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In memory of Victoria Carter
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Victoria park stretches out across the East End covering parts of Bethnal Green, Hackney, and Bow. It is a place for the family to go for a day out, even though it is only two minutes walk away. There are acre upon acre of grass and trees. The boating lake is still there and after many years without them they were returned in 2012. There used to be a Lido there but this has now been filled in. Swing parks, rabbit enclosures, deer and goats. The “three ponds” as they were known, one for paddling, one for fishing, and one for model boats, were always surrounded by people and kids. Then things started to change with the new generation of vandals, paedophiles, and crack heads. No cars are allowed into the park now. This was to stop the perverts picking up children. In recent years the animals were killed and tortured by other sick animals in human guise, and police are still trying to find the killer of the American girl Barbara Muller, who was stabbed while out jogging in 2003.
Now things have changed again. After having millions allocated to the park to get ready for the 2012 Olympics visitors it has undergone a major facelift. It is also now a venue for occasional pop concerts. With the extra security patrols it is now back to it's former glory. Let's hope it stays that way.
I returned to the park in September 2006 and things did seem to be looking up a bit. There were far more parents and children out together, just like the old days. I think this may be due to the influx of fairly wealthy “green” bicycle riding couples moving into the area, which can't be a bad thing. I did notice one wildlife vandal was on the increase though; the Grey Squirrel! Something has to be done about the population explosion of these creatures. Another thing I am pleased to have learned from an e-mail is that there is still a lot of interest in the model boats that I watched as a kid in one of what we called ‘the three ponds’. The Victoria Model Steamboat Club starts its season on Easter Sunday and boats run until the Middle of October.
In 2012 there was a vast improvement due to the Olympic makeover and the return of the rowing boats and rebuilding the pagoda added more pleasure for visitors.
Also, the community park ranger service was created some time ago to patrol the park and provide a friendly face and promoting responsible usage. They work seven days a week till dusk all year round. The park rangers wear blue uniforms to distinguish them from other staff.
The first official acknowledgment of the need for a Park in the East End of London came in the 1839 Annual Report of the Registrar General of Births, Deaths and Marriages. Recording a mortality rate far higher than for the rest of London, brought about by massive overcrowding, unsanitary conditions and polluted air.
He wrote "....a Park in the East End of London would probably diminish the annual deaths by several thousands.... and add several years to the lives of the entire population".
This was followed in 1840 by a petition to Queen Victoria, signed by 30,000 local residents, urging the formation "within the Tower Hamlets, of a Royal Park". The Queen assented and James Pennethorne, Architect to the Commissioners of Woods and Forests - The government agency charged with the development of the Park - prepared the designs. Work began in 1845 and was completed in 1850.
In April 1873, Queen Victoria visited the Park, which she had been instrumental in establishing, and which bore her name.
The Park was originally managed under both the London County Council, and the Greater London Council, and is now funded and managed by the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. It continues to host London-wide events as well as providing day-to-day activities for those who live, work and study in the locality. Whether it is an informal walk in the park; a visit to the children's play area; a sporting activity, a festival or event, Victoria Park continues to give as much pleasure to the thousands of visitors who use the park every year.
Around about 1985, I cannot remember the exact year, the statues of the dogs were replaced after a brief vacation at the stonemasons for cleaning. They looked immaculate with years of grime and algae being removed from them. Even as a child I could not recall them looking other than dirty grey stone figures. To look at them in the condition they must have been in when erected was a pleasure. Money well spent by the authority in charge. I returned a few weeks later with my camera, only to find a change had taken place. The crisp clean look of one of the pair had been destroyed overnight by some sad sick individuals and a paintbrush.
They had transformed it into a black devil dog, with the number “666” daubed on its back and blood from the mouth with red paint!
At the entrance to the first park (we always referred to the separate areas as first, second, and third parks) there are two stone dogs on pedestals on either side of the pathway. They were not as high as they are now, about as tall as us I suppose. When we were young we believed the story that everyone told about the statues. A little girl was drowning in the boating lake and a dog rescued her at the cost of his own life. Every child in Bethnal Green was brought up with this story, but as I got older I learned the truth behind them. They were donated to the park in 1912 by Lady Aignarth. They now bear a plaque to this effect on the higher pedestal.
These dogs were there for years, with no one touching them or defacing them. They stood proudly guarding the entrance of the park, posing for the photographers.
I was disgusted at the time of above incident but as time passed I forgot about it. It wasn't until 2003 that I returned to the park again and the saga of the dogs was long gone from my mind. I don’t know how long after the event it was that they cleaned them up again but Was it worth the effort? Judge for yourself from the photos I took. The black and red paint is all gone now, but then again, so have some legs and half the faces of the animals. I don’t know when this damage was done, as I hadn’t been back for years. They look beyond repair to me. At least the paint could be removed, but whoever was responsible for this damage made sure there was no way to fix it. I sincerely hope the perpetrator suffers the same fate of two broken legs and removal of the nose! They were still in the same condition the last time I took photos of them in September 2006.
Update February 2010: I received an E-mail from a reliable source informing me that the dogs have been taken away for repair. On completion of the work they will be housed in a secure indoor place in the park. A pair of replica dogs made from more robust material will take the original’s places on the plinths.
Update 2012: Yes, the dogs were replaced with resin ones and the originals restored and hidden away.
These two stone alcoves can be found on the Hackney stretch of the park near Hackney Wick. They are original seating cubby holes taken from the parapet of the original stone London Bridge when it was replaced after 600 years. They were brought to the park in 1860 and are part of the Bow Heritage Trail. The wooden seating was restored in 2012.
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