FRESH START ‘Peace celebrations’ on Castle Lawn, July 1919

THE campaigners behind Keep River Lawn Green have discovered that the public space was given to the people of the town ‘for recreational purposes’ almost a century ago in the aftermath of the Great War.

River Lawn is threatened with being sold off to private developers for housing while the adjacent River Walk is on the verge of changing hands so that a new medical centre can be built on the site of the old Teen and Twenty Club.

Residents are calling for the creation of a town council with a more hands-on approach to Tonbridge’s public spaces compared to the attitude of the Borough Council, whose offices are 10 miles away in Kings Hill.

Councillor Trudy Dean says: “It is unacceptable that land bought for people who had just come through the horrors of World War One should be sold just as we prepare to celebrate the centenary of the peace they were enjoying.”

Lucy Athey and Mark Hood found the then Urban District Council bought land specifically for the enjoyment of residents as well as jobs for war veterans through the Employment Grants Committee.

Official minutes from 1921 describe the council’s desire to ‘continue the River Walk along the bank to Corner Boatyard and Avebury Avenue, providing a footpath from Buleys Weir through Lamberts Yard to the High Street, providing a small paddling and sailing pool for children’.

The minutes go on to include a surveyor’s instructions for ‘levelling up the remainder of the site to provide a level greensward for recreational purposes, screening the back of the High Street with a row of trees’ and also ‘providing seating along the River Walk and children’s swings’.

The surveyor added: “I anticipate that the improvement would affect a marked transformation and would be of great value in the future to the inhabitants in the immediate neighbourhood.”