Families, friends and neighbours from Thornton Heath, Selhurst, Upper Norwood and beyond will come together in Grangewood Park this Sunday to celebrate it becoming a public open space 120 years ago, in 1901.
The 120th birthday party is being organised entirely by volunteers from the park’s Friends group, with virtually no input from Croydon Council – apart, that is, from a demand for hire fee and a hefty deposit against any possible damage.
Locals have been outraged at the council’s demand for cash, as Fisher’s Folly official try to squeeze the park for income. “It’s an utter disgrace,” said one.
The council is already trying to flog off a chunk of the park to developers, along with a heritage building, an old park-keeper’s lodge, which officials have neglected for years to the point where it is now deemed to be beyond repair. The sale has been given the go-ahead, despite a council promise in 2020 that Heath Lodge and adjoining parkland would not be sold. More than 4,500 residents have signed a petition opposing the sale.
Insult was added to injury when one of the Friends of Grangewood Park received an email from the council last month regarding their request to stage the anniversary party.
“Please note that there will be a charge for the hire of the park and a retainer fee for any damage that may occur,” a jobsworth in Fisher’s Folly wrote.
“I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry on reading this,” said one of the Friends’ group.
“It’s an utter disgrace. The council has well and truly lost the plot and is just alienating those who have been supportive of parks.
“The Friends of Grangewood Park are putting on an event to celebrate the council opening the gates for Grangewood to become a park 120 years ago. We have never been asked to pay a hire fee for staging an event in the park that we volunteer to look after.
“I’m not sure what ‘damage’ we could do to the park that the council hasn’t already done.”
The council agreed a new regime of charges for the use of its under-maintained parks at its cabinet meeting in May.
While Friends’ groups, such as those at Grangewood Park organising this weekend’s party, are not in fact subject to any hire fee (despite the confused official’s email), they are expected to pay a refundable damage waiver deposit, in this case the odd figure of £683.
It will all make this Sunday’s resident-led 120th birthday celebration a bittersweet occasion for some of those organising it.
The then Croydon Corporation bought the land which was to form Grangewood Park in 1900, opening it to the public a year later. The high ground affords great views southwards, and of nearby Selhurst Park football ground.
The area of the modern-day park was originally known as Whitehorse Wood, part of the ancient Great North Wood which once covered vast swathes of land south of the Thames. The land was bought by John Davidson Smith in 1847, who built a mansion in the grounds in order to take advantage of living so close to one of the great attractions of the Victorian age, Beulah Spa.
On one side of the mansion was a large formal garden, while natural woodland, with many oaks, was kept to the northern end of the estate.
After the sale to the council, the mansion was used as a museum, and Canadian troops were stationed there during the First World War. But during the Second World War the house and gardens were badly damaged. The mansion was demolished in 1960.
Sunday’s party in the park promises children’s activities, craft and food stalls, performers, Art in the Park, music and afternoon tea.
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There’s a lesson to be learned by the Friends groups: don’t ask Croydon council for permission to use a public park you give up your spare time to look after.
Go ahead and have the party – it’s a Public Park!
Ignore the Council’s demands.
Clear up every vestige of litter.
Then see if the Council are stupid enough to try to levy a charge.