Victoria Gardens, Portland

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Victoria Gardens from the Western corner.

Victoria Gardens is a public garden, located on the Isle of Portland, Dorset, England. It is found within Fortuneswell village area, and close to the villages of Castletown and Chiswell.

History[edit]

Victoria Gardens' D-Day memorial.

Before the gardens were created, the open land was known as Little Common.[1] The gardens have remained a focal point for many years.[2] Once the Island's basic needs of water and drainage were secured in 1901 with a piped supply, thought turned to recreation and pleasure. In 1902 an inspired decision was made to turn the barren wildness of Easton Square and Little Common into public gardens. Ernest Elford, a council engineer, produced designs intended to pack the two spaces with the best of features in the new Edwardian style and the grassy steeps of Little Common were transformed into the Victoria Gardens, with croquet, bowels, and tennis courts, and paths meandering through rockeries and gently sloping lawns. In total 6300 shrubs were planted. Like Easton Gardens, the crowning centrepiece of the gardens was a bandstand. For the next 60 years, promenaders at the gardens were treated to weekly band concerts.[3] As chairman of the council in 1904, Henry 'Gaffer' Sansom performed two separate ceremonies for the gardens, where he formally opened Victoria Gardens on 25 May 1904 to mark the 1897 Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria.[4]

The return of peace after the Great War brought two grave social problems, unemployment and housing. Times were hard, and in 1920 it was suggested employing 250 Portland locals to build a sea wall at Chiswell. Instead the council embarked on other 'unemployment' schemes; including building a mortuary in Victoria Gardens.[5]

Portland's part in the D-Day landings, and the liberation of Europe, was marked by a grand ceremony on 22 August 1945, when the American Ambassador, John D. Winant, unveiled a stone in Victoria Gardens commemorating the passing by the spot of 418,585 troops and 144,093 vehicles the previous June.[6] The stone memorial, locally known as The American Stone, included a plaque honouring the Americans who took part.[7] As the Second World War culminated the greatest assembly of men and machines the coast had ever seen, Portland Harbour was visited by the King, Prime Minister Churchill and Free French leader Gen. De Gaul to see the great D-Day preparations, where nearly half a million troops and 144,000 vehicles left the port in a just a few hours. Portland's contribution was noted by messages from the United States "..For over a year your Island of Portland has been a key factor in the movement of troops and their weapons of war to the far shore in the liberation of the Continent..." and "You are the biggest little port in the world, you have been wonderful." As a result of the event, it was commemorated by the memorial's unveiling.[8] At the same time as the unveiling ceremony, the former Cadets Road running around the edge of the gardens was renamed Victory Road.[9]

The original gates at the entrance to the gardens from Victoria Square were made by the inmates of HM Prison The Verne to commemorate the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953, and represent the Queen's family, the House of Windsor, and also Prince Phillip's House of Glucksburg. These were later removed.[10] The garden's bandstand survived until 1966 before it was removed, although band concerts were still performed from time to time in the gardens, as well as in Easton Gardens, and at Portland Bill and West Weares. In March 1973, it was decided by Portland council's services committee to erect a stone to commemorate the fact that Portland is a royal manor and has been an urban district since 1894. It was decided to erect it in Victoria Gardens.[11]

After borough councillors gave the go-ahead for a low carbon housing development on Portland, found on the other side of the main road to Victoria Gardens, a spokesman of the developer ZeroC said that as part of the entire scheme, the company would make improvements to Victoria Gardens, by adding new seating and play facilities, and at Officer’s Field (on the site of the development), which will be retained under the scheme.[12][13]

In late 2013 Weymouth and Portland Borough Council proposed cuts to the parks budget in Weymouth and Portland, which would save almost £150,000 over the next two years, could lead to the closure of Portland's two public gardens. A budget working group examining areas to save money found that a further £74,000 would be saved in 2015/16 by exploring the return of maintenance for Victoria and Easton Gardens to the Crown Estate agents and/or community groups. This led to demands that the gardens be kept open and that a budget for the maintenance of the gardens is maintained. None of Weymouth's public gardens were selected for budget cuts.[14] The concern was based upon community impacts of the loss of the gardens, and also that the Crown Estate, who own both community spaces, could decide to do something else with the land if it was not looked after.[15]

Features[edit]

Victoria Gardens' bowling green.

Victoria Gardens largely feature grassed and formal bedding areas, as well as a large rockery running across the centre of the gardens, which is planted with a mixture of shrubs, perennials and bedding plants.

A children's play area is located on the upper tier of the gardens, and two tennis courts are open all year to the public. A bowling green is also located in the centre of the park. The Portland Victoria Bowls Club operate the daily management of the bowling green, however two rinks are available for use by the public for an hourly rate.[16] In July 2011, the club celebrated their 100th anniversary.[17] An 18-hole putting course was once situated in Victoria Gardens, and this was still active during the late 1950s.

The gardens once had an operational public toilet block, now closed. Easton Gardens has been awarded the Green Flag status based on how safe, clean, accessible, well managed and welcoming they are, however Victoria Gardens has not. This is most likely down to the closed public toilet block.

Friends of Victoria Gardens[edit]

The play area of Victoria Gardens.

