It was in February 1946 that it was first mooted that Wickford needed a recreational area, and that a Park would make a very suitable war memorial for Wickford losses from World War II. In many ways this fitted with the plans from World War I that had led to a ‘living memorial’ having been created by way of the Nurses Home.
In January 1947 the organisers of the War Memorial Fund Committee approached the Council with a proposal to see additional land purchased at the Runwell Road end, and the placing of gates and the planting of an Avenue of Remembrance; fund raising began in earnest immediately.
In 1949 the Park officially became known as the Wickford War Memorial Park and the Avenue of Remembrance was planted with 49 trees and was dedicated on Sunday, December 4. The Avenue was planted with a double layer of trees with smaller flowering versions closest to the path and more traditional larger trees in the second row. In front of these were white painted stone plinths, mounted with a bronze plaque which bore the names of those who had fallen.
The memorial gates had been added in 1951, and a flag pole a few years later, as well as some formal flower beds, greeted visitors to the park. Interestingly the gates had been designed by a former RAF serviceman who had leant architecture whilst held as a POW in Germany, having been shot down during a raid.
A further 36 acres were donated and added to the park to provide an area for camping, playing fields and for special needs children to be able to visit safely. In the 1970s the bowling green was added, and in 1975 a brick built pavilion, whilst 1978 saw the crazy golf added.
In November 1976, with the demolition of the Nurses Home, the tablets that had been mounted outside it were transferred to just inside the gates at the War Memorial Park. Here they were mounted most unsympathetically in two large concrete blocks and became the centre piece for the annual Remembrance Day parade. Some 20 years later they were joined by a plaque mounted in a similar style recording the names of those lost in World War II, although sadly the names on the plaque did not tally up with those on the tree plinths.
By 2004 the plaques were deteriorating and a local campaign built up steam that saw the formation of the Wickford War Memorial Association which took the lead in campaigning for a new memorial, more in keeping with the sacrifices they represented. Finally on November 4, 2011 the new memorial was unveiled.
For details on the new memorial read on to part 3.