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June 5, 2014

Raphael web WHEN people power and a listening Local Authority get together, things happen.
Havering’s Jewel on the ground of greenery and water, Raphael Park, threw open the gates this week celebrating 110 years since it was first opened to the public, and completion of a two year major overhaul of the 40 acre site.
With greener grass, full flower beds and major refurbishment to walks, buildings and the Band Stand, Raphael Park is back in business.
Standing by the lake on Monday, it was obvious that the Heritage Lottery Fund grant of £1.87m, Council funding and Veolia Havering Riverside Trust money has been well spent.
But it only happened because a determined Romford mum, Julia Herold (pictured below)  knew she could make a difference.
Julia Herold wThe mother of two lads Daniel and Charles and Emma their dog, says she finally had enough back in 2004 when the park had degenerated to its lowest.
She said: “Everywhere you looked there was rubbish, broken beer bottles in the grass, and it had become a dangerous place not only for the children and our dog to play in, but intimidating gangs of youngsters that made life a misery.”
The once beautiful park off Main Road, had been let slip, as cutbacks in staffing and resources over a number of years had taken a hard toll.
“I thought we must be able to make a defence,” said Julia. “The council suggested setting up a Friends of Raphael Park group, so I sat down and made up a list of 15 things that would restore our once beautiful park.”
The one woman dynamo told an invited gathering at the Park on Monday (June 2), that of the 15 wishes,11 of had been achieved, the other three were coming, and she introduced her magnificent team of dedicated helpers, all local residents, who by volunteering and hard work, ‘had made the difference in achieving the dream’. (below the original opening in 1904 and invited guests 110 years later) 1904 opening w
Once the funding and contractors were secured, work started in December 2012, and progressed until this week with our finest park restored to its former glory.
She said: “I was walking through the park over the weekend, and had to stop to take it all in. I thought how amazing this has been and how it had been created Raphael Park opening wby this wonderful group of people whom I am proud to call Friends of Raphael Park.”
One of Julia’s unfulfilled wishes is for a permanently based Park Keeper. She is well on the way with a new post of Park Manager, going to former Camden official, Peter Stewart.
Mayor and tree 2 wTo mark the occasion, the Mayor of Havering Cllr Eric Munday (pictured right) planted a Thuja (Arbor vitae) tree, the same variety planted by Mrs Raphael in 1904 when the park was opened.
In their guide, the Friends give the history of the site of Gidea Hall.
From1452 to 1629 the country estate was owned by the Cooke family, and was located to the north of Main Road, a moated house within 200 acres of parkland containing a deer park, rabbit warren and fishpond.
From 1629 the estate changed hands several times until acquired Sir John Eyles, in 1710. His son sold the manor in 1745 to Richard Benyon, and it remained in the Benyon family until 1802 when his grandson sold the estate to Alexander Black. The estate remained in the family until the death of their daughter Anne in 1892.
running away w( In all seasons, the park maintains its beauty in winter and summer) It was then sold for development in 1893 and resold to Sir Herbert H. Raphael, barrister and Liberal MP for South Derbyshire in 1897.  (Julia’s team of Friends of Raphael Park: Julia, David Drury, Kim McNulty, Sue Mackenzie, Len Oatham, Ian Miller, Christopher Sullivan, Trevor Preedy, not in picture)Julia Herold and team w
Gidea Hall had originally been built as a three-storey mansion with a lake.
The moat was retained and incorporated into the formal layout of canals and avenues with a long canal, known as the Spoon Pond.shadow red teaser w
The estate was enlarged in 1776, with the lake spanned by a new bridge of three elliptical arches built to carry the road across the greater width of water.
Herbert Raphael gave a canal and five acres, together with 15 acres of gardens, to Romford Urban District Council in 1902 for use as a public park ‘for the benefit of the townspeople’.
Named after the family, Raphael Park was opened in 1904.Apprentices and two w
The park is well used, with the lake attracting common water birds; great crested grebe and tufted duck breed regularly, mute swan occasionally. There are two islands, both covered in woodland of sycamore, oak, horse chestnut and common lime. (Council apprentices and workers Peter Woolacott, William Evans, Verity Joyner, Charlie Culliford and Gary Storey. bottom left Peter Steward Park Manager and right  Borough Parks Officer, Martin Stanton)Peter Steward w
Sadly one casualty of the redevelopment is the family who have run a cafe service from the small building in the middle of the park for the past 18 years.Martin Stanton LBH w
However, the new purpose built cafeteria and resource centre should be open soon.
Raphael Park is definitely Havering’s finest park with a setting of aged trees set around a picturesque lake. A purpose build rockery forming a stage is the scene every year of William Shakespeare’s comedies with Twelfth Night playing over the last two weeks of this month (June) and transforming the surrounding trees into a light painted and highly atmospheric open theatre.
Such is this gift to the people of Romford.
The refurbished Raphael Park has become a monument to those caring residents who have made the difference and the Local Authority who chipped in and helped them achieve it.



From → Entertainment

  1. Hi Barry,

    Many thanks for taking the time to cover our fantastic story. The whole story is a dedication to all our fantastic volunteers without whom none of this would have happened.


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