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Fenton Park’s opening was marred by rain and controversy

DSC00781, Fenton, Fenton Park copyAlthough everyone had hoped that the day would be bright and sunny, it was pouring with rain on Monday, April 14th, 1924 when Alderman Frank Collis, the Mayor of Stoke-on-Trent, came to Fenton to open the new park in Cemetery Road.

The County Borough of Stoke-on-Trent was created in 1910 by amalgamating Tunstall, Burslem, Hanley, Stoke, Longton and Fenton.

Shortly afterwards, the new county borough decided to give Fenton a park. The council purchased a 17-acre site in Cemetery Road and made plans to turn it into a park. Work on the project was suspended when the First World War broke out in 1914.

Council workmen started laying out the park in the 1920s. Supervised by the borough surveyor and the parks’ superintendent, they planted more than 8,000 trees and shrubs, erected a bandstand, laid a bowling green, created a tennis court and constructed children’s playgrounds.

Before he opened the park, the Mayor attended a civic luncheon held in Fenton Town Hall. Inside the hall, the atmosphere was tense. Fentonians still resented losing their independence and being forced by the House of Lords to amalgamate with the other pottery towns to create the County Borough of Stoke-on-Trent.  Many believed the county borough was deliberately neglecting Fenton and allowing it to die.

The town’s pent up frustrations surfaced after the meal. While proposing the toast “Success to Fenton and its new Park and Parks Committee”, the Deputy Mayor Mr F.T.H. Goodwin said Fenton had the best and most efficient fire brigade in The Potteries.

Almost everyone in the room knew that the county borough council was planning to close Fenton fire station.

Responding to the toast, Alderman Warren said that since the county borough had come into existence, Fenton had gone completely dead and was now called the town of the long, long street.

Alderman Phillip Elliot, the Chairman of the Education Committee who owned two drapers shops in Fenton, pointed out that it had taken the county borough 14 years to give the town a park and electric light. He recalled being told by the House of Lords when it was considering amalgamation, that Fenton had nothing – no furnace for burning refuse, no swimming pool and no market. Alderman Elliot had no hesitation in saying things had not changed. He ended his attack on the county borough by accusing it of developing the larger centres and neglecting little places like Fenton.

It was still raining heavily when a procession led by the Mayor left the town hall. The procession made its way to the park gates in Cemetery Road where a large crowd had gathered to watch the opening ceremony. Alderman Elliot handed the Mayor a gold key. The mayor unlocked the park gates and declared the park open.

© David Martin 2013

PH/FF

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