Many thanks to Paul Pegg, Derby City Councillor (Mackworth), for putting us in touch with Pat and Wilf.
(Pat) I think this is lovely. It’s a lovely— Because I’ve done quite a lot on the estate with Paul (Pegg). Well, not just Paul, with the committee and what have you.
How long have you been living in this area and how long have you been using the park?
(Wilf) Eighty-three years.
I’ve lived in this area. I used to play all up here. You came off the fields down there like that to a narrow road, which they built at some time round about the beginning of the war. There was a golf course at the end of this road and I used to play all over there, conkering, and right over to the water tower. I used to play as far over as the water tower. There’s a massive pond up there near the water tower, and one side of the pond we used to go after blackberries.
Yeah. It was thick with blackberries round there – it was our countryside.
Can you remember the first time you went to Markeaton Park?
(Pat) Yes. It was when I was a youngster that I went to the paddling pool. They had a double paddling pool, they had a narrow one that the children played in, and they had a big one, a great big one. They’ve altered it now but this was a great big one and they had paddleboats that you turned the handles on, and you used to take a picnic out.
(Wilf) I would imagine – I was riding a three-wheeler bike, so I must have been about 5/6/7, something like that, mustn’t I? My dad used to bring me. He worked at the hospital, the Derby County Mental Hospital it was called, and he was off on a Sunday, so that was my day with him, you know. We used to come from Manor Road, right the way down here onto the park. I was worn out before I got to the park. But it was lovely. You know, it was just somewhere different from the ring road. We lived on the edge of the ring road and it was quite noisy, but not as it is now. It’s unbelievable now. But I can remember as a child, I could play on the pavement out there, but mainly in the garden. But now you can’t let a child play on the pavement up there, you see. But I remember going and I can easily remember the tennis courts because, before you reached the tennis courts, there were some steps that go down from the café.
We used to go round the tennis courts and there’s a little cemetery there right at the back of it. It’s not actually a cemetry but there’s a dog buried there and a horse. And there was a little Jack Russell as well.
I don’t know if it was the warden’s or what, or perhaps belonged to somebody in the Mundy family.
It’s been a beautiful park but it’s been neglected over the years. Have you heard of [0:08:04]?
Yeah, I have. That’s where the hall is, used to be?
Where the hall used to be, yes.
The hall was – the orangery was down on the right.
Yeah, it’s a café now.
The orangery was down there and it came up to some bushes, flower bushes, and you could come along so far and you could go up steps…
You know Kedleston Hall?
Similar approach to that but much more of a scale.
Yeah, it was beautiful, the way up to it, wasn’t it, up the steps?
Yeah. Go up these steps, up the path and there were flowerbeds on each side when I was little. You go up this path and when you got to the end of the path, you came to the hall, part of the hall.
The army took it over during the war, that side of Markeaton, but the other side of Markeaton lake was still kept for civilians.
When the war finished, the soldiers coming back arrived at a lot of the army huts to live in. They put them in the army huts and they lived there as civilians. There was a Co-op at the park entrance.
Yeah, that’s right. I still see the manager from that Co-op. Billy his name was.
He was in my class at school.
Yeah. He was the manager down there and I think that got him on to be the manager at the bigger shops. You know, at one stage, he used to push a bread cart, this Billy.
Like a cart with loaves on…such a friendly chap. So this is how he got on and everybody knew him.
Was the shop actually on the park?
It was actually in the gates.
Through the gates of the park.
You know McDonald’s?
Face McDonald’s— In fact, you come out of the side entrance of McDonald’s and there was a house and a toilet, and they were sort of just in between. But they took the gates down for the war effort, didn’t they, for the…
Yeah, for the metal.
Where the toilets are, near the bridge where the ducks are fed, there was a tap there where we could have a drink. How unhealthy! But it had a proper metal cup. You just used to press the top, take the cup off the hook…
A lion’s head was the cup.
…and have a drink. But they took that down many years ago. But I can remember – I was only very young – you could use it.
I remember there was a motor boat years ago. It cost you threepence to have a little ride. About 1½p, yeah and it held approximately twenty people.
Yeah. This chap, he had his cap on. He was very smart (laughs). He used to say, “Now, is everybody sitting still? Just don’t let the children dangle their fingers,” because I think there was fish and all sorts. They used to take you right the way round to the bottom end, towards the ring road, and then sit there for a second or two. It was only about fifteen minutes, and then back up again. You felt as if you’d been on a real good trip, you know.
It’s the same with the train now, actually. My two, who are now eighteen and twenty-one, it used to cost me a fortune. For the three of us to go on, it was about £4.50, £5.00. Then it went up to £6.50. So I got that I’d say, “Wouldn’t you rather have an ice cream or some cake or something?” (laughs) because it was expensive. But that is a lovely little railway.
