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FoEP: Improving the Park for the benefit of the whole community

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December 2019 ....

Before Eastfield Park was public:

Click pictures for larger view.

The first item was printed in the Northampton Mercury on Friday 24 May 1929, when 'Eastfield' was a mansion off the Kettering Road. The house, and adjoining private estate, was owned by Major Arthur E Ray who, at the time, was Mayor of Northampton.

A combination of wet weather, illness and the seasonal festivities has meant that little was achieved in the Park during December. Some improvements continued to be made to the footpaths running through the wooded areas and a number of outstanding issues were reported to Northampton Borough Council for action. However, most of our planned activities had to be held back to the New Year. In view of this, what follows is a collection of news items about Eastfield published before 1960. We hope you find them of interest.

"ABINGTON LAKE TOO DIRTY FOR FISH?

It was the Woman and the Fish that caused amusement in Northampton Town Council Chamber on Monday night.  The woman: Councillor Miss Ruth Perkins. The fish: Underwater denizens of Eastfield lake, Northampton.  Said the woman: “I am appealing on behalf of the fish.” Interrupted Councillor J. Poole: "If only it was the Woman and Fish."

"My point - before I was interrupted - is that if the fish are transferred from Eastfield to Abington lake, that lake should be cleaned and the weeds, as far as is possible, taken away,” said Councillor Miss Perkins.

A voice: “Then you would kill the lot.”

Councillor Miss Perkins moved the reference back of a resolution to transfer the fish from the over-stocked Eastfield lake to Abington Park lake. She objected to the acceptance of the Nene River Board's offer to net Eastfield and transfer the surplus fish to “other waters" at Abington Park.

"FILTHY CONDITION"

She described the condition of Abington Park lake as filthy. “It is a tragedy it has been allowed to deteriorate in the way it has,” she said. “I am a comparative layman a on the matter but I do know fish already there are rapidly dying off through silting and the growth of weeds.”

Councillor Miss Perkins maintained that the fish were being transferred to "merely a muddy pool full of rats and weeds.”

Councillor J. W. Dickins, who seconded the motion to refer back the resolution, said it would be detrimental to the fish. “Let us clean the lake out before we put them in.” he appealed.

An aquarist Alderman S Strickland ("I keep and breed fish at home.”) said fish would not thrive without weeds. He had never seen a dead fish in Abington Park lake. Representatives of Northampton Nene Angling Club had suggested that the fish should be put in the lake. It was cruelty to leave them in Eastfield lake, because there they were so numerous they could be caught by casting in a line without any bait on the end.

Eight members of the council thought the fish should stay at Eastfield, but many more thought their home should be moved to Abington Park.

They will be 're-housed.' "

"MANY members of the public have got hold of a wrong impression regarding that part of Eastfield Park, formerly owned by the late Major A. E. Ray, and which has been purchased by the Corporation.

This is not at present open to the public and therefore should not be used by them. As a matter of fact the land is at present under cultivation for agricultural purposes.

It is hoped to make arrangements for the issue of licences for fishing in the lake. Anyone interested can apply for a licence to the Parks Superintendent at Abington Park."

Major Ray died in 1944 and his wife, Alice, three years later. In 1949, Northampton Corporation purchased 82 acres of the Eastfield House estate (but not the House itself) from the executors of Mrs Ray. Sixty-three acres were scheduled in the Town Planning development proposals as a public open space and nineteen acres for housing. The article published in the Northampton Mercury on Friday 01 July 1949 is therefore not correct when it mentions 82 acres for a public park.

"NEW PARK COVERS 82 ACRES. The private grounds at Eastfield, on the Kettering-road on the outskirts of Northampton, residence of the late Major and Mrs. A. E. Ray, have been acquired by Northampton Corporation as a new park. There are 82 acres, with threeand-a-half acres lake, rock gardens, and woodland walks. The price is £8,600 and costs."

"When the Mayoress (Mrs. A. E. Ray) took a trip in Sir Alan Cobham’s aeroplane, on Tuesday, she took with her some small rubber balls which she threw out of the ’plane as she passed over her home, Eastfield, Kettering-road. She did not make a bad shot, one of the balls, which had the message, “Dropped from the air by the Mayoress of Northampton,” was found in her garden by Mrs. T. B. Hollowell, of The Cottage, Weston Favell Estate, which is about 200 yards due north from the Mayoress’ home."

"LEAGUE OF PITY CHILDREN’S PARTY AT NORTHAMPTON. Over 100 children who are members of Northampton branch of the League of Pity spent an enjoyable day on Saturday at Eastfield, the home of Major and Mrs. A. E. Ray. After tea, games, and competitions were arranged. The committee responsible for the general arrangements was Mrs. Tom Arnold (president), Mrs. Ralph Smith, Mrs. Prank Roe, Mre. S. Soutar, Mrs. Matt. Arnold, Miss Askew, Mrs. H. Musk Beattie, and Mrs. Harold Peach (secretary). Among those present was Mr. Hugh M. Harris, of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, who spoke on the aims and ideals of the League of Pity, which is the junior branch of the society. For the second time this year the money collected by the children was called in. It amounted to about £2O, compared with about £26 last time."

Some people thought they could start using the park right away but, in fact, it was several years before it was opened to the general public. An article in the Northampton Chronicle & Echo of Tuesday 12 September 1950 makes this clear:

Numerous garden parties were held at Eastfield during the 1930s.  The following is an account of just one of them, from the Northampton Mercury, Friday 13  September 1935:

Auction

In fact, the Borough Council continued to grow and sell crops at Eastfield at least until 1954. The clip below is from Northampton Mercury dated Friday 24 July 1953:

For me, one of the most interesting and amusing news items about Eastfield is the following article from the Northampton Mercury dated Friday 06 November 1953. I feel like asking the Friends of Abington Park if we can have our fish back.