School Holidays At Abington Park

A Memory of Little Billing.

I was born in 1951 in Lutterworth Road, Northampton just a 5 minutes' walk from one of the most beautiful parks in the country - Abington Park. Originally part of the Wantage family estate, it boasted a museum (formerly the Manor House), a church, three lakes, aviaries, and a bandstand. It was a truly magical place for a young boy in the 1950s.
During the annual summer school holidays, I would be found with the rest of my Barry Road Primary School gang in the park (apart from the annual family holiday to Margate). An average day spent in the park would be something as follows: After breakfast I'd head for Sid Child's, the newsagents, on the corner of Lutterworth Road to buy my 'ammunition' (3 rolls of 1p caps) for my six-shooters and 'rations' (sweets - 1 lucky bag, 4 fruit salads, 4 black jacks). With my supplies I'd head to the 'Monkey House' in the park to meet the rest of the gang, I never quite found out what the 'Monkey House' was and how it got its name. The Ye Olde Oak Cafe stands in its place now. Once all the gang had assembled we would then decide the plan of action for the morning. As we were nearly always armed with an assortment of weaponary, eg Roy Roger's sixshooters, Davy Crockett rifles, tommy guns and cap bombs, it would be a game of Germans and English, never Cowboys and Indians, perhaps because they never had tommy guns in those days! We would head off to the spinney. The spinney was a great place, full of trees, bushes and had a stream running through it, an ideal place for den building, battles, bird nesting, and dam building. Sometimes, if we were lucky, one of the park's gardeners had had a bonfire and we would rekindle it into a good old blaze. At lunch time, with all our sweet rations gone, we would troop off to one of the gang's home, usually my mate Charlie Ward's, as he lived nearest the park. Even though unannounced, his mum would always muster up some potted beef or bloater paste 'sarnies' and if we were lucky a piece of home-made fruit cake, washed down with Tizer or lemonade (tea was for adults only). Afternoons saw us back in the park, usually doing something more leisurely after the morning's strenuous activities. Sometimes it would be crayfish hunting on the big lake, or catching minnows or newts. Although the summer holidays always seemed hot and sunny, even a sudden downpour didn't dampen our fun. The museum would be the place to head for. It boasts a great collection of stuffed animals, birds and fish, and there was a case of exotic birds and a case with two swans in (I believe they are still there), then there was the Eygptian Room with a real mummy's tomb in it. We would try to scare each other by walking like a mummy and making ghostie noises, this in turn would attract the museum attendant. He always followed us from room to room to make sure we didn't misbehave. The trouble was we would always know when he was approaching by the sound of his footsteps on the old creaky wooden floorboards. After our visit (and pocket money allowing) we would finish the day by having a wafer ice-cream in the cafe inside the museum or sitting outside in the courtyard. Abington Park was a very special place to us boys in the late 1950s, not just in the summer holidays but in all seasons. In autumn there was collecting conkers, chestnuts and bags of leaves to stuff our Guy Fawkeses in readiness for door-door 'Penny-for-the-Guy' collecting (all proceeds being spent on sweets and 1p bangers). Winters too were good fun in the park; when there had been a fall of snow, everyone would head to the 'tower' by the boating lake with their home-made sledges. They were great days.

Added 28 November 2009


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