Festival Gardens - a timeline

From the Mary Smedley Papers donated to the society shortly before her death in 2020.

On 31st January 1950 members of Belper Urban District Council agreed to consider, at their next meeting, what might be done to commemorate the Festival of Britain, which was due to take place the following year. On 28th February, a sum of £250 was allocated within the 1950/1 budget for the creation of a Festival Gardens, which were felt to be a suitable way of celebrating the occasion.

Two months later, the council had agreed that the old Crich Lane refuse tip would be cleared on 1st May, and the council was considering possible future uses for the site. A week later, on 25th April, the council’s surveyor was asked to produce a plan for the Festival Gardens to be developed on the site of the tip and the full £250 was allocated for the work.

On 1st May, an invitation was received by the Urban District Council, inviting two representatives to attend St. Pauls Cathedral for the opening of the Festival of Britain celebrations – it was decided that the Chairman and the Clerk would attend.

On 18th July 1950. The council surveyor put forward three plans for a Festival Gardens/open space to be laid out on the site of the Crich Lane tip. The total cost of the scheme which was chosen came to £685, with the extra £435 needed coming from the 1951/2 budget.  In September, an extra £70 was granted for the work.

By 19th December work had begun – it was reported to councillors that the Gardens were being laid out and that a large quantity of top soil would be needed. The surveyor was asked to draw up plans for a special gateway.

View of Belper Mill from the Festival gardens
View from the Festival gardens 1953

By March 1951, it had been agreed that seats would be provided by the Inner Wheel, the Chamber of Trade and the Co-operative Society. On 16th October it was reported that the seats were being made in-house to save on costs – they could be made for £40 each. Plans were agreed for a recessed entrance with two stone piers and wrought iron gates at an approximate cost of £130. The project was expected to be completed by April 1952, opening to take place on Saturday 26th April at 6pm.

By January 1952, work on the Festival Gardens was reported to be on schedule and the Chairman of the Council would perform the opening. On 15th April, with just 11 days to the opening, an extra £100 was needed to complete the project on time. At the same time it was reported an ornamental wall on the site had been vandalised and the £1/10/0d cost of repairs would be submitted to the father of the child concerned. It was agreed that Mr S A Taylor of 1 Crich Lane be appointed to keep a watchful eye on the gardens and receive payment of £2/10/0 per quarter for doing so. One of his tasks was to ensure people did not use the Festival Gardens as a shortcut from Crich Lane to Swinney Lane.

On 24th February 1953, the Rotary Club offered to provide a wooden shelter for the Gardens, and added a seat for it in June. In June 1956 the shelter was damaged by vandals. It was taken away for repairs in the November and then placed on the open ground behind Belper Library.

East Mill from the Festival Gardens 2018
View from the Festival gardens 2018