Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: February 17, 2017
Webpage updated: March 13, 2021

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The principal entrance to Central Park was from Milehouse, August 1950.
The Children's Corner, with its Boating Lake, is in the background.
  City of Plymouth Museum and Art Gallery.

The whole of the land that now constitutes Plymouth's Central Park was prior to 1914 within the Ancient Manor and Parish of Stoke Damerel and the Borough of Devonport.  Most of the land is to the west of the former Borough boundary, which was the stream running down the valley adjacent to Inverdene and Central Park Avenue.  Being now in the centre of the City of Plymouth it is often referred to as "the green lung" of Plymouth.

The Park could be said to have its origins in the use of fields near Pennycomequick for exhibitions such as the Bath and West Agricultural Show and Buffalo Bill's Wild West Rodeo Show.  Further north at the top of the old Venn Lane, still in existence, the Plymouth Cricket Club rented a field from the Lord of the Manor, Lord Saint Levan.  But most of the area we now know as Central Park was simply farmland and market gardens.

At a council meeting on June 10th 1925 it was announced that the City was to purchase 201 acres of land from Lord St Levan for 87,000 plus costs, totalling 88,132 10s.  The conveyance was dated November 25th 1925.  This included all the land from Higher Swilly Farm and Milehouse, along Alma Road, only recently opened at the time, down to Pennycomequick.

A further piece of land at Pounds House, 22 acres in extent, was purchased on June 13th 1927 from Messrs G and G G Shellabear and Mr H Hurrell, both of whom lived in the large houses at the top of Peverell Park Road, at a cost of 12,356.

The third and final portion of the Park was acquired on July 31st 1929 again from Messrs Shellabear and Hurrell, at a cost of 9,900.  This comprised the 18 acres around the old East Stonehouse reservoir, Venn Farm and Barn Park.

Thus the full extent of Central Park became 241 acres, all sold on the basis that it was to form a place of recreation, free from any development.   It should perhaps be mentioned here that Home Park, the ground used by the Argyle Athletic Club, predecessor of Plymouth Argyle Football Club, had existed since 1901.

The boating pool in the Children's Corner at Central Park.
From a postcard.

In the meantime, a landscape architect by the name of Mr Reuben Mawson, of Messrs T H Mawson and Sons, Westminster, was commissioned in 1928 to produce a plan for the park and this was presented to the Hoe and Parks Committee of the City Council on October 31st 1928.  He envisaged tennis courts, bowling greens, three children's playgrounds, a children's pool, a boating pool, a putting green, a running track and playing fields for cricket, football, hockey and rugby.   He also included a nursery and botanical gardens, from where the City was to be supplied with flowers and shrubs, a "wild" garden and an aviary similar to the one that existed in Beaumont Park.  Even the old East Stonehouse reservoirs at the Barn Park Road end were to find a new use as boating pools.

Work started in 1929 and after an outlay of some 130,000, Central Park was finally opened to the public at a ceremony led by the Mayor, Mr J Clifford Tozer, during the evening of Wednesday July 29th 1931.  At 7pm he declared open the Children's Playground and Paddling Pools, after which Miss Betty Pattinson, a pupil at Hyde Park School, presented the Mayoress with a bouquet.  Then the Mayoress declared open the tennis courts, after which the Mayor and Mayoress were presented with a silver inkstand as a momento of the occasion.

By this time the Park was only 234 acres, some of the land having been sold off.

The further development of Central Park was interrupted by the Second World War and as a result the running track, nursery and botanical gardens, boating pools never materialised and the swimming pool only progressed in the 1960s.

During the Second World War the Park sported an unusual feature, a temporary telephone exchange.

Many of the older generation will remember that the Park also had a miniature railway after the War.  This was opened on Monday August 5th 1946 when a model London and North Eastern railway locomotive own by Mr G A Dingle of Kelly Bray was used to pull trains every day except Sundays from 2pm until dusk.  The fares were 6d for children and 1 shilling for adults.  Between then and the end of September 1946 the railway had earned 210.  However, this was not as much as other Plymouth holiday attractions: Smeaton's Tower had taken in 820 and hire of deck chairs on the Hoe, 1,867.