Three hundred years ago North Lodge Park’s “upper lawn” was a field belonging to Cliff House on the Overstrand Road, a 10 bedroom property with two parlours and a well-proportioned (22ft x 18ft) tea-room when Dr Sidney Terry owned it from 1772.
Dr Terry could be credited as starting Cromer’s holiday trade: he let out lodging rooms in Cliff House, and as co-owner of a bathing machine business introduced the first ones to Cromer in 1779.
Today his name is remembered in the “Doctor’s Steps” built in 1806 and converted to slopes in 1894 as part of a route from Cliff House to the beach and Dr Terry’s bathing machines.
In 1801 Cliff House was bought by Samuel Hoare as a family holiday home. The building was enlarged, and from 1857 the Hoare family leased the Goldsmiths School fields which became today’s park (including North Lodge, built 1837), purchasing the estate in 1895 for £3,000.
Cliff House became the Cliff House Hotel from 1924 to 1999, with today’s “upper lawn” part of the hotel grounds and facilities, including use as the hotel’s private putting green with its own shed for storing equipment.
Cromer Council purchased North Lodge and surrounding fields – excluding the Cliff House Hotel land – for £5,500 in 1928, opening the area as North Lodge Park on 18 May 1929, and spent the following decade developing park facilities.
After the Second World War negotiations began with the Cliff House Hotel for the purchase of the Cliff Drive land. The hotel had been occupied by the army during the war and the owners’ post-war focus was on repairing and restoring the building: reinstating their putting green was a lower priority, and the Council was interested in bringing it back into play as part of the park.
At the Cromer Council meeting of 6 February 1946 it was reported that the District Valuer “was prepared to recommend a figure of £1,150 as the purchase price.” At the following meeting on 4 March, the Clerk reported he “had interviewed” the vendor who was “not prepared to sell at the figure suggested by the District Valuer…Instructions were given for the Clerk to proceed with the acquisition of the land by Compulsory Order if necessary.”
On 6 January 1947 the Clerk “reported that one or two points had arisen drawing up the Contract for the purchase of the land in Cliff Drive and these had now been settled.”
By the 1948 season the deal had been done, and in July that year receipts of £58 11s 6d were reported for the “CLIFF DRIVE Putting Green”. Also known as the Miniature Putting Green (and later the Bunker Course) and accessed via steps from the Cliff Path junction with the Doctors Steps path, it was strung with lights to allow evening play up to 10pm, and was played for 65 years until 2014.
The early 1950s saw the débacle of the partly completed move of Rusts Shelter from the top of Doctor’s Steps for re-erection on the Miniature Putting Green.
The Council’s attention was drawn by the Cliff House Hotel owner to a Covenant in the 1948 sale “that there should be no building erected on the land”. The Council Surveyor, presumably with some embarrassment, “gave instructions for the immediate suspension of work on the Shelter [and] instructions were given for the immediate demolition of the work already carried out.”
Rusts Shelter was then re-erected in its current position, to the east of the Lodge.
1956 saw two major developments in the enlarged North Lodge Park: the erection of the Band Stand on the tennis courts hard-standing, and construction of the bridge over the Doctors Steps sunken path.
Possibly buoyed by success in preventing re-building Rusts Shelter on the land, the Cliff House Hotel objected to the new bridge on the same grounds, that building was prohibited. Unsuccessfully this time: the Clerk “pointed out that neither the bridge nor the steps were buildings” and the bridge stayed.
In 1992, a major NNDC report proposed £152,000 improvements to the park, including replacing the 1956 bridge with “a new disabled/pushchair access across Doctors Steps path” to a new landscaped children’s play area “secure from dogs”.
The scheme was abandoned by late 1993 because, in NNDC’s words, “it did not receive universal support and because of cost is unlikely to be feasible in the near future.” The only part of the plan executed was work in the Rocket House Garden area, including erection of the current shelter.