Seen at The Festival of the Tree

...if you would be happy all your life, plant a garden ~ Chinese proverb

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

ABC of Chippenham: John Coles


I've often wondered who exactly John Coles was and now have the answer courtesy of my research for today's post. He was a pharmacist who owned a pharmacy and general grocer's store at the top of the town where Coates' flower shop is now. There he made medicines, invalid wines and other products such as garish dyes, furniture polish, insect powder and 'Chippenham Scour Mixture', a cattle remedy. He was a keen supporter of secondary education and was Chippenham's Lord Mayor three times in 1891, 1898 and 1914, so he must have been well respected during his lifetime.

On his death in 1916 he left a legacy to the then Chippenham Borough which they used to purchase a suitable plot of land for the provision of a public park. When I was researching D for Donkey Field, the purchase of this land was also documented in the papers I was looking at: just over £4,000 for 15 acres of former farm land.

John Coles Park opened in 1923, which I believe makes it one of the younger parks of its type in this country, those resulting from a local benefactor. This kind of philanthropy was more common during Victorian times when the provision of open spaces became a popular way to improve a town and general public health. However, age doesn't really matter: its continued presence and use in the heart of the town is much more important.

Changes are afoot at the park this year which I hope to tell you more about in my regular Out on the Streets meme. The Town Council - who look after the park nowadays - have decided to apply for Green Flag status and to have a Friends of the Park scheme to help with upkeep. I'm expecting the latter to happen all over the country this year when the fallout from the round of local government spending cuts bites ever deeper.

Talking of Out on the Streets: look out for my kick-off post in early April where I'll be asking you to show us what's out and about re public planting in your neighbourhood.

This is for ABC Wednesday and is the tenth in my themed round of posts about Chippenham.

8 comments:

  1. Always good to know the local history, which we often are oblivious to.

    ROG, ABC Wednesday team

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  2. Very interesting....parks are such a great part of our lives. Especially if you have grandchildren.

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  3. What a beautiful take on J!

    Come and see the Joys of our Lives, have a lovely day!

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  4. Almost the view from my house!

    When we went to the history centre the other day we got some fabulous old maps showing the park in various stages - it isn't as old as I thought. In the twenties it was a recreation ground but not a park. Really interesting to see how the park and surrounding houses were built up - by looking at maps for each year it's possible to see what changed when.

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  5. Good old John Coles! Valuable space for the community to have. Let us hope that it remains intact and to a standard!
    Best Wishes

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  6. Neato. I always love hearing about how parks and gardens were started. The people who came before us really thought of the future didn't they? I hope your park gets the care it needs.~~Dee

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  7. What a nice unusual gem to come across!

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  8. Hi ABCers - thanks for your visit and welcome to Wanda and Meryl :)

    Mark - sounds like you're better qualified to write this post! I must ask you about those maps when we next meet up and find out what else they showed about Chippenham

    Robert - I hope so too!

    Dee - it's a shame we seem to have lost some of that forward thinking, or seem to have different priorities these days. Perhaps we take them for granted?

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