Bid to restore Lowestoft pleasure park

Anyone who has spent happy times in one of Lowestoft's best-loved parks is being asked to share their memories and photos in a bid to restore it to its glory days.

Anyone who has spent happy times in one of Lowestoft's best-loved parks is being asked to share their memories and photos in a bid to restore it to its glory days.

Visitors may recall wandering through the gardens of Sparrows Nest, delighting in circus acts, or being stationed there during the Second World War.

Now Andrew Kitchen, Waveney's arts and heritage manager, says if funding from a Heritage Lottery scheme, Parks for People, could be secured, it could help restore old walls and buildings and even lead to a revival of the 'pleasure gardens'.

He is appealing for people to send in their photos and memories, as well as ideas for the future.

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"People have got great family history of the park," he said. "The canvas is broad and the opportunities rich for investigation, but I am really keen to hear from people across the district about what Sparrows Nest means to them, see old photos and postcards and hear old stories.

He added: 'What could be restored or revived - what new could be introduced and widely appeal?'

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He said ideas for the future could include creating an outdoor gym, promoting the gardens as a spot for wedding ceremonies, and bringing back entertainment with an outdoor cinema, concerts and plays.

He added: "No one is looking to damage or change the quality of Sparrows Nest - rather to return it to its former deserved status as a Lowestoft jewel.

"We're not going to put on something horrendously modern or futuristic - we're just looking to recapture the same energy it used to have."

He said that with the caravan site on the North Denes due to re-open, work to revive the park, which is near the lighthouse, could have a positive 'knock-on" effect on the High Street and the north end of the town.

Send contributions to Mr Kitchen as soon as possible to arts& by post to Town Hall, High Street, Lowestoft, Suffolk, NR32 1HS.

The name Sparrows Nest was derived from the 19th century owner of the land, Robert Sparrow, who used the large house in the grounds as a summer home, and whose main home was Worlingham Hall, near Beccles. It is arguable whether or not it the word 'Sparrows' should be spelt with an apostrophe.

In 1897 the house and pleasure gardens were auctioned and bought by the Lowestoft Corporation, which named the park Sparrows Nest, which legend has it, did not meet the approval of Mr Sparrow.

In the 20th century the enclosed venue hosted concert parties, circus and variety acts, moving into a marquee and then to the Sparrows Nest Pavilion Theatre, which opened in 1913 and was demolished in 1991.

During the Second World War, the park and buildings were taken over for naval use and became Pembroke X and later HMS Europa, the central depot for the Royal Naval Patrol Service.

The park used to contain glass houses for plants, and adjoining land known as Arnold's Bequest was once known as the 'Hanging Gardens of Lowestoft'.

Covering almost seven acres adjoining the North Denes beach, Sparrows Nest currently boasts a popular coffee shop, three museums, a tiny cinema and a bowls green.

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