As part of a series marking the 90th anniversary of Cromer’s North Lodge Park, MARGARET HUNTER, nee Baker, shares her memories, having lived at the lodge from 1953 to 1960.
I moved from Sheringham when I was eight to live in the first floor flat at North Lodge when my father Billy Baker was appointed Parks Superintendent and my mother Elsie the Caretaker for the council offices.
Our flat was self-contained with its own front door at the top of the stairs and consisted of three small bedrooms (mine overlooked the bowling green), a bay-windowed lounge facing the sea, bathroom, and kitchen looking up the drive.
The office of surveyor Mr Haig was along the landing and looked towards Rust’s shelter. At the very top were one or two small rooms, for the original nursery maid, strewn with old files and papers and not used.
Father had a gang of men: Arnold Ward, Lenny Griffin, Edgar Savoury, Michael White, and Bob Cox who single-handedly cared for the Norwich Road grass courts.
Their duties also included the churchyard, Marrams bowling and putting greens, and later the Meadow Pitch and Putt.
Extra staff were taken on in the summer for the putting green kiosks, originally in the little single storey extension to the side of North Lodge and a second one on the distant, over the bridge, course which were later combined in a single kiosk near the tennis courts.
The ground staff’s domain was the basement, which would have been the domestic offices when the Hoare family lived there.
I remember a row of servant call bells hanging on the wall.
All the tools were kept there and in the winter park seats were taken down to be painted. A wonderful adventure playground for young residents from upstairs!
I remember rolls of paper on the kitchen table as planning for the next year’s planting schemes was undertaken. The bowling green was beautifully maintained and there was a thriving Ladies Bowling Club in their pristine white uniforms, including frequent player Mrs Rust. If anyone dared to step on it in the wrong shoes..!
The area between the nine-hole course in front of North Lodge and the tennis courts was a roughly grassed area with open-air Shakespeare performances in the 1950s, when I also remember the Dagenham Girl Pipers and other Scottish marching bands performing on the hard courts.
In 1953 the old boating lake was next to Rede’s House, together with a lethal roundabout and a Laburnum tree.
The site where the replacement model yacht pond was built had a bandstand.
Every Sunday afternoon in the summer a local band entertained and Father had to get all the folding chairs out for the audience and clear them up afterwards.
When the new boating lake was built a new bandstand was built on the hard tennis courts, providing a large audience arena and again chairs were put out and taken down for events.
Alfie Howard came on the scene as entertainments officer for the summer months, introducing carnival events such as ‘crowning the queen’ held in North Lodge Park.
I remember waking up one morning in my bedroom overlooking the bowling green as chaos reigned below.
A herd of bullocks had escaped from Bird’s Meadow [today’s Meadow car park and Information Office] and were apparently herded along Louden Road-Mount Street-Gangway into North Lodge Park and got onto the bowling green. Suffice to say there was quite a bit of surface damage. I cannot remember how they were rounded up and removed.
The last duty of the day for father was to lock all the gates at sundown. As a young girl going off to Guides I had a gate key in my pocket! Quite scary.
At night the Cliff path was lit by gaslights, as was the Gangway, and Sid Allen used to cycle every day at dusk with a long pole and put them on.
Goodness knows when they were turned off.
My final memory as a small child is the cluster of retired fishermen who used to congregate on the cliff top by the Watch House and view the returning crab boats. Old Jack Davies, Cutler Balls, Charlie Brackenbury, and of course Henry Blogg.
In 1960 the Bakers moved out of North Lodge when the flat became too small for the growing family.
Mr and Mrs Gibbons moved in as replacement resident caretaker. Billy Baker continued to work as Parks Superintendent until 1968 when he took over Lubbock’s Florist shop at the top of the Gangway.
Mr Jacklin became the new parks superintendent.
These photos were taken in the early 1960s, kindly supplied by Hilary Allen whose family came on holiday from Sheffield. In the photo below,
April: This month in North Lodge Park history
1932 – Electrically lighting the putting green was agreed at a cost of £29 7s plus £15 for poles.
1934 – The council decided to retain the Rocket House site which had been offered to them, and opened to the public after development the following Easter.
1935 – Repairs to the Rocket House Shelter were in progress, the top level of the site was being laid out in flower beds, alterations to the steps were being made, and final designs were approved for the tea rooms and shops at the foot of the Rocket House site.
1938 – Phrenologist ‘Alexine’ looking for “sites available for his purpose” was offered a bathing hut on the Rocket House site with access from the Gangway for the season.
1948 – Cromer Advertising Association rented the thatched kiosk as an information bureau at £1 a week. New Blue Danube Café tenants were Messrs K C Theoharides and C Leonidas for £125 a year (plus rates).
1960 – ‘Bona fide’ OAPs were to be given free putting (and pier entrance) up to the end of May and after the second week of September.
1970 – Toys and equipment selected for the new Children’s Corner included two three-bay children’s swings, a special see-saw, a number of wheeled toys, and a £10 hut to store the toys and equipment.