Friends of Victoria Gardens were established in May 2008 with the support of Weymouth and Portland Borough Council, to be responsible for the gardens and their daily management. The aim of the group is to work closely with the Council's Parks Section to make improvements to the gardens for benefit of the community and future generations.

The Friends received £3,875 from Comma Funds to create a wooded area on a redundant area found next to the gardens, behind the gardeners' shed, and the group cleared away foliage and planted thousands of Snowdrop bulbs for a future woodland area, with the help of the Chesil Cove Juniors. Once the trees have established, a path through the woodland will be created so that it can be opened up to the public.[18]

In November 2008, Portland Court Leet agreed to distribute £8,000 to locally-based organisations in their annual group meeting, with the top amounts of £1,000 each going to Island Volunteers for You and Friends of Victoria Gardens.[19] Later, the Court Leet funded the provision of a bench seat which was incorporated in the grounds of the gardens.[20]

In October 2011 the group were the focus of the Rotary Community 2000 table top sale where over £700 was raised. The money was for improvement to the gardens which was due to include the renewal of the railings in original Victorian style wrought iron. In addition to the woodland, the group have also placed two new noticeboards in the entranceways to the gardens in Spring 2012, which were funded by the group along with Tim and Denise Clark, of Clark's Boatworks Ltd. In 2012, bulbs were planted by pupils from Underhill Junior School; and their flowerbed display won second prize for the Best Community Group Floral Display in the year's Portland Town Council Community Gardening competition. The Friends group also run two annual, popular events each year in the gardens; the Teddy Bears' Picnic in July and the Christmas Festival in December.[21]

At a meeting in relation to forming the Friends of Victoria Gardens in March 2008, a Dorset Echo article noted the keen interest from local people to form such a group after a meeting in St John's Church Hall. The local council parks supervisor Carl Dallison had stated "The Parks Section has already set up a number of groups in other areas of the borough and this way of working is proving so successful that it would be great if a group could be formed for Victoria Gardens. Without support from the community, a group will struggle to establish sowe hope there are other residents who feel as passionate about making a difference to these gardens." Dallison had also expressed that besides physical developments to the gardens, it would be nice to see more people making better use of the gardens by holding events and community projects.[22]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Morris, Stuart (1990). Portland Camera. Dovecote Press. pp. Photo 151. ISBN 978-0946159796. 
  2. ^ "Victoria Gardens, Portland". dorsetforyou.com. Retrieved 2013-03-22. 
  3. ^ Morris, Stuart (1985). Portland: An Illustrated History. Dovecote Press. pp. 116, 117. ISBN 978-0946159345. 
  4. ^ "Victoria Gardens, Portland". dorsetforyou.com. Retrieved 2013-03-22. 
  5. ^ Morris, Stuart (1985). Portland: An Illustrated History. Dovecote Press. p. 121. ISBN 978-0946159345. 
  6. ^ Morris, Stuart (1985). Portland: An Illustrated History. Dovecote Press. p. 140. ISBN 978-0946159345. 
  7. ^ "Chiswell, Portland, Dorset". Geoffkirby.co.uk. Retrieved 2013-03-22. 
  8. ^ "Portland Port & Harbour Authority | History | 01305824044". Portland-port.co.uk. 1944-05-01. Retrieved 2013-03-22. 
  9. ^ Pomeroy, Colin A. (1995). Military Dorset Today: Second World War Scenes and Settings That Can Still Be Seen 50 Years on. Silver Link Publishing Ltd. p. 138. ISBN 978-1857940770. 
  10. ^ Portland Urban District Council (Late 1950s). Isle of Portland Official Guide. Ed. J. Burrow & Co. Ltd., Publishers - Chelternham and London. p. 24. 
  11. ^ Free Portland News. March 2013. 
  12. ^ "Backing for eco homes on Portland (From Dorset Echo)". Dorsetecho.co.uk. 2009-07-23. Retrieved 2013-03-22. 
  13. ^ "Green homes plan for Portland approved". Greenbuildingpress.co.uk. 2009-07-28. Retrieved 2013-03-22. 
  14. ^ http://www.dorsetecho.co.uk/news/10844489.Plea_to_protect_public_gardens_on_Portland/
  15. ^ http://www.dorsetecho.co.uk/news/10981676.Cuts_needed_at_Weymouth_and_Portland_to_close___900_000_budget_deficit/
  16. ^ "Victoria Gardens, Portland". dorsetforyou.com. Retrieved 2013-03-22. 
  17. ^ "Portland Victoria BC celebrate centenary (From Dorset Echo)". Dorsetecho.co.uk. 2011-07-05. Retrieved 2013-03-22. 
  18. ^ "Friends of Victoria Gardens". dorsetforyou.com. Retrieved 2013-03-22. 
  19. ^ "Court Leet distributes £8k locally (From Dorset Echo)". Dorsetecho.co.uk. 2008-11-29. Retrieved 2013-03-22. 
  20. ^ Free Portland News. February 2013. 
  21. ^ "Friends of Victoria Gardens". dorsetforyou.com. Retrieved 2013-03-22. 
  22. ^ "Friends of Victoria Gardens (From Dorset Echo)". Dorsetecho.co.uk. 2008-03-23. Retrieved 2013-03-22. 

Coordinates: 50°33′43″N 2°26′50″W / 50.562°N 2.4473°W / 50.562; -2.4473