During the late 1890s the Newport Council was considering purchase of the 22 acre Beechwood Estate at Maindee, to provide a public park in that area. The decision to acquire the estate for £11,000 was finally taken in September 1899. The purchase was to be completed on 16th February 1900 subject to the approval of the Local Government Board, to which the Council applied for permission to borrow £13,500 to cover the cost of laying out the estate. This included a mansion, Beechwood House, in the centre of the property and the Council at this stage had no proposal for its use. In March 1900 the Parks Committee Chairman, Alcerman Mordey, said that he hoped the park would soon be open to the public and the hindrance to opening it at once was lack of fencing. In April it was reported that the Council proposed to convert the mansion to refreshment rooms.
The Parks Committee and other Council members made a visit to inspect the new public park in May and agreed that it was not to be formally declared open until the fencing had been completed, but access to the grounds could be permitted in the meantime. The South Wales Daily News reported that: "Those who had not paid a prior visit to the newest possession of the ratepayers were agreeably surprised at the beauty, completeness, and variety of the new park. The approach from Chepstow-road discloses a fine avenue of well-grown beeches, down the centre of which is a dingle, with plenty of possibilities of development in the shape of rustic bridges, miniature waterfalls, fish ponds etc. The main drive is planted with a fine selection of ornamental trees, which have made good growth, and are just now putting on the delicate tints of spring foliage. The house itself is a well-built freestone faced residence, built by the late Mr. Fothergill, one of the chief magistrates of the Borough, and the views from the balcony and French windows of the lower floor over the alluvial lands to the brown Severn sea and the distant hills of Somerset as a background, are very fine."
On the 1900 Ordnance Survey map there are two entrances to Beechwood, both off Beechwood Road. The main entrance is a tree-lined drive leading to the house, and a little higher a smaller path also leads to the house.
In June 1900 the Council accepted a tender for £952-4s-2d from Mr C. D. Phillips to install 5ft 6inch wrought iron unclimbable fencing at Beechwood with two pairs of gates.. In December it was reported that about fifty dozen trees and shrubs had been removed from Belle Vue Park and planted at Beechwood. The Committee subsequently inspected the park in February 1901 and expressed approval of the planting of trees and shrubs along the boundary fence on Christchurch and Beechwood Roads. Also in 1901 the Committee accepted the tender of Messrs W. A. Baker & Co. to supply 50 wooden seats for the park.
The Parks Committee decided in September 1900 that football would be allowed on the top portion of the park, and in June 1901 this permission was extended to cricket. Tennis courts and a bowling green were also added in the early 1900s.
It was decided in July 1910 that a new public entrance to the park from Clevedon Road would be made, the Council being given the land required for this by Mr W. T. Case. The Parks Committee agreed to supply a gate four feet wide in the fencing when the roadway into the park had been made.
In 1912 the Parks and Cemeteries Committee approved a plan from the Waterworks Committee to build a storage reservoir in the park and requested that the work be carried out such that games could be played on top of and around the reservoir. In March 1913 it was reported that baseball was played occasionally in the park.
An additional entrance was made in May 1914, when a new bridge was built over the dingle running parallel to Beechwood Road. The Parks Committee decided that a gate be installed in the fence alongside Beechwood Road, opposite the new bridge. A quotation from Messrs Abbott & Baker to supply the gate at a price of £4-7s-6d was accepted.
The Parks Committee inspected Beechwood Park in August 1917 and decided upon the following improvements:
The report of the inspection also mentioned children's swings but not indicating where in the park these were. The Committee carried out a further inspection in August 1918 and agreed the following improvements:
During the 1914-18 war Beechwood House was loaned to the Welsh National Memorial Association for use as a sanatorium. After the war a captured German gun was placed in the park and in July 1920 it was decided that this gun be cleaned and painted. In September 1920 the Parks Committee visited the park and specified where the captured German gun should be placed.
The 1920 Ordnance Survey map shows the main entrance at the north west corner of the park, off what is now Christchurch Road, with a tree-lined drive leading to the house. Another entrance is shown at the north east, near the corner where Christchurch Road and Beechwood Road meet. Two entry points are shown off Beechwood Road, including the original main entrance, from which multiple paths lead to tennis courts, bowling green and the house.
