Belle Vue Park - in World War Two

The 1939-45 world war had a number of impacts on the park. Starting in September 1939, trenches were dug in a number of Newport parks, including in Belle Vue Park, as a civil defence measure recommended by the Home Office.[1] The Parks Committee decided that the trench(es) in Belle Vue Park would be camouflaged and protected by planting shrubs and flower borders around them.[2] The Parks Superintendent reported in January 1940 that the areas around the ARP (Air Raid Precautions) trenches would shortly be planted with shrubs, and rustic screens would be erected near the entrances.[3] In January 1941 the Parks Committee agreed to a request from the Home Guard that trenches be dug in Belle Vue Park and on the adjoining Belle Vue Court allotments.[4] In March a representative of the military authority notified the Council that a formal requisition would soon be issued for the sites of these trenches to be dug.[5

There were air raid shelters in the park near Cardiff Road and in September 1940 the Council authorised the Emergency Committee to open a third entrance off Cardiff Road to improve access to these. At the same meeting the Council considered removal of railings from Newport's parks and open spaces and deferred a decision.[6][7] In 1943, when notified that the Government, under the provisions of the emergency powers acts, was preparing in the near future to take railings in and around Newport's parks and open spaces, the Parks Committee stated that it was not prepared voluntarily to surrender such railings. Subsequently representations were made to the Ministry of Works that railings at Belle Vue Park and Beechwood Parks should remain.[8]

Another impact of the war was the use of the park for food production. As early as December 1939 the Parks Superintendent reported that vegetables had been planted in the nurseries at Belle Vue and Beechwood Parks to assist the National Food Production Scheme.[9] In the summer of 1940 he reported that considerable quantities of produce were being sold to the Education Department's school dining centres and other Council catering facilities.[10]

In September 1940 the Parks Committee approved the maintenance of demonstration allotment plots in Belle Vue and Beechwood Parks for the duration of the war. The Superintendent had seen such demonstration plots in Cardiff parks and recommended that the produce could be used by the school feeding centres.[11] The demonstation plot in Belle Vue Park was reported to be "just behind the Dahlia border and rustic screen". At the same meeting in December 1940 the Parks Committee heard that the winter crop of tomatoes grown at Belle Vue Park nursery was proving on the whole to be a success.[12]

On 23rd March 1942 the Mayor entertained "certain visitors to Newport" and trees were planted in the park to commemorate the visit. Much later, in May 1945, it was reported that the visitors in question were members of the armed forces of the United States of America and the time had now come to erect a plaque.[13] (It is not known what these trees were or exactly where they were planted.)

It was reported in June 1942 that damage to the boundary wall of Belle Vue Park caused by enemy action would cost approximately £170 to repair. (The report did not indicate which part of the boundary wall was damaged.)[14] It was not until March 1945 that the Parks Committee approved repair work to the boundary wall adjoining Cardiff Road, to be carried out by Mr H. Smith at a cost of £110, which would be recoverable from the government.[15] Apparently contrary to this, it was reported in July 1947 that the Ministry of Health had refused a license to allow replacement of iron railings on the section of boundary wall which had suffered war damage, and the Committee agreed to proceed with erection of temporary fencing.[16]

The Council received a request from the Welsh Board of Health in 1942, that entertainments be arranged for workers taking holidays in their home towns.[17] As part of the Summer Holidays for Workers scheme it was decided to engage bands for the summer months to play dance music, and to provide a space for dancing on the terrace around the bandstand.[18] There was a BBC broadcast for the Holidays at Home scheme from Belle Vue Park on Friday 30th July 1943 from 6:30 to 7pm, including band music and a Punch and Judy show.[19] Reporting on the Holidays at Home 1944 season the Parks Superintendent stated that at Belle Vue Park approximately 1,300 people had paid for admission to the bandstand on August Bank Holiday, while attendance at concert party performances was between 500 and 800 people, and 1,000 on the bank holiday. With respect to dancing, he indicated that approximately 10,000 adults and 5,500 children had paid for admission to the enclosures.[20] In 1945 the holidays at home scheme was replaced by a programme of summer entertainments which included concert parties, brass bands and punch and Judy shows.[21]

By late 1944 a pavilion in Belle Vue Park (presumably the bowling pavilion) was no longer required for war-related use and the Parks Committee decided that application be made to the authority formerly occupying it for the building to be restored to its normal condition.[22]

Sources of Information

  1. Newport County Borough Council Parks and Cemeteries Committee 29th September 1938
  2. Newport County Borough Council Parks and Cemeteries Committee 18th November 1938
  3. Newport County Borough Council Parks and Cemeteries Committee 19th January 1940
  4. Newport County Borough Council Parks and Cemeteries Committee 17th January 1941
  5. Newport County Borough Council Parks and Cemeteries Committee 21st March 1941
  6. Western Mail and South Wales News Wednesday September 11th 1940 page 6
  7. Newport County Borough Council Parks and Cemeteries Committee 20th September 1940
  8. Newport County Borough Council Parks and Cemeteries Committee 19th March & 18th June 1943
  9. Newport County Borough Council Parks and Cemeteries Committee 11th December 1939
  10. Newport County Borough Council Parks and Cemeteries Committee 21st June 1940 and 19th July 1940
  11. Newport County Borough Council Parks and Cemeteries Committee 20th September 1940
  12. Newport County Borough Council Parks and Cemeteries Committee 20th December 1940
  13. Newport County Borough Council Parks and Cemeteries Committee 20th March 1942 & 18th May 1945
  14. Newport County Borough Council Parks and Cemeteries Committee 19th June 1942 & 16th July 1943
  15. Newport County Borough Council Parks and Cemeteries Committee 16th March 1945
  16. Newport County Borough Council Parks and Cemeteries Committee 18th July 1947
  17. Newport County Borough Council Parks (Music) Sub-Committee 13th May 1942
  18. Newport County Borough Council Parks and Cemeteries Committee 19th June 1942 & 17th July 1942
  19. Newport County Borough Council Parks (Entertainment) Sub-Committee 1st July 1943 & Parks and Cemeteries Committee 17th September 1943
  20. Newport County Borough Council Music in Parks Sub-Committee 16th November 1944
  21. Newport County Borough Council Parks and Cemeteries Committee 16th March 1945 & Parks (Entertainments) Sub-Committee 28th March 1945
  22. Newport County Borough Council Parks and Cemeteries Committee 20th October 1944