Belle Vue Park - History

The park was officially opened in September 1894 but was far from complete. In February 1895 the Parks Committee decided to order 500 iron bows, priced at 6¼d each, for protecting the grass verges in the park.[1] The following year an ornamental drinking fountain, presented by Mr. Stanley Jones in memory of his father, was officially unveiled.[2] Also in 1896 the Gorsedd Circle was added, to mark the 1897 National Eisteddfod of Wales taking place in Newport.[3]

By September 1898 it was found necessary to cement the gravel on the steep paths in the park, to prevent the surface being washed downhill in heavy rain.[4]

Nine oak trees were planted in November 1902 to commemorate the coronation of King Edward VII, but their locations are not known.[5]

Two bowling greens were added in 1904 and tennis courts in 1907. In 1910 the rustic tea house was built near the pavilion to provide extra space for refreshments and shelter.[6] Early in 1909 the Parks Committee decided to establish an ornamental flower bed on a triangular grass and shrub area immediately below the terrace, and in June this had been done.[7]

The Parks Committee accepted the gift from the Chairman of an oak tree in September 1911 to celebrate the coronation of King George V.[8]

The following image gives a view of the park c.1913 and includes a mumber of its early features: bandstand and terraces, drinking fountain, ornamental fountain and flagstaff.

Part postcard of Belle Vue Park posted 1913

Raphael Tuck & Sons "Double Photo Greeting" postcard posted 1913

The Parks Committee considered some suggestions from Thomas Mawson and decided in August 1917 that some of these could be carried out immediately:[9]

In August 1919 the Committee agreed to accept a German field gun to be placed in the park[10] and it would be mounted at the corner near the park entrance from Stow Park Avenue.[11] In September 1922 the Parks Committee gave instructions that the German guns at Belle Vue and Beechwood Parks were to be painted.[12]

Other developments in the 1920s were:

Belle Vue Park shown on 1950s Ordnance Survey Map

Belle Vue Park on the 1920s Ordnance Survey Map

In March 1930 the Committee was informed of a plan to widen Cardiff Road requiring a strip of Belle Vue Park to be lost. The same plan included levelling part of the children's playground. The Committee agreed that the Borough Engineer make arrangements with the contractor carrying out the road widening works, for tipping and levelling in the park. It was also agreed to plant trees and shrubs in due course.[16][17][18] In July that year the Committee decided that the second entrance to the park off Cardiff Road should be moved to the junction of Cardiff Road and Waterloo Road, at an estimated cost of £300. This can be seen on Ordnance Survey maps for the 1920s and 1930s.[19] Compensation totalling £1,130 was received for the land fronting Cardiff Road lost in connection with the widening of the road and in November 1932 £180-3-0 of this was put towards the cost of a putting green.[20]

Ii was decided in December 1932 that a telephone be installed in the Parks Superintendent's house at Belle Vue Park.[21] Shortly after this, in February 1933, the Parks Committee decided that living accommodation for the Parks Superintendent would be provided at Beechwood House, and that the house in Belle Vue Park occupied until then by the Superintendent would be let.[22]

In January 1937 the Parks Committee agreed to remove the German field gun from the park.[23]

The official Guide & Handbook to Newport Mon., 1938, described the park thus: Situated at the top of Stow Hill, with entrances also at Cardiff Road and Waterloo Road. This is a very attractive park, beautifully laid out, with flower beds, shrubs, trees, etc., and there is also a fine terrace, pavilion and bandstand. From the terrace a splendid view is obtained of the Bristol Channel, the River Usk, Transporter Bridge, and the Docks. There are several public tennis courts (hard and grass) also excellent bowling greens. During the Summer months Band Concerts are given.

The 1939-45 world war had a number of impacts on the park, starting in September 1939. These are described on a separate page. During the war, in October 1942 it was agreed that bees be kept in the park on the land previously used as a putting green.[24] The bees were still present in October 1946 when the Parks Committee agreed to the purchase 15 lbs of sugar for each hive, as recommended by the Monmouthshire Bee Keepers Association.[25] In 1949 the Parks Superintendent was instructed to seek an alternative site for the hives, and he reported that he had been unable to find one, also that he could not sell the honey at current market prices. In view of this the Parks Committee decided that the bees and hives be disposed of at the best price obtainable.[26]

In 1947 a plaque was placed on or near the trees planted in the park to commemorate the Monmouthshire Regiment, and among those invited to the official ceremony were the Mayor and ten members of the Monmouthshire Regiment serving in the 1914-18 war.[27]

The grounds of Belle Vue House, at the junction of Belle Vue Lane and Cardiff Road, were absorbed into the park in 1953 after the house was demolished.[28] Aerial photographs indicate that this space was used for allotments in the late 1940s and early 1950s.

