Roundwood Park

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thumb thumb Roundwood Park is a public park in Willesden, London, measuring a total of 26.5 acres,<ref name=London>Template:Cite web</ref> or approximately 10.27 hectares.<ref name=Brent/> It was originally known in the 19th century as Knowles Hill (its name coming from the Knowles Tower nearby),<ref name=Heritage/><ref name=Northwest/> or Hunger Hill Common Field,<ref name=Heritage>Template:Cite web</ref><ref name=Northwest>Template:Cite web</ref> and after much work by Oliver Claude Robson, became the Roundwood Park known to the public today (its name coming from the Roundwood House originally beside it).<ref name=Heritage/><ref name=Northwest/>

Origins

In 1892, George Furness, at that time the owner of Roundwood House, sold Knowles Hill to the Willesden Local Board for a bargain price of £14,500.<ref name=Heritage2>Template:Cite web</ref> At that time, the field only contained a small hillock and a few isolated elm and oak trees.<ref name=Heritage/><ref name=Northwest/>

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Construction begins

After Knowles Hill was sold to the Willesden Local Board, they appointed Oliver Claude Robson to be the main architect.<ref name=London/><ref name=Heritage/><ref name=Northwest/><ref name=Trust/> He was the Surveyor for the Local Board, and later to the Willesden Urban District Council, designing the nearby Gladstone Park as well, and serving the councils for a total of 43 years (1875 – 1918).<ref name=Heritage/><ref name=Northwest/><ref name=Trust/>

The Local Board allowed him a sum of £9,000 for setting out the park.<ref name=Heritage/><ref name=Northwest/> He inserted 5 miles of drainage under the park and planted an additional 14,500 trees and shrubs.<ref name=London/><ref name=Heritage/><ref name=Northwest/><ref name=Trust/> The work, though, was slow, because Robson chose to use local civilians instead of main contractors.

The main gates were built in 1895 by "Messrs. Tickner and Partington" at the Vulcan Works, located on Harrow Road, Kensal Rise.<ref name=Heritage/><ref name=Northwest/><ref name=Trust/> The wrought iron fence is 270 feet long and a maximum of 18 feet tall at certain places. Originally there was the Willesden Local Board's coat of arms on the gates, but along with general acanthus leaf decorations, it has gradually disappeared over the years.<ref name=Heritage/><ref name=Northwest/><ref name=Trust/>

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Additionally, a number of other things were erected, including: a lodge house to house the gardener; greenhouses supply new flowers; numerous paths, running upward to the focal point – an elegant bandstand on the top of the hill. The red-brick lodge house was constructed in the Victorian-Elizabethan style, with ornamented chimney-breasts. It is currently occupied by council employees.

Grand opening

Roundwood Park was finally opened to the public on 11 May 1895 by R.D.M. Littler, Q.C, Chairman of the Middlesex County Council, who "dedicated it forever to the people".<ref name=Heritage/><ref name=Northwest/><ref name=Trust>Template:Cite web</ref> In the opening speech, Mr. Pinkham (Chairman of the Parks Committee) gave much praise to Robson, saying: " ... It was formerly a miniature Dartmoor without the granite, and Mr. Robson had left them a veritable Garden of Eden without the serpents."<ref name=Heritage/><ref name=Northwest/><ref name=Trust/>

A plaque on the drinking fountain near the main gates commemorates the opening of the park and also remembers main architect Oliver Claude Robson for all the work he put in to create Roundwood Park.<ref name=Heritage/><ref name=Northwest/><ref name=Trust/>

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Further construction

Robson decided that a café would be a good addition to the park, so in 1897 a suitable building was designed and constructed by council employees.<ref name=Heritage/><ref name=Northwest/> It was made of brick and timber with a steeply pitched slate roof and gables, with a verandah surrounding it. Various owners succeeded one another. In 1985, a new building was constructed because the old one became run down. Known as the Lodge Café, it currently it features a children's playground, sandpit, and an outdoor seating area.

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Features and events

Roundwood Park used to, and still does, house a variety of events. It also has many interesting and rare features.

