Parish

National Grid Reference:TQ3680469000

Summary

Bandstand. Erected in 1905 to the design of the McCallum and Hope Iron Foundry, Glasgow.

Reasons for Designation

The Bowie Bandstand, erected in 1905 at Croydon Road Recreation Ground, Beckenham, by the McCallum and Hope Iron Foundry, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

Architectural interest:

* as a rare and substantial example of cast-iron work by the McCallum and Hope Iron Foundry, Glasgow, and the only bandstand by this foundry known to survive in Britain; * for the high quality of the design and the execution of the cast-iron work and casting, which survives well;

Historic interest:

* for its historic association with David Bowie, one of the most influential musicians of the C20, who played, compered and co-organised the Growth Summer Festival at the bandstand during his rise to fame in 1969; arguably the first festival in England of its kind, and immortalised by his song “Memory of a Free Festival” on “the ecstasy that swept that afternoon”.

History

The first bandstands in England were built in the Royal Horticultural Society Gardens, Kensington, London, which opened in 1861. They were designed by Captain Francis Fowke of the Royal Engineers (best known as architect of the Royal Albert Hall) as circular structures with domed roofs supported on cast-iron columns. Captain Fowke may have seen a similar pavilion displayed at the Paris Industrial Exhibition in May 1855 when he was working in the city. Bandstands provided a focus for music, serving as the venue for regular concerts, and became widespread by the end of the C19. Some manufacturers, such as Walter Macfarlane of Glasgow, provided catalogues from which a choice of bandstand designs could be chosen.

Croydon Road Recreation Ground, Beckenham, was purchased by the Beckenham Local Board and laid out by Reid and Bornemann of Sydenham in 1890. It formally opened on 23 September 1891 following a local campaign to secure public open space. On 30 January 1905 Beckenham Urban District Council commissioned a surveyor to obtain designs and prices for two bandstands after examining 25 designs from 16 contractors. On 6 May a sub-committee recommended the award of the tender for the two bandstands costing £135 each to the McCallum and Hope Iron Foundry provided that the work was executed within 10 weeks. The foundry was based at the Ruchill Iron Works, Glasgow, where the firm also produced gates, railings, rainwater goods, and ironwork for porches and glasshouses. The second bandstand was erected in Alexandra Park, Penge, but no longer survives. The Beckenham example is now the only bandstand from the foundry surviving in Britain according to a recent gazetteer (Rabbitts 2018). It is illustrated in a 1909 advertisement for the firm.

Croydon Road Recreation Ground has hosted celebrations for coronations, jubilees, hospital fetes, Empire days, May Queen festivals, as well as commemoration services to servicemen of the First and Second World War and formerly a major annual flower show (once rivalling Chelsea). In 1902 Britain’s first public air mail balloon left the park, dropping post at three points in Kent before crossing the Channel and landing near Calais. Three years later, Harold Bride, a radio operator on the Titanic, was carried round the park and spoke from the bandstand after surviving the disaster. In 1935 the Mayor of London presented Beckenham with a Charter of Incorporation as a borough within the grounds.

The musician David Bowie (1947-2016) had several associations with Beckenham and the bandstand. Born in Brixton, he moved to Plaistow Grove, Bromley, with his family at the age of eight and went to Burnt Ash Primary School and then Bromley Technical High School (now Ravens Wood School). In April 1969 he began lodging on Foxgrove Road, Beckenham, with Mary Finnigan, his landlady, and subsequently lover and co-founder of the Beckenham Arts Lab. During this particular year spent in Beckenham Bowie continued to advance rapidly on a musical level, working very hard at perfecting and improving his natural talent for writing songs and, working with the other musicians of the Arts Lab played at the Three Tuns (now (2019) Zizzi on Beckenham High Street). The Arts Lab (with Bowie’s close involvement) subsequently organised the Growth Summer Festival, a free one-day festival playing from the Beckenham bandstand on 16 August 1969, which has been described as ‘the first of its kind in the UK’ (Goddard 2019, 92). According to Finnigan, the intention was to set a similar kind of free agenda for artists and musicians as seen at Woodstock. The Beckenham festival followed the release of Bowie’s first ever hit single Space Oddity in July that previous month. One of Bowie’s signature tunes the song told the tale of an abandoned astronaut, Major Tom, marooned in space. It was released in the same year as the first Moon landing and is thought to have been one of the songs Bowie performed that day on the Beckenham bandstand. Although Space Oddity is considered by many to be about the Moon landing Bowie himself said it wasn’t. He explained the song – and Major Tom – as a metaphor for our sense of isolation after having seen and been amazed by Stanley Kubrick’s epic mystery 2001: A Space Odyssey several times on its release in 1968, the year before the Moon landing. The Beckenham festival clearly had an impact on Bowie as it inspired him to write a song about “the ecstasy that swept that afternoon” – ‘Memory of a Free Festival’; a long seven-minute closing piece for his second self-titled album recorded in September 1969 which was later released in 1970 as a carefully re-worked two-part single in homage to the festival. It has been suggested that Bowie may also have penned the lyrics to the song Life on Mars from the steps of the bandstand (May, 2017). In 2013, a new commemorative Memory of a Free Festival was held on the bandstand to raise money for its restoration. It was repeated in 2014 before being replaced by a new event called ‘Bowie’s Beckenham Oddity’ since 2016. The bandstand has now become known as the ‘Bowie Bandstand’ (London Borough of Bromley, 2019).

The bow fencing around the bandstand is thought to be a replacement of 1990. It is not of special architectural and historic interest, and is excluded from the listing.

