This interview started with a memory of a plane displayed at Normanton Park during WW2. It also includes memories of Sinfin Park, street gangs, and going to school on Darley Park.
Could you tell me your memory of Normanton Park?
Well, when I was a lad, and during the war, the Second World War, on Normanton Park they brought a shot down German plane that had been shot over this country and they were touring it round the country. And they brought it into the park on little platforms that you could walk up on the side and have a look inside and see it, you know. And lots and lots of people came to see it. Yes.
So they actually had it on display?
In the park?
Yes, in the park, yeah. It was taken around the country for other people to see it, you know, like a trophy.
It went to other parks?
Yeah. It was like a trophy, you know, sort of thing. So that’s a little bit I remember about Normanton Park, yes.
So you used to play on Normanton Park…
Well, I did go up there to play at times, yes. It wasn’t our nearest play area but it was nearby.
Which was your nearest one?
Well, we used to play at Sinfin on a park, a piece of ground next to the church actually, which is a proper park now. In them days it was just a rough field, sort of. Yeah.
Do you remember what you did on it? You know, what sort of things did you play?
We’d play football, cricket, you know, rounders and various things like that, you know, and fighting (laughs).
Oh, really? Fighting as well?
Well, kids always fought, didn’t they? Well, they used to. Yeah, there was always scraps going on with kids, you know, sort of thing. I mean, when I lived in Sinfin, particularly as we knew the war was ending, each street had a bonfire. They had a bonfire, you know, and each street made their bonfire. Somebody went round one night and set fire to three of them, you know, sort of thing, before the time (laughs). Because it was like a gang, Thackeray Street gang, Shakespeare Street gang and all that sort of thing, you know.
Were the gangs kind of like—?
Well, it was how kids mixed, you know. We all mixed with the friends in our street, so we were all gangs. I mean, we weren’t rough, really, but there was this friendly rivalry. And somebody – I don’t know who did it (laughs)— we had a big bonfire, you know, when the war ended. Yeah, but it was fine, yeah. So what was the other park you mentioned?
Yeah, I don’t know a lot about Osmaston Park, although I lived near it. But I can’t remember doing much up there, you know. I was a bit older then and I wasn’t into parks. I was into other things, you know. Probably 11 or 12, something like that I stopped going on parks.
You kind of grow out of a bit, don’t you, really, and move onto the next thing?
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Engine spotting, that was next (laughs).
What’s your earliest memory of any park? Can you remember the first park you ever went to? Probably Darley Park, yes.
What do you remember about it?
Oh, I remember a lot about Darley Park because I was at school in the old mansion house there, you know, sort of thing, from 1945 to the end of ’49, sort of thing. It was a house that belonged to the Evans family that owned the mills in Darley village and it was put as a school. When the war started, they moved some of these town schools out to different places and our school was moved to Darley Park.
And where was it before, sorry? Abbey Street.
So they moved you onto the park for safety?
Yes…they moved Derby Central School from Abbey Street and they moved them out there onto the park. There were no facilities there. There were only classrooms. So when you did woodwork, chemistry or physics, you had a day at Abbey Street where the old school was. Yeah, that was interesting, you know. Yeah, so we were there and it was a wonderful building. A wonderful building. It caught fire one night and destroyed the two major classrooms and three of the smaller ones. And it caused a lot of problems, you know, sort of thing, but it was a great school. I didn’t learn much, but it was a great fun place (laughs).
Did you go back to Abbey Street School when the war was over?
No, we didn’t go back there. We stayed there. It moved to the top of Breadsall and it was called the Henry Cavendish School afterwards. And then it was Co-Ed. And then after that, I think it’s become the base for the Landau Forte, I believe. I think it’s Landau Forte. Anyway that’s the sequence.