In 1923 the Parks Committee expressed interest in acquiring from the Housing Committee a small piece of land on the Maindee Park estate bordering Beechwood Road, which could be added to Beechwood Park and provide an additional entrance. It was agreed in May 1924 that this area of about 4½ acres would be acquired for the sum of £880. In January 1925 the Parks Committee agreed to plant some trees along the Beechwood Road frontage of this land at an estimated cost of about £13. The total cost of laying out the new space, including fencing and gates, would be about £2,050. In April a tender was accepted from Mr Herbert Wreford for the erection of new entrance gates, pillars, walls and railings at a cost of £735-11s. The following month the Committee awarded another contract to Mr Wreford for the construction of roads, drains etc. worth £1,265-8s-10d.
The Borough Engineer reported in June 1925 that the laying out of the new section of the park and the erection of entrance gates and fencing were in progress. He also submitted a plan of a proposed bridge over the ravine costing £90 which was approved by the Parks Committee. The extension to the park was officially opened by the Mayor on the 22nd October 1925.
In June 1926 the Parks Committee accepted an offer from the contractor making roads on the Maindee Park housing site, to tip material to fill in the lower portion of the dingle in the new part of the park. Some planting took place in the extension in early 1929, the Parks Superintendent having been authorised to order about 120 shrubs for this purpose. A set of six swings, ordered from C. Wicksteed & Co. in February 1930, were probably placed in the new part of the park, as a playground appears there alongside Beechwood Road on later Ordnance Survey maps. Further work to fill in the dingle was authorised in October 1933 at a cost of about £25. In December 1935 the lower part of the dingle was being prepared for planting with various plants and shrubs and would include two shallow ponds for water lilies.
In the older part of the park a kiosk and shelter was added at the north east entrance in 1926 following a request from the Borough Electrical Engineer. In September 1932 the Parks Committee decided that the ground in front of Beechwood House would be converted into a rose garden. In October 1935 a tender was accepted from Mr J. H. Williams for a greenhouse at the price of £229. This was most probably on the west side of Beechwood House, where a number of glasshouses are shown on Ordnance Survey maps for the 1930s and later.
The Parks Committee decided in November 1935 that the German gun would be removed to another (unspecified) position in the park.
The official Guide & Handbook to Newport Mon., 1938, described the park thus: This is also an excellent park, situated at Maindee, and best reached by the Chepstow Road 'busses. Some fine views are obtained from this park, and there are tennis courts, putting and bowling greens, etc. During the Summer, Band Concerts are arranged.
In September 1938 trenches were dug in a number of Newport parks, including in Beechwood Park, as a civil defence measure recommended by the Home Office. The Parks Committee decided that the trench(es) in Beechwood Park would be camouflaged and protected by planting shrubs and flower borders around them. The Parks Superintendent reported in January 1940 that the areas around the ARP trenches would shortly be planted with shrubs, and rustic screens would be erected near the entrances.
The 1939-45 world war had a number of impacts on the park, as described on a separate page.
In July 1950 the Parks Committee accepted a quotation of £97-10-0.from W. A. Baker & Co., for wrought iron gates to replace the wooden gates at the Beechwood Road entrance.
There was a nursery area at the top (north end) of the park in the early 1950s but the Parks Committee decided in September 1952 that this land be seeded in the late spring of 1953 for use as a football pitch. Organised games were allowed on this ground from May 1954.
A small extension to the park was agreed in July 1955 and formally added the following January, approximately 0.89 acre from the Maindee Park Estate, at the rear of houses fronting Upper Tennyson Road. In 1960 it was reported to the Parks Committee that another small extension - the land between 15 and 17 Clevedon Road - had been purchased, but was subject to a private right of way with a prohibition on erection of buildings, such that it could only be used for an additional access to the park.
In 1965 a floral display was created in the park depicting the crest of the Salvation Army to mark the organisation's centenary celebration. In the mid 1960s it was said that "the outstanding feature of Beechwood Park is the ravine rock garden in which more than a hundred varieties of rare and colourful plants delight both eye and nose, but it will be the brilliant rose gardens at the Chepstow Road entrance that will tempt the visitor inside."
Grass skiiing was tried on two days over the Spring Bank Holiday in 1983 and was reported to have been a success. A winch was provided adjacent to the ski slope. Also in 1983 the Leisure Services Committee decided that the scented garden in Beechwood Park be improved and re-located to a more appropriate area, at a total estimated cost of £11,700. (Neither location was specified.) This work was subsequently deferred and included in the Parks Improvement Programme for 1987/88.
Sources of Information