The Council acquires the Belle Vue site
In 1907 the Penarth Council was looking for a site for a bowling green, it having been decided that no suitable place could be found in Alexandra Park. A triangular plot of land opposite the Council Offices in Albert Road was identified as potentially suitable. This was owned by the Earl of Plymouth and in the 1870s and 1880s was the site of a quarry. In July 1908 the Council approached Lord Plymouth to ask if he would sell the land for use as a recreational space. After some correspondence with the Plymouth Estate representative (Mr Snell) concerning the terms, the Council agreed in July 1911 to proceed with the purchase. A condition would appear to be that Mr Snell had to approve the fencing chosen for the land, and in February 1913 they agreed on an "unclimbable iron fence subject to the design being approved by him". The Council in July 1913 decided "that the sum of £1,800 be borrowed for the purpose of procuring and laying out as a Pleasure Ground the land in front of the Council Offices, and that the consent of the Local Government Board be applied for."
Work creating the Park begins
On December 1st 1913 the Council accepted the tender of Messrs Lewis Bros. for work to lay out the new pleasure ground, to be called Belle Vue Gardens after Belle Vue Cottage, which originally stood on the site occupied by Council Offices. The work evidently took much longer than was intended, because beginning in May 1914, Lewis Bros. asked for a series of extensions to complete the contract, the last one being granted until December 7th 1914.
A bowling green and pavilion were to be provided. A request was also received to include a tennis court, but the Parks Committee, after visiting Belle Vue Gardens in July 1914, decided that "it was impracticable to construct a Tennis Ground on the land". In December 1914 it was decided to plant laurels on two slopes in the Gardens in lieu of rockeries and in January 1915 "to purchase 150 more trees for the Belle Vue Pleasure Ground." At the Council meeting on May 3rd 1915 the Surveyor was instructed to tar the paths in Belle Vue Gardens at once, and at the same meeting regulations for use of the bowling green were approved. The bowling green was created on the site of the disused quarry (shown on 1870s Ordnance Survey maps) and on May 10th the Surveyor reported that it would be ready by Saturday, 22nd May. The Council agreed that the Earl of Plymouth should be be invited to open the new pleasure ground on that day and Belle Vue Gardens was officially opened on May 22nd 1915 by Colonel Forrest, Agent for the Plymouth Estate, in the absence of the Earl.
The Park opens
The opening ceremony took place beside the bowling green, where the first woods were bowled by the Town Surveyor, Edgar Evans, who had designed and laid out the park, and the Contractor, Mr Lewis. The Chairman of the Council, Mr T. Lewis, in his speech stated that the Contractors had done their work well, though they "had experienced great difficulties which the public generally were not aware of".
Soon after the opening, a caretaker / groundsman and an assistant were appointed, at least in part because of damage to the grounds from "children who trample on the grass borders, throw stones and clumps of dirt about, and in other ways ... have done damage to the park". Dwarf railings were placed around the bowling green. In the pavilion, lockers were provided at a charge of one shilling and sixpence per locker for the remainder of the season, as it was by this time well advanced. There were requests in 1916 and in 1918 for a public convenience to be provided, but it was not until May 1922 that the Council decided to do so, and to add a tool shed.[8}
In June 1919, as a result of complaints about the condition of the bowling green, the Council decided to advertise for a properly qualified groundsman. During the early 1920s there was further criticism of the care of the bowling green and several changes of groundsman. Eventually in October 1926 the Council asked Mr. A. A. Pettigrew, Cardiff's Chief Parks Officer, to inspect the Green. Pettigrew, accompanied by his brother Hugh, Head Gardener at St. Fagans Castle, visited Belle Vue and reported that the green appeared to be in good condition with "a really good turf free from weeds and coarse grasses", but there were two slight depressions in the surface. The Pettigrews were in agreement that no re-turfing was needed and the approach proposed by the groundsman, that extra sand be applied to the surface in those areas, would solve the problem.
In July 1927 the Council agreed that Belle Vue Park be open on Sundays during the summer months between 2.30 and 8pm. This was the first reference to Belle Vue Park (as opposed to Gardens or Pleasure Ground) in the Council Minutes.
In October 1928, following a question about lighting arrangements there, the Surveyor was authorised to place a gas jet in the Belle Vue Pavilion.
Developments during the 1930s included the creation of a putting green, provision of a drinking fountain and the re-laying of the bowling green. The Surveyor presented a plan for the putting green at a meeting of the Public Works Committee in October 1932, and the official opening was performed on 17th May 1933 by the Chairman of the Parks Committee. The drinking fountain was presented by Mr. F. R. Cratchley, a Member of the Council, and it was installed in September 1933. It was shown on the 1950 Ordnance Survey map just inside the Albert Crescent entrance to the park adjacent to the bowling green and pavilion. The bowling green was re-laid following a decision of the Council, despite a report from an expert (Maxwell Hart Ltd) "expressing satisfaction at the way in which the Green had been cared for." A tender from Messrs. George Chappel & Son of Dinas Powis for £215 to carry out the work was accepted by the Council on 6th November 1933. The Penarth Times on February 22nd 1934 reported that the newly re-laid bowling green "showed every sign of vieing with the best greens in the area for perfection".
The Council in May 1934 granted permission for the Head Mistress of the Albert Road Schools Infants Department to take a class for games in the Park. Probably connected with this, the Council in July 1934 instructed the Surveyor to arrange a gate leading into Belle Vue Gardens opposite Albert Road School.
The WW2 years
During the 1939-45 War the bowling green was unaffected but other space in the park was allocated for use as allotments, and in January 1943 the Council gave permission for two prefabricated huts to be placed at Belle Vue Park for the use of Fire Station personnel. These huts were still there in the late 1940s, and they were considered as a possible location from which the Women's Voluntary Service could run a "meals on wheels" service. Following complaints from local residents the Council decided the huts should be removed but alternative accommodation first had to be found for the fire service staff. This involved protracted negotiations with the County Council and Fire Service over several years, until finally in 1950 the necessary work could start.
There was also an ARP (Air Raid Precautions) Warden post in the Park, which the Council decided in November 1945 to take over. The allotments were also still there in the late 1940s. In October 1946 the Parks Committee proposed to place a children's playground in Belle Vue Park as soon as the allotments were vacated. Not until 1949 however did the Council decide that notice of termination was to be given to allotment holders.
The 1940 Ordnance Survey map showed the pavilion, and another smaller building on the north east side of the bowling green.
Post war years
By the 1950s the Ordnance Survey maps show that there was a shelter north east of the bowling green, beside the pavilion. To the north west of the bowling green a "playground" was marked. A shelter from Belle Vue was moved to Alexandra Park to replace the bandstand there which was in need of repair. A drinking fountain was installed in 1963 at a cost of £25. The 1970 Ordnance Survey map indicates that it was placed just inside the Albert Crecsent entrance to the Gardens, near to the pavilion.
In 1958 a scheme first discussed five years earlier was approved for the extension of the Pavilion, and £600 was included for this purpose in the following year's estimates. By 1966 it was recognised that the pavilion had become inadequate for present day needs and it was decided to investigate possible grants for a new pavilion. A further five years passed before funding was secured and a scheme costing £9,000 was approved by the Finance Committee in September 1971. In the following January the Surveyor was authorised to advertise for tenders for a new pavilion to be ready for the summer season.
A paddling pool for Belle Vue Gardens was planned in 1969 but abandoned at the request of the Welsh Office owing to restrictions on capital expenditure. In 1972 plans were implemented for a children's playground.
Sources of information