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Victoria Park, Ashford, Kent

acta prepared a conservation plan for this Victorian park that was substantially enlarged in the 1970s to include former pasture and part of the Great Stour river. Although it was separated from the hilltop town of Ashford by the river and railway, our research showed that the park was the town’s main venue for events and recreation before the Second World War and also that it lay within a network of historic routes. Its most imposing feature was, and remains, the Hubert Fountain, made for the Second Great Exhibition in London in 1862 and given to the town 50 years later.

Early in the Second World War Ashford was recognised as being of strategic importance in the event of a German invasion and defences were assembled to form ‘fortress Ashford’. The south boundary of the fortress was the river along the north boundary of the park. After the war there was a gradual decline in the Victorian and Edwardian features, but the enlargement of the park brought in areas of wetland and new woodland was planted. The plan puts forward policies for extending and enriching wildlife habitats as the new focus for the site.

  1. Victoria Park had most of the features of an Edwardian public park and was closely linked to the town’s leading citizens. The bandstand and each of the four shelters were donated by councillors. People who misbehaved were brought before the parks committee
  2. The park was constructed next to the route leading into the town’s market from the south. The wetland in the foreground became a pond within the park
  3. The ford across the Great Stour was an important crossing point long before it was part of the park
  4. The grade II* Hubert Fountain was given to the town in 1915. It is made of cast iron originally painted to look like bronze
  5. Relics of Ashford’s importance in the Second World War survive. On the north bank of the river, a line of concrete bases still holds posts for a wire framework that formed a line of defence