Wardown Park is the jewel in the crown

Boating lake in Wardown Park, Luton, in August 1962.
Boating lake in Wardown Park, Luton, in August 1962.

Wardown, situated on the River Lea, is described as the jewel in the crown of Luton’s parks.

The town acquired Wardown, which was originally a farmhouse and country residence known as Bramingham Shott, 110 years ago.

When owner Halley Stewart decided to sell it, the price wanted was £17,000. This seemed a lot of money to the town council, especially as it was so close to People’s Park and The Moor, and they hesitated to buy.

But two council members, Asher Hucklesby and Edwin Oakley, puchased it privately for £16,250 and sold it back to the town at exactly the same price, the council by this time having realised its mistake.

Wardown was a tremendous success. The lake was extended to make an open air swimming pool, a suspension bridge was built and boats were introduced.

Bowling greens, tennis courts and a cricket ground were laid out and a paddling pool and playground added to the many attractions.

Wardown House was a white elephant though, and the best use that could be found for it for many years was as a restaurant. The building was converted into a military hospital during the First World War and it became a museum in 1931.

Restoration of the park was completed in 2005 using £1million of lottery funding.But the bridge was closed in 2012 due to safety fears and has remained locked up since after a failed council bid for lottery money for repairs.