|Romford Garden Suburb - Reed Pond Walk Copse, Gidea Park Fishponds, Gidea Park Sports Ground||Havering|
Romford Garden Suburb contains features from the C18th landscape of Gidea Park Estate, which were preserved and integrated into the C20th garden suburb. Sold for development in 1893, the estate was then resold in 1897 to Herbert Raphael. In 1910 Raphael, Charles McCurdy and John Tudor Walters, all 3 Liberal MPS, and shareholders in Hampstead Garden Suburb Co., formed Gidea Park Ltd for the purpose of building a new Garden Suburb on part of the east portion, purchasing additional land and arranging with Great Eastern Railway for a new station to be opened. The foundation stone was laid on 28 July 1910 and in June 1911 Gidea Park Exhibition of Houses and Cottages opened. By 1912 159 dwellings had been built, designed by over 100 architects, among them Clough Williams-Ellis, Raymond Unwin and Charles Ashbee. In 1934 a further competition and Modern Homes exhibition was held. The stated intention had been to retain Gidea Hall and its outbuildings, and up to 100 acres were covenanted as open spaces, including Reed Pond Walk Copse and Gidea Park Fishponds.
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Developed in the early C20th Romford Garden Suburb lies to the east of Raphael Park and contains features from the former C18th landscape of Gidea Park Estate, which were deliberately preserved and integrated when the new garden suburb was created. Hitherto privately owned, Gidea Park Estate was sold for development to the Land Allotment Co. in 1893, and resold in 1897 to Sir Herbert H. Raphael, barrister and Liberal MP for South Derbyshire from 1906-1918. In 1910 Raphael joined with two other Liberal MPs, Charles McCurdy and John Tudor Walters, to form Gidea Park Ltd. for the purpose of building a new Garden Suburb on part of the eastern portion of 360 acres of Gidea Park. The company also acquired an additional 60 acres south of Main Road up to the railway line and arranged with Great Eastern Railway for the building of a new railway station, Squirrels Heath and Gidea Park Station. In 1910 the area of Gidea Park was largely open fields bordering the main London to Colchester Road and included the small hamlet of Hare Street. The developers of the new garden suburb had close links with the Hampstead Garden Suburb Company, of which McCurdy, Walters and Raphael were all shareholders.
The new estate was intended as ‘a model of good building and design for all the new suburbs growing up round London’. On 28th July 1910 the foundation stone was laid by the Rt. Hon. John Burns, President of the Local Government Board and in June 1911 the Gidea Park Exhibition of Houses and Cottages opened for public inspection. The Preface to the Book of the Exhibition remarks that the exhibition ‘is interesting also for its Gardens, planned and planted in artistic relation to the Houses and Cottages to which they belong. . . (representing). . . the best procurable skill of Architects, Builders and Garden Designers at the present days’. The exhibition houses and cottages cost £60,000 to build and the layout of the grounds and roads a further £20,000. The Exhibition Committee consisted of local government officials and prominent people from the Essex area, architects, churchmen including the archbishops of Canterbury and Westminster, and other notable people such as Walter Crane, Alma-Tadema and H G Wells. The object of the venture, as proclaimed in the opening speech for the exhibition, was ‘to bring the Town into the Country and the Garden into the Town’. By 1912 159 dwellings had been built for the exhibition, mostly in a vernacular style by over 100 architects some of whom had considerable reputations at the time. These included Clough Williams-Ellis, the architect of Port Meirion in North Wales, Raymond Unwin who designed for the Hampstead Garden Suburb and who has been described as ‘the leading exponent of town planning and garden suburb ideas of his day’, and Charles Ashbee, a prominent member of the Arts and Crafts Movement. In 1934 a further competition and Modern Homes exhibition was held. Among these 35 mainly flat-roofed modernist houses built in Heath Drive, Brook Road and Eastern Avenue was one by Lubetkin at 64 Heath Drive.
From the outset of the development, the stated intention was that Gidea Hall and its outbuildings should remain a prominent feature of the new Garden Suburb, and 90-100 acres were covenanted in perpetuity as open spaces, including Reed Pond Walk Copse and Gidea Park Fishponds. A description of the new suburb in 1910 stressed the beauties of the park, its ‘lakes and fishponds, its gardens and pleasaunces, its avenues, coppices and mighty trees of cedar, oak and beech, the orangery, the cloisters, the alley of lime trees, the ranges of noble brick walls ... mellowed by centuries.’ Between Parkway and Heath Drive the two shallow rectangular fishponds, shown on the Gidea Park estate map of 1807, were preserved by the designers of the new garden suburb. Overlooked by private gardens on both sides, the fishponds are divided from the road on the Heath Drive side by red brick gate piers, a wall, railings and a short flight of stone steps of c.1750, possibly part of the surrounding walls of the adjacent C18th Melon Ground at Gidea Hall. Reed Pond Walk Copse is shown on the Gidea Park estate map of 1807 as the site of Pike Ponds and the Osier Ground, and is now a densely wooded wild area, including some ancient oaks. It forms the centrepiece of a roughly rectangular development of houses of 1910-11, and Romford Golf Course (q.v.), founded by Raphael in 1894.
East of the Golf Course, bounded by Eastern Avenue and Main Road, Gidea Park Sports Ground already existed as a private sports ground with cricket square and bowling green when the 11.35 acre site was acquired by the local council in 1943. The main cricket square was reconstructed in 1946 and by 1966 there were 2 cricket squares, the main one used for County Cricket Week each year. A large 2-storey pavilion that was part of the original sports ground was damaged by fire in 1961 and in 1962 a smaller cricket pavilion was constructed. There was a Bowls Pavilion here prior to 1943, used by Gidea Park Bowling Club; the bowling green was re-laid in 1947/8. In 1963/4 a car park was provided. In 1970 Havering Council designated the suburb a Conservation Area.
F Cowell, 'Richard Wood (?1716-93) A Preliminary Account' in Garden History vol 15 1987; F G Emmison 'Catalogue of Maps in Essex Record Office', 1952; D W Collier 'The People's History of Essex'. 1861; P Morant 'History of Essex' vol I 1816; Gidea Park & District Civic Society leaflets; L J Leicester 'The Romford Garden Suburb in Gidea Park' in Heritage Record, 1988; I G Sparkes, 'Gidea Hall and Gidea Park', 1966; B Evans 'Romford, Collier Row and Gidea Park', Chichester 1994; H Jordan 'Gidea Park Essex', 1989; Victoria County History of Essex vols v and vii; Sally Roberts 'Romford in the 19th Century', Local History Reprints 1969; LB Havering Brochure on Parks & Recreation Grounds, March 1966; LB Havering Recreation and Amenities Brochure, 1970; John Drury, 'Treasures of Havering', Ian Henry Publications, 1998