Alexandra Recreation Ground
Alexandra Recreation Ground is one of the many Penge Parks. Like Penge Recreation Ground it answers the late Victorian social ideal of recreation and good health and was the one of the last surviving remnants of Penge Common. The park was named after Princess Alexandra, the wife of King Edward VII. A road which borders the park is also named after her, as is a pub in Parish Lane.
It was opened later than Penge Recreation Ground in 1891, when Penge was still in Surrey, contemporaneously with the Croydon Road Recreation Ground. The land had been bought by the council for public use in the 1880s. Both parks were laid out by Reid and Bournemann of Sydenham. The same Glasgow architects, MacCallum and Hope Ltd, designed both bandstands although only the Croydon Road bandstand has survived.
The local newspaper archives report much elaborate civic rejoicing with processions, banquets, music, speeches, which lasted for several days. Alex Rec was a gated park with a park keeper’s house which still exists. People remember the park keeper walking round ringing a bell and locking the gates at dusk. The gates were removed in 1939 for the war effort. The keeper’s house was formerly a fire station which was discontinued when the park was created. A Victorian granite drinking fountain (1877) was transferred from outside Beckenham Junction station when the park was opened in 1891.
The bandstand, originally situated on the Maitland /Alexandra Roads stretch of park, known locally as the First Rec, had a Sunday repertoire of Gilbert and Sullivan and other popular music throughout the summer season. Some years later it moved to a corner of the Second Rec and there fell into disrepair over the years. On a fine dry day the circular outline of the bandstand can be seen in the grass, as can that of cricket pavilion. Between the wars the Second Rec had been the home of the Penge Cricket Ground.
Local people remember many outings to the park in those days, dressing in cricket whites and taking a picnic hamper for the day. Children’s entertainments such as Punch and Judy were held in the pavilion on occasion.
At one point, in the fifties and sixties, there were tennis courts in the First Rec and replica roads and crossings in the play area so that children could practice their Highway Code.
The bowling green dates from 1919. Before that there was a small lake with swans. Next year, 2019, the West Beckenham Bowling Club will celebrate its centenary. There was a rustic shelter and ornamental flower bed with cacti outside the bowling green. The Club has its own changing rooms, kitchen and storage centre. Regular sessions are held throughout the summer months. See link below for further information and how to join.
The second part of Alexandra Recreation Ground, where the Penge Cricket Ground was until the end of the sixties, and known as the Second Rec, is a designated football area. Long before that, sheep grazed in meadows adjoining Newlands Park and historian Doris Pullen (and others) remembers fresh milk being brought in churns from a nearby farm. Here local children now play football, fly kites or model planes and Seymour Villas Football Club takes up residence during the football season. The Club also has changing rooms adjoining the West Beckenham Bowling Club. The Club is always looking for new members. See link below for further information on the Bowling Club.
Alexandra Recreation Ground has a very active Friends group which also includes Cator Park. The Friends of Cator and Alex liaise with Community Manager Penny Read in looking out for both parks. Formed in 2008 at the invitation of Bromley Council, the group consists of ten committee members who meet regularly and plan a series of activities for the coming year. In these The Friends are remarkably well-supported by local (and not so local!) residents. Members receive a twice-yearly Newsletter and are alerted to the various events.
Among their annual activities are Bulb Planting in November, Music in the Park in July, Carols in the Park in December, Coffee and Cake information days, Bat Walks in Cator Park, Tree Walks, Spring Walks, Autumn Walks and Bird Walks. There is also calendar of gardening activities from April to September. On the Spring Walk, the 150 year old boundary oak is always pointed out in Alex Rec.
Local artists are invited to sketch scenes from the events. These sketches are shown on their Facebook pages and website and often are exhibited in their annual shows.
The paddling pool in Alex Rec, one of only two in the borough, is very popular during the summer holidays. The Friends also have volunteer gardening parties in both Cator Park and Alex Rec: gentle exercise and helping to make both parks look great. The taller shrubs are pruned by the Id Verde team but a calendar of gardening sessions for the volunteers means that everything else in the shrub borders is kept under control from May to September.
A recent project was fund-raising for a memorial bench for Makayah and Rosie, victims of the Lennard Road car crash in August, 2016. Local people very generously supported a Go Fund Me campaign with indivdual donations and fundraising activities and the bench was installed in the Second Rec in September, 2017. Two memorial trees, Kanzan flowering cherries, were planted nearby. The bench ribbon was cut by the Mayor of Bromley, Kathy Bance, during a moving ceremony.
Another project was the planting of small orchards in both parks. Apples, pears and plums will be freely available in a couple of years. The Friends have appealed for volunteers to Adopt a Tree and water it in the summer months. This scheme is working well with about twenty volunteers for each park.
The Friends would like to thank Penny Read, Community Manager for Id Verde and Julian Fowgies, Arboricultural Manager for LBB, and Hugh Chapman, for their support in these projects. See link below for the website and how to join the Friends.