Langdon Hills Recreation Ground

By Ken Porter

Photo:Revamped play area (July 2011)

Revamped play area (July 2011)

Ken Porter

“If you go down the park today” you might be pleasantly surprised to see the impressive revamp of the play area but how many of you remember those heady days of the 1950/60s when you could have a paddle or slide down a really high slide – Oh! Those happy days before ‘health & safety’.

Photo:Cricket in the Park-1950s

Cricket in the Park-1950s

Who remembers the old cricket pavilion at the top of the park where there is now a bench or the tennis courts during the 1970/80s before the vandals wrecked them? Toilets that were always opened, the park keeper that kept you all under control.

One clear memory I have goes back to when I was twelve and living in Pound Lane, Laindon. I was out cycling with two friends when we came to the top of the park. It was late afternoon  and we knew that our parents would be worried where we were. So ignoring the large sign “Cycling Prohibited” we rode across the park to the large gates at the bottom of New Avenue .

Waiting for us was the Park Keeper who reprimanded us for riding across the park and told us to stay put as he had called the police. The constable appeared on his bike took our details and said we would be hearing from them.

When I got home my mother who by now was very angry sent me straight to bed but she was a real softy and soon came to see if I wanted any tea and why I was late home. Naturally I told her and she said not to worry. Several days later we received a two page letter from the police. Well nobody told my mother’s children off other than her. She immediately went down the station and had a few strong words with them about wasting everybody’s time.

I still wonder if I have a criminal record.

The park itself came into being in 1926. The Wheaton family who had been farming out of Langdon Hall since the early 1890s, the Hall and land had been leased from Oxford University who had owned it since the mid 1600s. By 1924 they had completed the freehold purchase of the Hall and land. Then in 1926 they offered the local Parish Council a field of sixteen acres for a recreation ground at less than cost.

Photo:Opening of park celebrations 1926

Opening of park celebrations 1926

The Council accepted the offer and purchased the field for £250 and on Monday 2nd August 1926 the new recreation ground at Langdon Hills was declared open by Lord Lambourne, Lord Lieutenant of Essex . The gates where given by Mrs and Miss Wheaton.

It was proposed to lay out paths, flower beds, to erect a bandstand, lay down tennis courts, three football pitches, two cricket pitches, a bowling green and a complete natural swimming pool.

Well we got most of it, one cricket pitch with a Pavilion, two football pitches, children’s play area, two tennis courts and a paddling pool. Neither the bandstand or bowling green materialised but we still got a beautiful park that will continue to benefit generations to come.

The only memory we have today of the Wheaton family is the name of an old plotland road. It is the second avenue running parallel with the park at the top of the ground ‘ Wheaton Avenue ’. Just below the ‘Cow Fields’ for those in the know.

This page was added by Ken Porter on 06/07/2011.
Comments about this page (Add a comment about this page)

Robert Springate, 31/01/14 comments upon the groundsman, who from his description could have been Alf Partner who was rather tall and had an exceptionally red face and on his retirement, (or leaving), went to live in a bungalow named Trossachs in Basildon Road which had earlier been purchased by the  Corporation from the Humphreys (Humphries) family.  

By W.H.Diment
On 02/03/2014

Cow fields, a relative of mine Mrs Emson lived in a bungalow in Alexander Road called Ivanhoe.  She owned the field opposite and farmed cows.  I often played in the rec and on the slides.   My cousins Shelagh and Ivan Emson lived on the corner of Vowler Road and Berry Lane.  Lovely walks through to Crown woods.  My relatives lived in High Road, Langdon Hills, opposite Langdon Hills School. I now live in Norfolk.  Remember the name Springate.   My surname was Waters.  Am I remembered?

By Thelma
On 28/02/2014

Hi,

I was wondering about 'Cow fields' and the bomb craters used as sand pits - are they still there? I jog in the area and like to try and find these old sites....makes running abit more fun!

Many thanks

By Stuart Goodger
On 01/02/2014

Reading the comments above, about the recreation park, I remember it well.

I lived in Alexander Road in a wooden bungalow, called "The Haven" From the year of my birth, 1942 untill my parents were offered a brand new Council house in Devonshire Road, when I was 17.  The bungalow was rented from Bebbington Estates (they had a small office in the approach road to the station ticket hall)  My parents weekly rent was 15/- a week (75p)  No charge for the rats that shared our home! As fast as we flattened out a National Health dry powdered milk tin (that babies were fed on at the time) and nailed the flattened tin over a rat hole they would gnaw a fresh hole and pop up some where else!

Going back to the park, in the far top corner of the park was a five barred gate that led onto the unmade road that led up a steep hill, Wheaton Avenue was at the top of this hill on the right hand side. At the top was another gate that led into a lovely play area for us kids that we called "The Cowfield"

To the right of the gate that led from the park, was a granite cattle drinking trough on a pedestal.  Left over from the days when cattle were grazed in the field when it was still under the ownership of the Wheaton Family (or the Markham family that farmed where all the new houses are now).

