On the 1880 Ordnance Survey map the space that became Shaftesbury Park was named The Marshes, and included an area marked Rifle Range (Volunteer). This land was acquired by the Newport Corporation in 1855. By the 1870s it was in regular use for playing cricket, and as a rifle range for the Volunteers . In 1879 the Volunteer Football Club was given permission to use the Marshes for the current season.
By the late 1890s at least part of the Marshes had been allocated to the Parks Committee, which began the process of creating a recreation ground. In September 1896 the Committee agreed to permit the Waterloo Harriers Football Club to use the Marshes during the coming season. The following March the Committee heard that a section of the Marshes had been let to Messrs Lord John Sanger & Sons for a circus on the 27th and 29th March 1897, and it was agreed that the Town Clerk be authorised to deal with future such applications until the Marshes has been adopted under regulations as a recreation ground. In May 1897 the Committee decided that the Parks Superintendent would take charge of the Marshes Recreation Ground and arrange for the area set aside for cricket pitches to be rolled. Embankments (presumably along the river bank) were being formed, reducing in width as they reached the narrowest point of The Marshes. As well as this work, the Borough Engineer was instructed to "press forward the work of deposit as much as possible" (presumably to level the ground).
In May 1898 it was decided that the Marshes would now be known as Shaftesbury Park. Later that year the Committee decided that arrangements be made for football and hockey to be played at the park.
The South Wales Daily News reported in October 1898 that the "beautifying of Shaftesbury Park is to be commenced, the [Parks] Committee having decided that trees shall be planted along the river front", at a cost not exceeding £100. Some trees had been planted by March 1899, at which time the Parks Committee was considering which sports and other facilities to provide. Tipping of refuse to level the land was also taking place in 1899. A urinal, shown on the 1900 Ordnance Survey map, was built at the extreme south east corner. Further planting took place in early 1900, the Parks Committee deciding that a belt of trees and shrubs be transplanted from Belle Vue Park and planted inside the boundary fence fronting Evans Street and Wheeler Street (the extreme south west corner of Shaftesbury Park).
In November 1900 the Parks Committee heard that the Local Government Board had approved the formal appropriation of Shaftesbury Park as a public pleasure ground and given sanction for the borrowing of £600 to build a cottage and convenience. This work was reported to be in progress in May 1901., while in April the Committee had accpepted a tender from Messrs W. A. Baker & Co. to supply twelve iron seats for the park.
It was reported in October 1903 that the Lime and Plane trees planted some years previously were doing very badly, owing exposure to wind and to the ground being very wet in winter, while Poplar trees planted two years ago were doing well. The Parks Committee decided that the Lime and Plane trees be removed and three dozen Willow and Poplar trees be planted in their place. It was also agreed in late 1903 that a water supply for the public be provided at a cost of £4-10s-0d and for this sum "a small fountain could be erected near to the pavilion". On the 1920s Ordnance Survey map a drinking fountain is marked just inside the south east entrance where the urinal was shown in 1900, but no pavilion is shown.
Early in 1904 the Parks Committee was told that the ground at Shaftesbury Park was not suitable for construction of bowling greens, but the Committee agreed that two quoit pitches be constructed at a cost of about £5. In September 1905 the decision was taken to construct a bowling green. A bandstand was provided in 1905 and a model yachting pond was constructed in 1906. In 1907 the Parks Committee decided that a cabmen's shelter recently placed in the park would be repaired and used for the supply of refreshments. It was agreed in June that Mrs L. Dyer be permitted use of the shelter for the sale of herb beer and lemonade. In late 1908 it was decided that a urinal be erected near the bowling green.
The Parks Committee decided in November 1911 that the urinal alongside the entrance to the park and the end of Pugsley Street be removed and that some see-saws be provided near that spot. In April 1914 the Borough Engineer was instructed to provide a sanitary convenience near the pond.
The Committee decided in March 1912 that a footbridge would be constructed across Crindau Pill to provide access to Shaftesbury Park via a footpath from Alderney Street. The cost of this work including additional footpaths was estimated to be £150. It was completed by May 1912, and the bridge officially opened by the Parks Committee Chairman on Friday August 2nd. The footbridge and new footpath from Alderney Road can be seen on the 1920s Ordnance Survey map.
In September 1913 the Borough Engineer was instructed to provide an estimate for making a small shallow pond for young children to sail toy boats, to be constructed near the model yacht sailing pond. The following month it was reported that the cost of such a pond about 6 inches deep would be £27. It should be circular in shape and as far away from the model yacht pond as possible. When the Committee visited the park in September 1914 the pond had been recently constructed.
During 1915 this park was used for military drilling by the 12th Battalion of the South Wales Borders.
