Toby Wood (right ,holding child) when he was a playleader in Cromwell Road
Toby Wood (right ,holding child) when he was a playleader in Cromwell Road

Looking back: ‘Peterborough’s summer playschemes in the 70s, Margaret Poole and Hobsons playground’

The splendid picture of Hobson’s adventure playground sparked memories for many including Toby Wood of Peterborough Civic Society.

Saturday, 25th September 2021, 3:45 pm

Toby told me: “Following Chris Porsz’s picture of Hobsons adventure playground, I thought I’d give you a bit more detail!

“I was the first play leader there so know a fair amount about this!

“The very first summer playscheme for primary-aged children was started by CRADCA, the Cromwell Road and District Community Association – a forerunner of GLADCA, the Gladstone District Community Association, in 1970.

“The first playscheme was based in a house, 30 Cromwell Road, which was CRADCA’s preschool during term time.

“The preschool was run by a formidable woman called Margaret Poole, who insisted that I made sure that everything was clean and tidy at the end of each day! The original playscheme was for about 30 children. I attach a photograph (above right) of us in those days!

“The helpers in the photo with me are Julia Crowden, Jane Gamble and Joe Singh. The photograph was taken in Cromwell Road – note how few cars there are there!

“I also attach a photograph of some children going to the Odeon Cinema in the same year.

“The reason I got involved is as follows – I was on Cathedral Square at Easter 1970 watching local strongman Walter Cornelius attempt the world hot cross bun eating record!

“A man approached me with a tin, David Jost, and he got chatting to me about raising money for the adventure playground.

“When he heard that I was a student teacher, his eyes lit up!

“By the end of the conversation I had given him no money but had agreed to be the first play leader during the summer holidays. David and I are still good friends.

“In 1971 The Hobsons horse repository became available.

“This was an area of stables between Cromwell Road and Lincoln Road which had been used in years gone past by livestock traders keeping animals overnight before they were sold at the cattle market in Peterborough, either on a Wednesday or a Saturday.

“The area was owned by the council and was perfect for our objective of adventure play.

“There was an area of about 20 individual stables around a central courtyard.

“At the beginning of the summer we allocated each stable to a group of children who could then build a den and decorate them in any way they wanted. Hence the nails, hammers and building equipment.

“In the few holidays that I worked there, there was only one major accident where a lad stood on a nail and had to be taken to hospital. Yes, there were a few minor cuts and bruises but nothing serious – this was adventure play after all!

“Later on, after my involvement, the city council took over the running of the playground and it was based at the Metal Box company building in Cromwell Road.

“The council also opened up another adventure playground – the Spinney at Westwood. The development corporation open up its own adventure playgrounds – Crofts corner at Bretton, the Tunnel in Orton Golday and Paston Farm. The Development Corporation had an adventure play officer – Donne Buck, with his wife Elisabeth , formed New Ark!”

Many thanks to Toby for sharing his memories

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