Eastbourne Memories - A Victorian Perspective

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Chap. XVII.j Wanted: a Public Park.                     223
The most serious discussion on the subject at the Local Board had taken place on November 6, 1882, when a memorial was presented to the Board to which 1100 signatures were attached, urging the Board to make a further attempt to obtain Mr. Gilbert's Field (which •came to be known as " Elphick's Field ") as a Public Park and Recreation Ground. Fortified by this strong expression from outside, I moved and carried the following resolution :—" That a special Committee be appointed to ascertain what steps can best be taken to secure Elphick's Field." It will be observed that the language of this was very general, not to say vague, but I was content that it should be so in view of the feeling which existed in the minds of some of the members, that if my pet scheme of a 42-acre Park broke down (as it did eventually) from financial considerations, there might yet be a chance of securing a portion of Elphick's Field, and 11 acres was the area talked about at the meeting in question as the minimum worth trying for. This in point of fact has been (but in two stages), something like the settlement of the question which is now (1910) in force. It will be observed however, that Mr. Currey's handsome offer of 1880 on the part of the Duke of Devonshire necessarily lapsed in view of the arrangement ultimately made with Mr. Gilbert.
The foregoing is a very birds-eye view of the discussions which took place. Though the Committee appointed in November 1882, reported in favour of the acquisition of Elphick's Field, or of some part of it, it was virtually decided to let the matter go to sleep till the Incorporation of the town, then imminent, had taken place, when a new body, the Town Council, might be more inclined and more able to push the matter through. We tried and we failed again to bring about a satisfactory result, as will be readily understood when I mention that the sliding scale-rent demanded was £1000 a year from 1894 to 1913 ; then £1500 a year tiU 1943 ; ending with £2000 a year in perpetuity. The final result was that the Town Council obviously could not accept such terms, and in June 1887, Mr. Gilbert agreed to let the
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