GRAYS BEACH


  The beach opens
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By December Mr James had submitted several schemes for the layout of the river wall and the committee recommended that scheme No.1 be adopted. This included fencing, an open air swimming pool and lake; the rest of the land to be for a children’s cricket ground, bowling green and for other games. Also trees, shrubs, seats, a shelter, a store and WCs. The total cost would be 3964.3.8d, including 40 for the Williams’ memorial fountain. Application was to be made to the Local Government Board to borrow 4000. Mr Brooks said he had no desire to rush the matter through and proposed the rate payers have a chance to look at the scheme and this was eventually agreed. Local unemployed men were to start work on levelling the ground and erecting fences. Baynes, Jones & Bayliss of Wolverhampton were chosen to supply the fencing. The surveyor reported that the work was making good progress using 55 previously unemployed men. By the end of February 1905 work had discontinued and the men laid off; only the fencing remained to be done. The Local Government Board had written regarding the request to borrow 4000 and to say that an inquiry would be held at Grays as soon as possible.

At the Inquiry in March 1905 there were several objections on the basis of cost and necessity of such a scheme. Councillor Boatman gave a “statesmanlike speech ‘for’”. The inquiry closed with the Inspector remarking that he would go and view the spot. A letter was received from the Local Government Board the following month, saying they had adjourned their decision to lend 4000 until permission had been obtained from Thames Conservancy and the Board of Trade for the public walks and pleasure grounds. By June a letter had been received from Thames Conservancy giving permission for the Council to construct a sloping beach on the condition the work was carried out and maintained to their satisfaction. In July formal approval had been received from the Board of Trade. In August the Local Government Board had written to say they had received several objections to the scheme, including a petition with 360 signatures. Council discussion ensued re the pros and cons of this scheme. Mr Boatman said some signatures were obtained by saying the scheme would cost 12,000. Councillor John Golden published a letter in the Gazette on 2 Sep 1905 stating he was much in favour of the scheme. This was followed by letters from Mr R. Stone and ‘Another Busybody’, both against the scheme.

On 16 September 1905 the Council agreed to write to the Local Government Board stating they had no intention of exceeding the 4000 asked for.A lengthy discussion had taken place, lasting until 10.30 pm. By the following month the Local Government Board had written to sanction the borrowing of 2500, which did not include the cost of a swimming bath. The LCC had written to offer to sell the Shaftesbury swimming bath and of an acre of land for 750; this was declined.

In February 1906 the lake was still being dug, providing work for the unemployed. Tenders opened for filling in land next to the river wall with ballast and it was agreed to accept the offer of Messrs Goldsmith to deliver free alongside the saltings, the barges to be unloaded at the Council’s expense. Mr Farrow said he hoped as many men as possible would be put to work on this scheme as the distress of the poor in the town was severe. In March the surveyor reported that work on the river wall was making good progress. He had been asked to report on deepening the pond on the river wall so as to provide for a swimming bath and to erect shelters for bathers. The surveyor stated the extra work would be about 90 with 14 for fencing and 50 for shelters and the Council gave instructions for work to proceed. Approximately 1000 was in hand and it was agreed that 500 be allocated for completion of the beach. The committee selected the design for the granite memorial to be erected to commemorate the gift of land from Mr Williams and the coronation of the King.
In June 1906 the site was viewed and the Council recommended it be known as The Beach. A report recommended a total of fifteen proposals, including a refreshment building and chairs to be available for hire. The Exmouth Band were to play one night a week. Councillor Golden was presenting a pair of swans for the lake (to be placed in an enclosure whilst bathing was taking place). There should also be toilet facilities and the employment of a caretaker. The report was adopted. It was agreed that the Town Band play at the beach on Sunday July 25. Mr Pavis had applied for permission to erect two stalls on the beach for the remainder of the season and offered 7, which was also agreed. The formal opening was agreed for Monday evening July 30th by Chairman of the Council Mr Herbert E. Brooks JP CC.

On 4 August 1906 the Gazette reported in full on the opening ceremony, with the heading “Tremendous crowds and unbounded enthusiasm’ There was a swimming display, fireworks and the Town Band played. Tributes to the Council were given, especially to Mr A.W. Boatman, the prime mover of the whole scheme. Mr Williams’ son unveiled the drinking fountain on which was inscribed “To commemorate the accession of King Edward VII William Williams Esq JP of Swansea gave an acre of this land to the town of Grays”. “Grays Rock” and “Grays Chocolate” was sold by the Co-operative Society and a souvenir of the occasion was prepared by Mr J Higgins containing a short history of Grays with many photographs. Various letters of appreciation appeared in the Gazette, even from those originally opposed to the scheme. This event was also reported in The Times and other national newspapers.

Planning the beach                                          The later years

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