Far Cotton Recreation Ground
When Kath Hollowell was little, her mum used to put her in a brightly coloured cardigan and take her to the Far Cotton Rec to play. The Far Cotton History Group remembers Far Cotton Recreation Ground – the Rec.
The green space known as the Far Cotton Rec is enclosed by Towcester Road, Delapre Crescent Road, Pleydell Road and Queen Eleanor Road. The land, we understand, was given by the Bouveries (of Delapre Abbey) in 1912 for the purpose of leisure and recreation.
At one time, the Rec had iron railings around its perimeter with entrances in Pleydell Rd and Towcester Rd. These were removed for the war effort. During the war there was an underground air raid shelter level with Queen Eleanor Road. The VE Day celebrations in Far Cotton were also held on the Rec, though the weather meant the fancy dress had to retreat to the school hall.
There was a static water tank situated on the corner of Pleydell Road and Delapre Crescent Road. The old man’s hut was home to many and sparked memories of wheelbarrows, plants, outings and funerals. There was a police box on the corner of Queen Eleanor Road and Pleydell Road, where the local bobby could put his feet up and make a cuppa (like the one near Ashfords Corner). And on the Towcester Road side was the nursery, which opened in the early 1940s. They used to out beds with monogrammed blankets outside in rows for the children. This building later became changing rooms for sports, and part of it was taken over by the green-keepers and groundsmen to keep their kit in.
The Rec had tennis courts, both grass and tarmac. The grass ones are long gone, though you can still see traces of the tarmac ones. One of them is now the site of the small basketball court / football pitch. The grass tennis courts were hired out by the Towcester Road Methodist Church Youth Club on Thursday evenings. The bowling green remains and has had many types of fences around it as well as entrances. The old brick built toilets were half-way up the Towcester Rd side of the Rec. During the war, they were used by US soliders for their toilet stop.
The Rec also had a play area which has changed over the years. There once was a sand pit, which, of course, attracted the local dogs. Other equipment included a maypole and a “jazza”. Gwen can remember going up and up and never feeling as if she went down. There was the the big slide and some remember using candle wax on it to make it go faster. You could slide on your own or make a ‘train’ when sometimes as many as five children would slide down together. There was also an old wooden roundabout and the spider’s web. All of these have gone except the baby slide and have been replaced with less adventurous playground equipment.
The Rec is edged with lime, horse chestnut and oak trees. There were two majestic oaks, one in Pleydell Road and the other by the tennis courts near Delapre Crescent Road. The latter tree had a seat that went all the way round it. This tree was destroyed by natural forces in the early 2000s and only its stump remains. Conkering was and still is a favourite pass time of the youngsters.
Sport featured a lot on the Rec. Football clubs continue to play local league matches. The bowling green sees regular games, not only from the Delapre Bowls League but by local groups from the community. From 1951-1955, rugby was played on the stretch of land next to Delapre Crescent Road led by Mr Alserbrook. We think that Northampton Saints presented two strips in 1948. Cricket was another Sunday regular, complete with tea and sandwiches. Sadly, cricket stopped being played at the Rec in 1999.
Over the years, the Rec has also been used by local schools for its PE lessons and sports days. Playschemes were set up in the old nursery during the holidays to cater for the local children. Today, sports and activities are organised by the council and local community centres. Youth organisations, such as the Boys Brigade, Girls Brigade, Scouts and Guides also use the Rec for their programmes. In 2005, local churches got together and organised Praise in the Park. The Rec has also community events and many a sponsored walk – both forwards and backwards – as well as hot air balloons landing during the town’s balloon festival.
There are a number of local characters and even some urban myths associated with Far Cotton Recreation Ground, including a Jack the Ripper style character who was said to stalk the Pleydell Road end of the Rec. Horace was a local who used to wear a newspaper bag over his shoulder and go round picking up rubbish with a litter stick; and Newton Pratt who used to operate pony rides in the late 1940s along Queen Eleanor Road where the school now stands. Some people also remember the day Drover’s cattle broke free and got onto the Rec, terrifying some of the little children.
One of the most important features of the Rec was the Pavilion. This was built of wood, which made it easier to carve your name and a message for your sweetheart! The front of the pavilion looked out onto the bowling green and originally had a veranda. One half of the building was where you could hire your shoes and woods for a game of bowls. The other half was where you could get a cup of tea. Around the back was open, with a wooden seat where courting couples could enjoy each others company relatively hidden. Over the years, though, the wooden seats were vandalised and removed. We remember being able to buy choc ices and lollies at the stable door on the side of the pavilion. You could sit by the rose bushes at the Towcester Road entrance to enjoy them.
The wooden pavilion was replaced by a brick-built structure, which was then also demolished in 2006 to make way for the new community centre, library and pharmacy.
In 2009, Far Cotton Recreation Ground was given Town Green status, which helps to protect the space against future development.