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Now & Then: William Street car park

Now & Then: an occasional comparison of past and present (and sometimes the future). This time we’re hovering over what is currently the William Street car park.

1931

The area is grassed, with the cricket pitch in the middle being home to the Cheerful Sparrows (the local cricketers).The Hospital Fête is in full swing, throngs of people amongst the marquees, tents and stalls – a good time being had by all, I guess. Most of the buildings in the High Street (at the bottom of the picture) and William Street (left) are still recognisable, but the terraces in Queen Street and Kings Road (top) have now gone.

I’ve been told the cricket ground was turned into allotments during the Second World War as people Dug for Victory, and was never properly reinstated as a field/green/ground/pitch. At some point it fell into the clammy grasp of the Council, who immediately responded with their own version of TLC – Tarmacked Long-stay Car park.

2010

The cricket pitch has gone, leaving just a few patches of grass in municipal shapes. A lot of space set aside for cars. A few noticably chunky buildings – the Kavanagh and swimming pool, Morrison’s, and the blocks of flats on the High Street, Queen Street and King’s Road.

2014-ish

The roofline of the High Street and William Street is unchanged, but now contrasts with the large blocky shapes that have appeared on and near the old car park. An architect once explained to me that the commonest mistake in town centre developments is for the new to be “out of scale” with the old.

Modern construction techniques mean that it is now possible to make windows, walls and roofs bigger, taller, longer and flatter. Modern construction economics mean that big, simple shapes are cheaper to build, which is why we’re getting big simple shapes that are “out of scale”.

P.S. any more information about the history and background of this once-lovely patch of land would be most welcome. 

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