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A pedestrian suspension bridge spans the boating lake created where the River Lea flows through the park.

Wardown Park is situated on the River Lea in Luton. The park has various sporting facilities, is home to the Luton Museum & Art Gallery and contains formal gardens. The park is located between Old Bedford Road and the A6, New Bedford Road and is within walking distance of the town centre.[1]

At the centre of the park is a lake, which was formed by widening the River Lea. The lake contains a small island which is not accessible to the public, and is home to various waterfoul, such as swans,ducks and geese. At the end of the lake closest to the town centre is a large fountain. Adjacent to the lake is the recently (2005-06) refurbished children's play park.

Contents

Restoration

The restoration of Wardown Park was completed in June 2005, using one million pounds of lottery funding, by the local council as well as the work and contributions of local people. The council and the Friends of Wardown Park, have replaced the old refreshment kiosk with a building mirroring the design of the boathouse. Across the lake from the kiosk is the original boathouse which also underwent restoration with the rest of the buildings of the park. At the same time the Edwardian Daisy Chain wall and drinking fountain were restored using the original designs and old photographs. The drinking fountain is an exact replica of the original based on a photograph from 1907 on display in the museum, however it is a non-working replica.

The Daisy Chain wall

The Daisy Chain Wall

The Daisy Chain wall is one of the park’s most significant design features, named because of the attractive brick pattern that features along the length of the wall.

Believed to have been built around 1905, the wall was part of the original gardens of Wardown House before it was made into a public park. The condition of the Daisy Chain Wall had deteriorated over the years until many of its features were damanged and destroyed, however with extensive re-construction the wall now appears as it did one hundred years ago. The wall separates the main park from the pleasure garden, which was formerly an ornamental garden containing trees such as giant redwoods and an avenue of limes.

The wall runs alongside part of the Daisy Chain Walk, a path connecting the main park with the bowling green, bowling pavilion and the east side of the tennis courts.

History of the park

The area that became Wardown Park was a farmhouse and country residence in the 1800s. The park itself started out as a private estate ownned by Richard How. Richards son, Robert built the first property within the park, called Bramingham Shott, which still stands and now houses the museum.

Luton Museum & Art Gallery, Wardown Park, Luton.

In the early 1870s the estate was taken over by local solicitor, Frank Chapman-Scargill, he rebuilt much of the earlier house in 1879 for a total cost of £10,000. Scargill left Luton and the house and property was let to J Forder who renamed the estate Wardown.

By 1903 the then owners (The Stewart Family, whose famous son, Sir Malcolm Stewart, founded the London Brick Company) decided to sell the house and 11-acre (45,000 m2) park, and placed the property up for sale with an asking price of £17,000. The property was not sold, and in 1904 local councillors Asher Hucklesby and Edwin Oakley purchased the property for £16,250 on behalf of Luton council. Hucklesby went on to become Mayor of Luton.

Over the next few years extensive improvements were implemented, many new trees were planted, as well as new footpaths and bridges being constructed. The layout of the park today is very much as it was in this period. A bowling green was built in 1905, reputed to be the first in Luton.

It was Hucklesby’s dream that the house would become a museum that would be 'interesting as well as of an educational nature'.

Unfortunately, the house itself had been neglected and suffered from dry rot, Luton council could not immediately afford the renovations. It remained empty for several years until it became a military hospital during the First World War. After the war, rooms were let to council employees with a cafe opening on the ground floor.

The museum opened in 1930, having moved from the Carnegie library where it started in 1927. At first the museum displays were held in just two rooms, but over the years it has filled the entire house.

The lake in the centre of the park is man made, by widening the River Lea as it flows through the park. The Lake was extended to form an open air swimming pool, which was in use until the 1950s. During the Second World War the lake was used by Bedford Vehicles, a division of Vauxhall Motors to test various tank and other vehicle waterproofing systems.[2] Boating on the lake was introduced, and until recently one could still hire a boat. Unfortunately the boat-man retired in 2004 and since then there have been no boats on the lake.

The museum is open Tuesdays to Saturdays from 10am to 5pm and Sundays from 1 to 5pm. Admission is free.

References

  1. ^ Luton Council website
  2. ^ Tank Testing on the lake during WWII

Coordinates: 51°53′37″N 0°25′08″W / 51.89361°N 0.41889°W / 51.89361; -0.41889

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