Have you got a favourite memory of Markeaton Park?
(Pat) Yeah. The fresher ones are with my grandchildren, but before that, Wilf and I used to go on to the dancing every time he was there, Freddy Sharratt. The Freddy Sharratt Band.
You know the bandstand? Well, they put a bit of one up for a while, didn’t they, but it didn’t last.
But you just danced on the grass. It was lovely.
Really? So it was outside?
I think it was about sixpence, wasn’t it?
It was ever so cheap to get in. In fact, a lot of people wouldn’t pay because they came in from another angle, you know.
You could get in for nothing.
But it was lovely.
Do you remember when it was?
It was before we married, Wilf, wasn’t it?
So it was about— We were married in 1955, so it’d be in the area of ’54 to ’56. That’d be when it started. But obviously, when you get married and you’ve things to do— We perhaps popped down now and again, but we never used to missed it. ‘Oh, it’s dancing tonight, it’s dancing’. You used to meet all of your friends. Some people would just sort of standing there doing this and talking (laughs), you know.
(Wilf) We used to go down on motorbikes.
Yeah, all dressed up if we’d been out for the day, yeah.
Yeah, they used to park the motorbikes up and take the— Well, not leathers but clothing and all that and put them on the bikes in the bags and then go have a dance.
We didn’t miss it. It was your evening.
I’ve been with the children, the grandchildren, and I used to take a plastic bowl full of pasta (laughs) because we were there for a few hours. I got a little trolley, you know, the shopping trolleys that they have, and I used to take the towels, spare pants, spare (laughs)— Oh, it was lovely. And do you know, I could sit there and, “Granny, I’m just going on so-and-so. I’m just going on so-and-so.” “Okay. Well, you know where I am.” Quite safe.
One thing that people have said about parks, for all generations and ages, is that it’s a place where you can have a bit of freedom.
For the younger kids, they can have a bit of freedom…
And you get a bit of freedom because you get a bit of a break from the kids because they’re off and happy.
Yeah, that’s right. They can take their bikes.
Yes. I can see myself swinging my youngest one that’s eighteen on the swings and Rebecca had started school. So that would be – ’94 she was born. Five, six, seven. ’97, ’98, something like that.
It is a very, very popular park. People come from all over. You know as you sit talking to mums when you’re waiting for the kids?
“Oh no, we’ve come Long Eaton.” “No, we’ve come from Nottingham,” you know.
And you think, well how lovely, but there won’t be room for us soon (laughs) who live here.
We had a friend here on Saturday, a friend of Wilf’s – both of us actually – Terry, and his family are in America, New Jersey, and every time they come over, “No, we don’t want to do this. We don’t want to do that. We want to go on the park.” And he finishes up on Markeaton Park and they have ice cream, they have a go on this, that and the other, and they think it’s wonderful.
One year – this was in the 60s – we went down with the children. I’d got a little girl on a three-wheeler bike and I’d got a little baby in a pram, and we walked across the lake. Went down there and everybody was skiing. Honest… There was a man with skis on, wasn’t there?
And I was frightened, but other people were doing it with their pushchairs and riding across with their little two-wheeler bikes.
And their skates. Oh, they were moving, these chaps on their skates. They really were. They were ever so brave.
Yeah, they had to keep moving because they’d have gone through.
Yeah, but we just walked slow. And I thought, well, if it does give way, I’m just going to (laughs)— A baby in the pram, it’s terrible, isn’t it, really?
We got to the other side, but I can’t remember coming back. I think it was (laughs)—
But it was lovely to see everybody on it because, when you went there, it was just for a walk round to see the snow and all this sort of thing, and the ice. I also once took one of my grandchildren, John – and he’d got his wellies on and he said, “Can we go on the park?” I said, “Yes, you can if you like. Keep your wellies on, you’ll be okay.” We went down to the paddling pool and he just wanted to walk on the ice, you see. I said, “John, you cannot go on there. It isn’t ready.” “I’ll be all right, honestly. I’m be all right, honestly.” I said, “Well let me hold your hand then.” So I held his hand, the next thing he was in the water.
I said, “Do you know what you’ve got to do now, John, for doing what you were told not to do?”
“You’ve got to walk home with either no wellies or wet wellies.” “Oh, I’ll keep my wellies on,” he said, and it was squelch, squelch, squelch (laughs) all the way across the park and up here. Oh dear (laughs). He said, “I’m ever so sorry. I’m ever so sorry, Auntie Pat.” I said, “It doesn’t matter. Don’t worry about it. You’ve done it. You’ve experienced it.”
He’ll remember it.
Yeah, he will.
So, if they said we’re going to get rid of Markeaton Park tomorrow, would it mean anything to you? Does it mean anything to you now as a space?
What does it sort of mean to you?
Well, it’s part of your life.
Really, for me, memories.