1955 - the present, Working in the Park

People’s enjoyment of the park depends on those working in it to keep it tidy and well-maintained, although much has changed since this picture of a groundsman sweeping leaves was taken in October 1957.     

Sweeping leaves from the lawns of Pounds Park in 1957 (The Box accession reference 3488/5724)

Tools and equipment have become more capable but staff numbers have declined significantly and perceptions of tidiness have changed too.

The City Engineer in his 1981 report compared the numbers of staff employed in Central Park in 1973 and in 1981 like this:

Craftsmen/ Gardeners33
Craftsmen/ Gardeners31
Labourers 53
Park Attendants52

In 2022, three grounds staff were dedicated to Central Park although supported by mobile teams for waste collection, grass cutting and similar work.  Volunteers were active too in several ways, especially with tending young trees. Maintenance regimes have also become more nature-friendly with grass being cut annually in areas planted with wildflowers.  

Sadly, beautiful places often appear to attract incidents of vandalism, and make life more difficult for everyone as well as being expensive to repair. 

The park foreman in 1955 inspecting a vandalised drinking fountain. Western Morning News 20th October 1955
(The Box accession reference 2732/10)

The problem appeared to be particularly acute across the country between the late 1960s and late 1970s to the extent that the Home Office commissioned a report in 1975 into this ‘national disgrace’.  Actions in Plymouth included a ‘Ban the Vandal’ campaign with leaflets and posters, and the attacks which had caused significant damage to Central Park’s clock tower, bowling pavilion, playground equipment, goalposts and the plant nursery, as well as tombstones in Ford Park Cemetery, gradually became less frequent.