Wrexham County Borough 89 - Acton Park , the hanging judge and the diamond merchant

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July 14th 2022
Published: July 14th 2022
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You know what it is like don't you ? You want to do something but you cannot find anything to do . It always happens after you live somewhere for a while . You exhaust all the local walks . All the nearest English Heritage , Cadw and National Trust properties are out of travelling distance. To top it all there is nothing going on in town .

After much searching I found a plant fair going on at Cholmondeley Castle gardens . Brilliant I thought as I realised the entrance fee was halved today . So instead of £9 each to see the gardens we could pay £4.50 and benefit from the plant fair with the garden half price . Without too much ado I set to booking the tickets . How hard could that be ? After two aborted attempts I gave up and went back to searching for somewhere else to visit .

Hodnet Hall - open today . Entrance fee £9 each . Having refused to pay £9 for Cholmondeley Gardens I felt obliged to ignore this one . Wollerton Old Hall open tomorrow . Same price . I was beginning to think there was nothing going to appear that was worth visiting .

In the end we turned up almost on our doorstep . Walking in Acton Park . 64 acres of parkland that had once been part of the Acton Hall Estate . We parked up in the small car park and set out for our walk . The park had been a familiar place to me from childhood . Memories kept flooding back as we walked beneath the shady trees . They were welcome today as the heat of high summer was unbearable . We walked the twisty paths and kept coming out in open parkland or in dense woodland . The wall surrounding the park still exists . Built high to keep the common folk out . I walked Jeffreys Road many times when there were more fields than houses and the wall was always there . A constant in an ever changing world . The fields I remembered had long gone . In the late 60's we walked those fields . Some even rode horses . The twin gates at the Four Dogs was our entrance into the parkland . The motorbikes parked outside . Leaving their bikes propped up they went into Sams cafe for a well earned cold milk shake . Any variety available and a game of socket to finish the day off . 6d in the machine gave a few minutes football playing and another 6d could go into the juke box .

Plunge deep enough in order to see something that is hidden and glimmering - that was what I had read this morning when I ripped off todays message on my calendar . Written by Matsuo Basho it was thought provoking as we were finding something hidden behind this great wall . The owners of the Hall did not want the riff raff in their grounds and it was clear to see how they were kept out .

The land that the park is on has had several owners in the past. In the 16th century it was owned by the Jeffreys family . George known as the Hanging Judge became notorious for delivering extremely harsh sentences on the followers of Monmouths rebellion in 1685. I wondered if the people living in Jeffreys Road felt the connection and wanted to remove the name of the road and replace it with something a little less notorious . It was odd to be talking about the hanging judge as we walked along the pretty paths lined in places with bamboos and tall grasses . There was nothing formal about this part of the park . It did remind us of the Bamboo garden we recently visited . Only this was on a small scale , manned and cared for by volunteers called the Friends of Acton Park .

We came out in the Japanese garden . A typical Japanese arch was painted bright red . The bridge over the small rills was painted red and the words Croeso - welcome emblazoned in gold . The coots and moorhens swam in the murky water .

In the 18th century the estate was purchased by Sir Foster Cunliffe. Another street in nearby Rhosddu was named after the Cunliffe family who made their fortune through the slave trade. Another street that may end having its name changed due to its murky past . They used the park for hunting .

During the first world war the land took on a different persona . It was used as a training ground for troops before they headed for France . There seemed to be so much history and all marked by information boards .

Our walk took us around the lake with its fish sculpture in the middle . Sadly a touch overgrown with summer grasses . Canada Geese and mallards swam and I remembered mute swans . The local fishing club had taken over the pond and fished for bream and pike . Water lilies grew on the margins . They were in flower .

Another owner of the parkland was Bernard Oppenheimer the diamond merchant who sold off much of the land to the local council for housing . The volunteers had provided benches where we could sit down and I was able to tell the tales of going to the lake in the summer months . We never climbed on the japanese bridge which crossed from one side to the other as it was clearly unsafe in the 60's. It was removed , the lake drained , new lining replaced the old and the lake refilled . It now looked more charming than ever before .

The old house was once owned by William Aston, a leading furniture maker, who used the hall to store and show his furniture range. This allowed public access to the hall and park for the first time. In the past the locals could enjoy boating on the lake, a lakeside tea room, an oriental garden and theatre performances. The Second World War halted these activities, when the site was used as a base and training facility for servicemen of all nationalities. Sadly it was at this point in time around 1956/1957 that the hall fell into disrepair and was finally demolished .

There once was an eisteddfod held here and the standing stones for the bardic circle were still here and in 1947 the hall and park were presented to Wrexham Borough Council. New facilities were developed to service the growing population of the Acton Park area which included a bowling green, tennis courts and play areas.

A new hall grew up that was styled on the old hall . New apartments at a luxury price .

The park at least was being used and enjoyed . Mums , grans and grandads were taking their children and grandchildren for a day in the park. The local nursery had brought the children to enjoy the facilities and a local school had come out to enjoy the sunshine giving a lesson outdoors . That is what a park should be used for . It was good to see it being brought back to life .

So we did not get to the plant fare nor to any of the gardens I had planned . Instead I had the opportunity to remember walks in the old park , along the park wall and relive some memories of childhood and being a teenager .


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