I read with interest Councillor Brenda Burgess’ recent objection to the move of the Bandstand to the Memorial Gardens.
She is quoted as saying, ‘ Lots of people would not want it in the Memorial Gardens as it could change the character of the gardens as they are a place of peace and reflection’.
In May 2013, Crawley Borough Council published ‘Historic Parks and Gardens Summary of Research and Officer Recommendations’ which can be accessed via the internet. The section to which I refer relating to the Memorial Gardens is from pages 82-86.
At a public meeting in the Railway Hotel, Crawley, in February 1919, various suggestions were rejected as unsuitable for the ‘debt of gratitude owed’ to the Fallen of the Great War (as it was then known) including an ex-servicemen’s club, a grand public hall and a granite column though ‘a bandstand was considered worthy. ‘ The popular choice was for a recreation ground which could incorporate a bandstand, and together with ornamental trees and electric light, would be attractive and useful’
‘The Memorial Gardens were originally purchased in 1920 to take the form of a recreation ground. The intention was that this should be a place for children to enjoy as well as a memorial to those who lost their lives in the First World War. During the 1920s, a bandstand, a set of swings and a fountain were bought for the recreation ground. In 1920, West Sussex and Chichester Joint Education Committee were given permission to teach organised games and in the same year, the West Crawley Prize Band was allowed to play on alternate Sundays.’
Interestingly, it was not until 1959 that the recreation ground was renamed as the Memorial Gardens. A footnote to page 85 states‘ The alteration may have suggested a more formal attitude to remembrance, but for the older generation of Crawley the ground continues to be known as ‘the rec’ ‘.
The people of Crawley around 1920 had suffered the privations and in many cases the personal loss or physical and/or mental injury of family members in the Great War. They expressed a wish for a bandstand. They wanted it in a recreation ground as a place for children to enjoy as much as what Cllr Brenda Burges describes as a ‘place of peace and reflection’.
I hope that the move of the Queen’s Square bandstand to what we now call the Memorial Gardens will help to recreate and conserve the expressed wishes of Crawley’s Great War generation.
Cllr Geraint Thomas, Crawley Borough Council (Lab, Northgate)
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