In 1996 the pavilion, conservatories and terraces were awarded Grade II listed status by Cadw, and in 2000 this status was extended to include the gates, gate piers, lodges and tea house.[29]

A Heritage Lottery funded restoration of Belle Vue Park took place between 2003 and 2006. The bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) was initiated in the late 1990s and a grant of £24,000 was awarded in January 1998 to progress the restoration plan.[30] The final scheme was approved by the Leisure Committee in December 1998 and provided for a phased restoration over a five year period. The pavilion and conservatories were to comprise phase 1 as they were considered the main focus of the park, and it was agreed that expressions of interest be sought from developers for use of these spaces for a cafe or tea room.[31] The HLF grant for £1.5 million was awarded in 2002.[32]

2019 was the 125th anniversary of the opening of Belle Vue Park and with the help of the friends group the display shown below was created at the foot of the pavilion.

Flower bed marking the 125th anniversary of the opening of Belle Vue Park

Marking the 125th anniversary of the opening of the Park
©Ben Light 2019

In 2019 the car park was enlarged after the demolition of a long narrow brick building beside the Friars Road boundary. This building with a sloping roof was associated with the glasshouses that occupied the site before it was a car park. Originally this was the location of Belle Vue Park's first bowling green and subsequently became a nursery with glasshouses.[33] Ordnance survey maps suggest that the brick building and glasshouses were built between publication of the 1920s and 1930s maps. In 2019 the brick building was described as having an electrical supply, a garage door type of entrance at one end, and a cage for storing chemicals at the other end.[34]

Sources of Information

  1. Newport County Borough Council Parks, Cemeteries and Allotments Committee 15th February 1895
  2. South Wales Echo Friday April 10 1896 page 4
  3. South Wales Daily News July 15th 1896 page 3
  4. Newport County Borough Council Parks, Cemeteries and Allotments Committee 16th September 1898
  5. Newport County Borough Council Parks, Cemeteries and Allotments Committee 21st November 1902
  6. The Restoration of Belle Vue Park, Newport by John Woods The Bulletin, Welsh Historic Gardens Trust, No. 53
  7. Newport County Borough Council Parks, Cemeteries and Markets Committee 4th & 15th January & 18th June 1909
  8. Newport County Borough Council Parks, Cemeteries and Markets Committee 21st September 1911
  9. Newport County Borough Council Parks and Cemeteries Committee 30th August 1917
  10. Newport County Borough Council Parks and Cemeteries Committee 15th August 1919
  11. Newport County Borough Council Parks and Cemeteries Committee 22nd August 1919
  12. Newport County Borough Council Parks and Cemeteries Committee 14th September 1922
  13. Newport County Borough Council Parks and Cemeteries Committee 25th January 1924
  14. Newport County Borough Council Parks and Cemeteries Committee 10th August 1925
  15. Newport County Borough Council Parks and Cemeteries Committee 26th March 1926
  16. Western Mail and South Wales News Trade Supplement 6th January 1930 page 9
  17. Newport County Borough Council Parks and Cemeteries Committee 26th March 1930
  18. Newport County Borough Council Parks and Cemeteries Committee 25th April 1930
  19. Newport County Borough Council Parks and Cemeteries Committee 18th July 1930
  20. Newport County Borough Council Parks and Cemeteries Committee 18th November 1932
  21. Newport County Borough Council Parks and Cemeteries Committee 16th December 1932
  22. Newport County Borough Council Parks and Cemeteries Committee 17th February 1933
  23. Newport County Borough Council Parks and Cemeteries Committee 15th January 1937
  24. Newport County Borough Council Parks and Cemeteries Committee 16th October 1942
  25. Newport County Borough Council Parks and Cemeteries Committee 18th October 1946
  26. Newport County Borough Council Parks and Cemeteries Committee 18th November 1949 & 16th December 1949
  27. Newport County Borough Council Parks and Cemeteries Committee 16th May 1947
  28. The Restoration of Belle Vue Park, Newport by John Woods The Bulletin, Welsh Historic Gardens Trust, No. 53
  29. Belle Vue Restoration
  30. Newport County Borough Council Leisure Committee 9th January 1998
  31. Newport County Borough Council Leisure Committee 4th December 1998
  32. Belle Vue Restoration
  33. Newport County Borough Council Parks and Cemeteries Committee 23rd June 1933
  34. Personal communication (BL)