'For recreation and health'
IN 1887, the Corporation decided to buy 38 acres of land in south Bristol, between St Luke's road and Windmill Hill, describing it as "a very desirable site for a Pleasure Ground" .
A park for Redcliffe and Bedminster, the views, it was said, "would be especially appreciated by the working classes".
A public meeting the following year urged the Corporation to bring the land "under proper control" and suggested that it be named Victoria Park.
The Bristol Times and Mirror newspaper pointed out that this new park was not just about recreation, or even amusement, but health.
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It was important, said the paper, that open spaces like this be preserved and never built upon.
Another two years went by before the land, which included an old rope walk, was transferred from the Ashton Court estate to the Corporation.
In 1889, as work progressed, the park was presented with an ornate drinking fountain by a local Liberal councillor. A year later and a bandstand was added.
In 1891/2, however, the Corporation was forced to take out a loan for the park's completion – to cover fencing, walls, railings, gates, gravel paths, seats, shelters, toilets and the like.
It was around this time that housing started to fill in gaps around the park.
Rather than being mown, as you might expect, the grass was kept under control by a flock of sheep.
By 1897, it was reported that the swings, see-saws and horizontal bars were in "constant use and much appreciated by the public".
The park now had two drinking fountains, a pond (at the St Luke's road entrance) plus an extra attraction – a large cannon from the Crimea.
Similar ones, carted away for scrap in the last war, were to be found in St George park and on Brandon Hill.
An open-air pool opened in 1905, followed by tennis courts, a bowling green and a quoits ground.
Much of the park's Victorian character has sadly been lost over the years, but a new play area, a cafe, a skate park, a wildlife area and a water maze (based on a roof boss in St Mary Redcliffe church) are welcome additions.
A Victoria Park Action Group (VPAG) started some 10 years ago, with the of preserving and improving the facilities, which now cover some 60 acres.