Park of the Month - Kings Park, Retford

The chair (Paul Rabbitts)  recently delivered a lecture on the history of parks to an Arts Society near Worksop and it was well received. Many comments at the end referred to a lovely park in nearby Retford so it was considered – lets have as Parks of the Month – Kings Park.
Retford’s Kings Park is set within a rich, diverse cultural and archaeological landscape and is located immediately to the west of Retford Town Centre. The site for the original Park, which occupies the land from Chancery Lane to the River Idle was donated by Mrs M J Huntsman of West Retford Hall in 1937. A public appeal by the Borough of East Retford raised £2,000 (equivalent to about £95,250 today) towards the estimated cost of £8,000 (equivalent to about £381,000 today) to develop the park.
Due to its low lying nature the land was raised between 1937 and 1938 using the town’s refuse with landscaping on top. The design and costing for the Park was provided by Mr H W Tee who was the Borough Engineer and Surveyor for the Metropolitan Borough of Woolwich. Quotations were received from a number of local companies including Mr B R Neale, Mr G F Gyles, Messrs Curtis and Howell Ltd and W Neal and Son. Some of the most expensive items at the time were:
  • Provide and lay Bowling Green £488.50
  • Provide and lay natural stone in rockery and plant with rock plants and alpines £754.80
  • To provide and erect thatched pavilion £427.82
The layout for the park is very similar to the present design with the exception of the children’s games and children’s gymnasium, which were sited on the now extended car park for ASDA. Suggested equipment for the gymnasium included swings, a chute, a merry-go-round and a jungle-gym. For the children’s games area, it was suggested that the area should be left grassed for the children to romp about and play ball games with an area for a sand pit.
The Park was officially opened on the 29th June 1938 to commemorate the reign of King George V and the Coronation of King George VI. A further donation of the land by R H Williamson to the west of the River Idle allowed for an extension of the Park which was officially opened 27th April 1960. Kings Park’s central feature, the River Idle followed the line of Carr Dyke within the Park, which represents the historic Parish boundaries of East and West Retford. The course of the Idle was diverted and canalised in 1777 when the Retford section of the Chesterfield Canal, designed by master engineer James Brindley, was constructed.
Canalisation was necessary as the river would have been in close or immediate proximity of the raised banks of the canal to the southwest of the Park. Carr Bridge, that crosses the Idle within the Park, is thought to have been constructed at the same time as the canal as an access route associated with the construction of the canal. The brick boundary wall adjacent to Rectory Road/Hospital Road was constructed in the early-19th century. 1826 saw the addition of a dower house (West Retford Cottage) in the south west corner of the site for the widow of William Huntsman (of West Retford Hall). Much of the landscaping throughout the west half of the park dates to the 19th century, with open vistas, lawned areas, tree belts and specimen trees located throughout.
The oldest part of the park is that which immediately surrounds West Retford Hall. This was laid out in a rectangular plot on higher ground, perpendicular to both the former roadway that ran across the front of the hall to the North-West and the former course of the River Idle, now called Carr Dyke, to the south east. The enclosure of 1774 saw the roadway stopped up and a new road built further to the North-West, utilising a former access to the old West Retford Hall (now the site of Trinity Hospital), this road being called Hospital Road. A series of outbuildings adjacent to the hall, including stables, were also constructed in this period, probably for George Brown Esq (also of Ordsall Hall).


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