Cottons Park, originally called Cottons Recreational Ground, takes its name from the estate of the C16th landowner, Nicholas Cotton. The land for the park was acquired by Romford UDC from the Cottons family in 1920 and the park was laid out with planting, paths and a bandstand, beyond which to the north and west were playing fields for rugby, soccer and cricket as well as tennis courts. A children's playground and sand pit were located near the main entrance to the east. During WWII the land was given over for war-time allotments, public air-raid shelters and a decontamination centre was constructed, which was later converted into a pavilion and café. Six wooden sculptures were installed in 2009 to commemorate six civilians who lost their lives in the park during bombing in October 1940.
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Cottons Park was originally called Cottons Recreational Ground, the name derived from Nicholas Cotton, who owned Cottons Estate in 1570, with a fine house located near the current Brewery Roundabout on Waterloo Road, a prominent position in the C16th town of Romford. The Cottons family continued to own the estate although the house and grounds, which included paddocks and orchards, fell into dereliction by the C20th. After considerable negotiation with the family solicitors, in 1920 15 acres of estate land was acquired for £4,500 by Romford Urban District Council. The land was cleared and 6 tennis courts and a putting green were laid out; 53 lime trees were donated by R H Page in 1922 and in 1927 it became Cottons Park. Much of the labour was provided by the unemployed under the Unemployment Committee's scheme, and the park was laid out with planting and paths in the area by the main entrance on London Road, from where the path led towards the bandstand. Beyond the bandstand to the north and west were playing fields for rugby, soccer and cricket as well as tennis courts, and a children's playground and sand pit near the main entrance to the east.
During WWII the land was given over for war-time allotments, public air-raid shelters and a decontamination centre was constructed, which was later converted into a pavilion and café. On 17 October 1940 bombing in the area caused the deaths of 6 people in the park as there was no blast wall in front of the public shelter. Six wooden sculptures were installed in the park in 2009 to commemorate these civilians. In 1947 the park was the venue of the joint Romford, Dagenham and Hornchurch Councils 'Three Town Show', which drew large crowds to events at the bandstand. Exhibits included bees and honey, rabbits, poultry, handicrafts, model railway and aquaria, but there was an emphasis on home-grown produce, praised by one of the judges as 'among the best I had seen this year'.
The park was extended in the 1960s when houses backing on to the park in Marks Road were compulsorily purchased and demolished. This was to compensate for land lost to the park when the Rotunda retirement homes were built. Friends of Cottons Park was set up in November 2002 and since that time the park, which had fallen into neglect, has been restored. Facilities today include an outdoor gym, a play area for younger children and a purpose-built activity area for teenage activity, the first provided in Havering, with multi-use ball court, and a skate park opened in 2008. There has been extensive replanting of shrubs and trees to enhance both the entrance to the park and to create year-round colour and interest; seasonal bedding is planted in raised beds near the children's play area, and is funded and maintained by the Friends. The park won a Green Flag Award in 2009.
See Brian Evans 'Romford, Collier Row and Gidea Park' (Phillimore) 1994; LB Havering 'Management Plan for Cottons Park from 2008 to 2018', 2008.