This month marks the 90th anniversary of the opening of North Lodge Park on Saturday 18 May 1929.
It will be celebrated in the park on Saturday 18 May 2019 during this year’s Gardening Festival, part of the Crab & Lobster Festival.
On Friday, May 3, 1929 Cromer Urban District Council sub-committee chairman G A Rounce called the third meeting of the North Lodge Committee to order with important decisions to be made.
The previous September, the council had bought the North Lodge estate at auction for £5,500 to use the building as new offices and develop the surrounding estate as a park ¬-one that had to pay its way from the start to help repay the loan for the purchase.
Putting greens were hastily prepared, two ‘putting outfits’ and 30 seven-foot benches were bought at 37/- each, and it was resolved “the Park be open to the Public on Saturday 18th May from 9am until sunset”.
The minutes of the May 3 meeting also record that “the question of arranging for an Official opening of the park was deferred to a later date”. The committee would not meet again until May 28 – 10 days after the park opened – and no mention of this in the weekly forerunner of North Norfolk News (The Journal), it seems the park just opened, with no ceremony much less fanfare or razzamataz.
And the plan paid off.
Putting receipts for the first Whitsun week (May 18-26) were £11 5s 6d, comparing favourably with the council’s other revenue streams: for nearly the whole of the month (May 1-28) Motor Park receipts were £19 1 6d and from public conveniences £19 17 4d.
By the end of its first successful 1929 season, North Lodge Park putting had taken £278 7s 6d, 40% of this in August. The minutes of October’s Parks Committee recorded: “The Chairman thought that what they had heard as to the North Lodge receipts pointed to the wisdom of the Council in obtaining the property, and also the normal course of development pursued. He thought that when nearly £300 was obtained it was an encouragement to the Council to go forward on present lines (Hear, hear)”
Putting in the park went from strength to strength. There were eventually four main courses: a nine-hole course south of the Lodge; an 18-hole course by Rusts Shelter; a Clock Golf course next to Overstrand Road; and from 1947 a ‘bunker course’ east of Doctor’s Steps path (today’s upper lawn) although the bridge was not built until 1956.
There was also a bowling green, tennis courts (from 1947-67), and a croquet lawn from 1985 into the 1990s. By then the popularity of putting was already on the wane; in 1960 nearly 44,000 people putted in North Lodge Park – and at Easter 1968 “people were queuing to get on the course” – but in 2011 fewer than 7,000 people putted in North Lodge Park.
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The month of May in North Lodge Park history
- 1937 The Thatched Shelter was rented to newsagent Munday & Co for £18 a year.
- 1944 “Owing to the large number of persons using the Putting Greens being equivalent to a busy season in peace-time it has been considered necessary for assistance to be provided on Sundays.”
- 1959 The Pitch and Putt course at The Meadow was opened on Sunday 17 May.
- 1961 The Model Village opened on the area lawn of the Watch House on the Rocket House Gardens site, admission price 9d adults, 6d children.
- 1966 Erected to stop people cutting across the putting green, new railings around Rusts Shelter led to complaints and a petition to remove them.
- 1977 Something described as “indiscriminate skateboarding activity” was noted by NNDC.
- 2012 An Extraordinary General Meeting of Cromer Town Council, attended by over 60 members of the public rejected plans for a £197,000 revamp of the Park including closing the putting greens and adding a car park.