Details

Bandstand. Erected in 1905 to the design of the McCallum and Hope Iron Foundry, Glasgow.

MATERIALS: a cast-iron structure on a brick and granolithic concrete plinth with a timber felt-covered roof.

DESCRIPTION: an octagonal bandstand with eight slender cast-iron columns standing on a brick and granolithic concrete plinth approached by steps. Between the columns is a cast-iron railing decorated with ornamental foliage work. Between the railings there are fluted columns but above it are plain columns with Corinthian capitals. The columns support decorative cast-iron brackets and elaborate fretwork beneath the roof. The bandstand has a felt-covered tented roof crowned by an open cupola enriched with scroll and leaf decoration and other ornamental pattern work, which is surmounted by a finial. The roof has an iron structural frame and a ribbed and boarded ceiling.

Sources

Books and journals
Conway, H, Public Parks, (1996)
Finnigan, M, Psychedelic Suburbia: David Bowie and the Beckenham Arts Lab, (2016)
Rabbitts, P, Bandstands: Pavilions for music, entertainment and leisure, (2018)
Websites
London Borough of Bromley: Bowie Bandstand, accessed 10 April 2019 from https://www.bromley.gov.uk/info/200073/parks_and_open_spaces/1076/bowie_bandstand_restoration_appeal
The Friends of Croydon Road Recreation Ground: History of the park, accessed 10 April 2019 from http://www.turnipnet.com/becrec/history.htm
The Scottish Ironwork Foundation database: London Beckenham bandstand, accessed 10 April 2019 from https://ironworks.scran.ac.uk/database/record.php?usi=000-002-000-262-C&scache=1irdgf8mb6&searchdb=ironworks_scran
Other
Goddard, S, ‘The Starman Cometh’ in Record Collector, Issue 490 (March 2019), 84-91
May, L, ‘Nine David Bowie landmarks in Bromley every fan can visit in just over an hour’ in Bromley Times (4 August 2017). Available online at https://www.bromleytimes.co.uk/news/nine-david-bowie-landmarks-in-bromley-every-fan-can-visit-in-just-over-an-hour-1-5135589
Personal Communication, Brian Blandford: historical information on the bandstand (June 2019)

Legal

This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

The listed building is shown coloured blue on the attached map. Pursuant to s1 (5A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 (‘the Act’) structures attached to or within the curtilage of the listed building but not coloured blue on the map, are not to be treated as part of the listed building for the purposes of the Act. However, any works to these structures which have the potential to affect the character of the listed building as a building of special architectural or historic interest may still require Listed Building Consent (LBC) and this is a matter for the Local Planning Authority (LPA) to determine.

End of official listing

 

Bandstand Restoration Council Minutes

Meeting: 10/10/2018 – Environment and Community Services Policy Development and Scrutiny Committee (Item 20)

20 CROYDON ROAD RECREATION GROUND BANDSTAND RESTORATION PDF 92 KB

Additional documents:

·                                 Appendix 1 for CRRG Bandstand Project, item 20 PDF 5 MB

·                                 Appendix 2 for CRRG Bandstand Project, item 20 PDF 708 KB

Minutes:

Report ES18072

Members supported funding proposals for the restoration of the Croydon Road Recreation Ground bandstand, Beckenham.

A specialist structural survey in 2013 identified the bandstand’s condition as deteriorating with significant repair works needed to prevent further decline and ultimate removal of the asset. Croydon Road is the last remaining bandstand in Council ownership. With significant local support for the restoration, the Friends Group at Croydon Road Recreation Ground and other partners, including Memory of a Free Festival, have been actively fundraising towards the cost of repair works.

The current bandstand floor space is insufficient to accommodate some performance groups (e.g. an orchestra) and temporary staging will be purchased and a flat base circular pathway incorporated into the design to maximise space. Such improvements will ease utilisation of the bandstand by musical and theatrical groups.

Although a previous application under The Heritage Lottery Fund’s (HLF) ‘Heritage Grant’ programme was unsuccessful in 2015, a revised one-stage application is currently being prepared under the ‘Our Heritage’ programme providing grants from £10k – £100k. With the level of match-funds secured, required funding has reduced to less than £100k. As lead applicant, L B Bromley will receive all grant money with idverde and the Friends of Croydon Road Recreation Ground acting as delivery partners. Amey Ltd will procure and oversee delivery of the capital restoration works and idverde will deliver the remainder of the project.

Report ES18072 also outlined the terms and conditions of grant should an application be successful. A grant application is expected to be submitted during November 2018 with notification of the outcome expected during January 2019.

Amey Ltd carried out a competitive tender for the major repair works in February 2018 using their own preferred supplier list and the cost for the work based on the lowest tender and inclusive of fees, was estimated at £191k. Amey’s preferred supplier agreed to hold their tender price until summer 2019, to allow the HLF bid to be processed. Additionally, a number of minor works are valued at £14k (funded from the HLF grant), including the design, production and installation of an interpretation panel and staging enabling increased use of the bandstand.

A total project budget of £245k over a 12 month period is required, inclusive of a 10% contingency throughout the project, split between capital works, equipment, and associated project management costs, at approximately £205k, and revenue costs estimated at £40k. An application is expected to be made for a grant of £89k with the balance of £156k coming from match-funding.

Should the application be successful, the project is anticipated to commence in March 2019 with three grant instalments: 50% up-front; 40% on expenditure of the first instalment; and 10% on completion of the project. Subject to grant timings, capital works could commence late spring 2019 and complete by summer 2019. Expenditure on events and activities to encourage use of the bandstand is expected to be on-going throughout 2019 into 2020.