Past

Shows

Roundwood Park has been the setting for many public events. In its long history it had seen numerous religious and political open-air meetings, circuses, and much other such events. For many years it was home to the Willesden Show when the place would be crowded with people. Owners of pets of many types, flowers and vegetables, and even 'bonny babies' would compete for prizes in large canvas tents. Art and crafts were shown, and demonstrations of dog handling, sheep shearing, parachuting and trick motor cycling given. Later this became the Brent Show.<ref name=Heritage/><ref name=Northwest/><ref name=Trust/>

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Music and theatre

For more than 10 years after the Park opened, the Willesden Junction Brass Band gave concerts at the bandstand. This became so popular, that a new rustic-type bandstand was built to the south of the "Gymnasium", where more space for the audience was available. The hilltop became the viewing point.<ref name=Heritage/><ref name=Northwest/><ref name=Trust/> Once Wembley Stadium was erected, it could be seen from the viewing point.

As band concerts lost their popularity, so the park lost its bandstand. In its place a new Summer Theatre was built in 1959. It has seen Shakespeare performances. Currently it is closed and run down, only used occasionally for special events.<ref name=Heritage/><ref name=Northwest/><ref name=Trust/> The Summer Theatre was demolished in 2013.

Rides

Once a model railway track existed here. It was set up by the Willesden and West London Society of Model Engineers. A temporary track had been laid for the 1953 Willesden Carnival, and in 1954 it opened as a permanent attraction.

Charges for rides were 6d for adults and 3d for children, of which the Council took 50%. By 1957, steam engines were circuiting the raised loop of multiple gauge track during the summer months (subject to weather) on Thursday evenings and weekend afternoons & evenings. Roundwood Park Model Railway Club were running the enterprise in the early 1970s, but gradually the system fell into disuse, and was removed in 1998.<ref name=Heritage/><ref name=Northwest/> Template:Clr

Current

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Anniversary

To mark the 100th anniversary of the park in 1995, the paved rosebush-lined central pathway was equipped with sturdy new seats and a Victorian-style gazebo.<ref name=Heritage/><ref name=Northwest/><ref name=Trust/>

Wildlife

After an approach by Willesden & District Caged Birds Society in 1955, the Council approved the establishment of an aviary. It was erected the next year. Although successfully fox-proof, it has been a target for thieves. Budgerigars worth £50 were stolen in the summer of 1963, and since then the security of the building was improved. Among the occupants are Zebra Finches, Budgerigars, Cockatiels, Canaries, and Golden Pheasants.<ref name=Heritage/><ref name=Northwest/>

The wildlife area is a recent addition to the park. It used to have a pond surrounding the large willow tree. This has been filled in to prevent children from drowning. This particular area is the quietest section of the park, and also sanctuary for birds such as Blue Tit, Common Chaffinch, Mistle Thrush and Great Spotted Woodpecker, as well as many common species.<ref name=Heritage/><ref name=Northwest/><ref name=Trust/>

The fish pond near the Lodge was proposed by the Willesden & District Aquarist Club during 1956, and completed in 1957. It boasts a large willow and tulip trees.<ref name=Heritage/><ref name=Northwest/><ref name=Trust/> In summer, turtles live in the pond.

Sport

Roundwood Park has always been devoted to floral displays, and a quiet and relaxing environment. Sporting activities are not usually catered for, with the exception of a bowling green built near the centre of the southern path, next to the café. It opened in June 1924 and has been successful ever since. It has occasionally been the target for vandalism, for example in 1958, but is usually in good condition.<ref name=Heritage/><ref name=Northwest/>

On the other side of the hill there is a basketball court. It was originally the children's playground then known as the Gymnasium. Between this and the fence is the storage area for compost, the recycling station.<ref name=Heritage/><ref name=Northwest/>

Sports facilities in Roundwood Park include:

Events

thumb Current events, including George Irvin's Fun Fair (occurring every May 1 – 10),<ref name=Funfair>Template:Cite web</ref> Zippos Circus, and Eid Prayer in the Park, usually take place in the open space to the south of the park rather than in the main territory.

The annual fireworks display on Guy Fawkes Day is one of the few in London.<ref name=London/>

The annual Brent Respect Festival is also a major event, celebrating the diversity and talent of the Brent community. It features many shows, workshops and theatrical performances.<ref name=Brent2>Template:Cite web</ref>

Achievements

Roundwood park has achieved the following:

  • Green Flag Status<ref name=Brent>Template:Cite web</ref>
  • English Heritage Grade II Listed Status<ref name=London/><ref name=Brent/>

References

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External links

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