In December 1916 the Borough Engineer reported that the cost of laying out the narrow strip of land at the north end of the park, previously used as a refuse tip, would be £70. The Committee had received an offer of £1 per acre per year to rent the ground for market garden purposes.. It was subsequently agreed that the Small Holdings and Allotments Committee could take over this land for allotment purposes for a term not to exceed three years.
On the 1920s Ordnance Survey map a bowling green and bandstand can be seen at the south end. Towards the north the 1920s map shows a rectangular area which was probably the model yacht pond.
A large extension involving the land adjoining the park alongside Pugsley Street was approved in October 1922. This was to provide eleven tennis courts an approximate cost of £1,750. An application was made to the Unemployment Grants Committee for a grant towards the costs as it was proposed to carry out the work using unemployed labour. Following the construction of the tennis courts in 1923, the Parks Committee agreed that this land should be incorporated in the park, so the fence at the northern end of the tennis courts was to be removed.
In January 1929 it was reported that the (disused) model yacht sailing pond had been filled in and the Parks Committee agreed that the site be sown with grass seed and prepared for use as a hockey pitch
The 1930s Ordnance Survey map shows that the bandstand and model yacht pond had been removed. The drinking fountain and bowling green were still present. A shelter had been built immediately north of the bowling green.
In January 1933 the Parks Committee decided that the use of the wireless receiving sets at Belle Vue, Beechwood and Shaftesbury Parks should be discontinued and it was agreed to dispose of these sets. Musical entertainments continued to the mid 1930s with performances by bands and concert parties.
The official Guide & Handbook to Newport Mon., 1938, described the park thus: Reached by the Malpas Road bus. Tennis, Bowls, and other games are played here during the Summer, and Football, etc., during the Winter.
The 1939-45 world war had a number of impacts on the park, as described on a separate page.
In September 1947 it was reported the footbridge from Alderney Street over Crindau Pill into Shaftesbury Park was in very poor condition and would cost between £1200 and £1500 to replace. The Parks Committee agreed that the footbridge be dismantled and the park entrance near the bridge remain closed. The following January it was decided to take no further action, as a suitable replacement bridge would cost approximately £5,000. In January 1949 the Committee agreed to demolish the footbridge during the next financial year at a cost of £150.
Controlled tipping (of refuse, to level the ground) was carried out after the war when the ground was reinstated as open space, and in 1949 the Parks Committee decided that this be extended to cover the whole park in order to raise the level and improve drainage. By the summer of 1952, following the tipping, work was approved for levelling the ground, transporting soil, sowing grass seed and drainage.
The Parks Superintendent proposed a new layout for the park in the summer of 1953, reflecting the fact that since the late 1940s there had been regular visits from circuses and funfairs. The plan was approved and provided for approximately 5½ acres at the end nearest the allotments to be set aside for circuses and funfairs, and 7½ acres for playing fields, to include one hockey pitch, one football pitch, one cricket pitch and two baseball squares. The following year improvements to the Pugsley Street entrance were approved, to provide easy access for vehicles to the far end of the park set aside for circuses and fun-fairs.
On the 1950s OS map the bowling green is still present along with a new pavilion and lavatory. A playground with a shelter can be seen at the southern end. A new drinking fountain has been added on the west side of the park, north of the lodge. The only change shown on the 1970s map is a pumping station built at the extreme north of the park. In September 1961 it was decided that some land previously part of Shaftesbury Park, which had been turned into an island by the Crindau Pill changing its course, be sold on terms negotiated by the District Valuer.
In the early 1960s a helicopter ambulance landed in the park on at least two occasions and the Parks Committee stated that there was no objection to this use of the ground. In February 1962 the Committee also agreed that no objection be raised to a heliport being constructed on part of the park in the context of the redevelopment of the Marshes. Shaftesbury Park was formally designated an emergency helicopter landing site in July 1974.
Major changes to the park were in the planning stages by late 1974. Redevelopment of The Marshes estate required appropriation of part of the park for housing purposes. It was reported that the lodge and changing accommodation would be demolished and would require replacement. In the Shaftesbury Park Appropriation Order 1974 formalised the appropriation of 3.28 hectares of the park to housing purposes. It also provided for the former tennis courts in Pugsley Street being appropriated back to open space purposes because the soil survey had indicated the land could not be used for housing. In June 1976 the Leisure Services Committee decided that the circus site be developed for playing fields, providing three football pitches, three baseball pitches and practice cricket strip, replacing those lost as a result of the proposed housing development on part of the park. The estimated cost of this was £9,815.
The Leisure Services Committee in May 1978 agreed agreed a number of improvements to the park, as none of the space was now required for housing. Among the proposals were: provision of allotments on part of the former tennis courts and a tennis / 5-aside area fronting Pugsley Street. In December the Committee approved a scheme to provide an all weather play area and floodlighting, subject to receiving a 50% grant from the Sports Council. Further improvements approved in 1980 included river bank reclamation, restoration of entrance gates, and landscaping.
Sources of Information