My two elder brothers were both fined a shilling each (5p) at Billericay magistrates Court for pushing the cattle trough off it's pedestal! Boys will be boys. Not long after they joined the army.  One joined as a volunteer at a recruiting office in Southend, signed up for five years and as soon as he signed up he was given "the King's shilling" (5p) So in effect he got his shilling fine back! He joined the Suffolk Regiment and after basic training was shipped off to Malaya to guard the British rubber plantation interests.

My other brother joined the King's African Rifles and served time in Kenya/ Mombasa.

He was de-mobbed just before the unrest started with the Mau-Mau. Incidently, the Royal Green Jackets have their museum in Winchester with captured home made rifles from the Mau-Mau, made from bits of gas pipe!

I remember the park keeper always had a very red face, probably from chasing us local youngsters, or it could have been blood pressure or a bit of both. One Summer holiday pass time was poking out wasp nests in the banks of the ditch near the paddling pool. We would try and cover our heads and faces with a bit of Mum's old discarded net curtain! About as useful as a chocolate teapot, thinking back on it.

One of my friends was stung on his privates, his first thought was to cool it down, unfortunately the paddling pool had been emptied for cleaning, so he ran to the drinking fountain, dropped his trousers and put his privates into the chrome cup that the water drained into, he put his privates into the cup and splashed cold water over the aforementioned parts. Meanwhile all the mums with small children stood around in amazement, as you can imagine. Us boys never, ever drank out of that fountain again! 

By Robert Springate
On 31/01/2014

A couple of Sundays back we visited the Rec to see the new layout - you would have still been able to paddle - the ground around the play equipment is SAND - it had rained and there were deep puddles - if the slides had been used, the children would have landed straight into the water! We decided we would take our grandson to Wat Tyler instead where the ground is covered in bark and rubber.

By Andrea Ash (Pinnell)
On 18/10/2012

I suggest the team playing cricket in the photogrraph may have been the Laindon Travellers who did not have a home ground as such but hired pitches as and when required. The 'Rec' could be hired on such a basis before it finally became the home ground of Laindon CC. 

I have played against the Travellers but while I remember faces cannot put names to these. One face sticks in my mind was that of their skipper who was a spin bowler who tossed the ball up 10 or 12 ft. higher than anything I had seen before or since. Perhaps someone can supply names.

Ken, The cricket photo which may have been supplied by you seemed strange, but I could not immediately see why. Then I realised that the 'square leg umpire' was standing to the off side of the wicket and in rear of the stumps and could not have given a fair stumping or run out decision.

By W.H.Diment
On 18/10/2012

Hi Gloria dad remembers coming to get you he can`t recall getting a prize though. He does remember he and Lenny Hudson creeping into the back flap of the tent where the prizes were kept to get a preview, he thinks they were very good prizes for the time.

By Lynn Cooper(nee Davies)
On 18/10/2012

Hallo John, You are correct in respect of the football. It was the home ground of the Laindon Athletic Club.

By W.H.Diment
On 21/09/2012

What a great place that park was. I think they played local soccer games there as well. I seem to remember my brother Bill and uncle Sid playing there.

I Loved the high slide, roundabout and swings. Then walk on up through the top gate to the Crown Woods for an afternoon of cowboys and indians

By John Watson
On 21/09/2012

Yes Ken, I do remember the park and spent every spare moment there. I learnt to swim in the pool there, the park keeper used to sit on the bench and watch us. There were three steps up to a fountain in the middle, which was painted blue. Many a child went home with a cut head after slipping on the steps, no compensation madness then.

When we moved to King Edward Road we still walked there along Railway Approach and Cumberland Avenue, stopping at Lungley's in Berry Lane for our sweets wrapped in a newspaper cone. I have faint memories of some mums running a kids club there in the summer hols, Art, Little princess, Mr muscle's etc. At the end of summer an overall winner would be picked, does anyone else remember this? My Uncle Bob in New Zealand (who has just written a piece for the site) was a winner because my other uncle was in the army. My granny always sent him up to the big rec. as we called it, the small rec. being Worthing Rd., to fetch us for tea. If we saw him coming we would hide in the bushes at the back of the paddling pool so we could stay a bit longer. May I say now, "Uncle Bob I'm sorry". Sometimes we would go over the stile at the top of the field leading to the "Cow Field" to the sand pits created by some bombs dropped in the war. Nan put a stop to that when auntie Marion broke her leg down a rabbit hole, but sorry Nan I think we still went there because it was also a short cut to the Crown woods. Maybe Ken if it had been laid out as proposed (flower beds etc.) the local kids would not have enjoyed it quite so much. It was our Moon walk, Western desert, Royal palace, Olympic stadium or even Fairy Land or whatever we choose it to be. I do hope kids today have as much fun; it's on my list to revisit before it’s to late.

By Gloria Sewell
On 25/07/2011