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.