Inland Sandcastles

A 1901 photograph of the sandpit in Victoria Park.

Snippets 152.  In 1845 Victoria Park opened in London, and soon became a popular place for the working people of the East End of London to relax and enjoy playing games.  For many of the local children it would have been the only greenery they had ever seen.  It is bordered on two sides by canals: the Regent’s Canal and the Hertford Union Canal, both of which pre-date the opening of the park.  This fact seems to have been lost on the writer of the following newspaper article, from the 15th February 1893 edition of The Globe:

THE SANDS OF LONDON. Of all the work which the London County Council have performed — it bears a lamentably small proportion, unhappily, to the amount they have talked of performing—perhaps the most satisfactory is that which relates to open spaces.  During their tenure of office they have helped to save many desirable pieces of land from the builder, and have afterwards laid them out with a good deal of taste and judgment.  They have not been unmindful, moreover, of the fact that parks are intended not merely to walk about in, but to play in; and they have made suitable arrangements in many cases for the wants of cricket, football, and lawn tennis players.  Their last effort in the direction of meeting the youthful Londoners’ desire for recreation is not a little comic.

Some time ago it occurred to one of the members to propose that in some of the parks and open spaces the Council should provide sand heaps for the smaller children to play with.  The project is now to be given a trial in Victoria Park, where a large round pit is to be constructed and filled with real sea sand, that, as the City Press remarks, “with spades and buckets the little ones may enjoy themselves.”  But have they spades and buckets, and will they enjoy themselves?  Most of the little persons who frequent Victoria Park have had, we fear, few, if any, opportunities of tasting the delights of sand-castle building.  Mudpies are more in their line; and, as a building material, mud has few affinities with sand.  To those few youngsters, moreover, who do possess the necessary implements and the necessary experience, the Council’s sand-pit will bring somewhat dry delight. For after all, what is the chiefest joy of building sand-castles?  The sea, surely; which not only provides the proper atmosphere for the work, but destroys it as soon as it is finished, and smoothes the site for future operations.  There is no triumph in later life to equal that of standing on one’s own castle, still intact, though surrounded by water which has washed away one’s rival’s fortifications.  The little Victoria Parkers can know no joys like that, unless the Council means to run a canal from the German Ocean and provide real sea as well as real sand.

Rather a sneering article, isn’t it!  But the interesting thing is how unusual it once seemed to include sand in a park for children to play with, something that is now relatively commonplace in children’s play areas.

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About Roger Pocock

Co-writer on Author of Editor of
This entry was posted in 19th Century, Britain, England, History, London, Newspapers, People, Snippets and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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