Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Thames (NZ): THAMES PLAYGROUND, Queen Street

The Thames Playground, on Queen Street has been around since the mid 1900s (at least). There was talk after World War One that the town should place the Thames Peace Memorial here and establish a Peace Playground. For whatever reason this did not eventuate and the Memorial was placed up on the Waiotahi Spur.

In the 1920s as part of fundraising connected with the Diamond Jubilee celebrations of 1927, money was set aside to establish a playground on Queen Street. To area to be known as the Diamond Jubilee Reserve. The Auckland Star, 8 February 1929, reported that work was to finally commence on the playground. Money from the Jubilee had been allocated to other projects leaving 280 Pounds for the playground. The Government were giving a subsidy of 560 Pounds, this left a deficit of 124 Pounds. It was thought that the shortfall could be overcome. With regards to equipment for the playground, many donations had been promised.
Above: 1929 Proposed plan for Thames Playground.
Source: C Harrison, TCDC
The 1929 plans above, have items that certainly were at the later playground. The 'large chute'  is probably the large slide; swings and see saw; and merry go-round are all familiar. Interesting that the item 'ocean wave' is mentioned, many of us call it a merry-go-round, but ocean wave would fit with the way it went 'in and out' in a usually circular motion.

The playground was officially opened on Thursday 19 December 1929. It was known as the Diamond Jubilee Children's Playground. Opened by the Mayor Mr W Bongard.
The park must have proved popular, because there was a deputation of church ministers to the Thames Borough Council in January 1930 requesting that the swings and other apparatus be locked up on Sundays. "The council later considered the matter. Members said they considered that the issue lay with the parents and not with the council, which should not exercise jurisdiction on the point raised. There was nothing at the playground that would corrupt a child's morals. It was unanimously resolved that no action be taken." (New Zealand Herald, 24 January 1930)

In the 1940s, Thamesites memories recall the playground on Queen Street, south of Mary Street. The photo below is a 1947 of the Playground and toilet area.

In the 1965 view below, the playground apparatus are all centred around the tree in the centre. Swings, slides, see-saw, roundabout (big and small).

By 25 August 1972 the playground had been redeveloped and the Lions' Club project had built the Lighthouse slide and the Wakatere paddle steamer replica with surrounding paddling pool.
Thames, Thames-Coromandel District. Whites Aviation Ltd :Photographs. Ref: WA-70401-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22728785
Over the years the park has been revitalised and updated many times. Later given the title of Porritt Park - named after Governor-General Sir Arthur Porritt (1967-1972).
Late 1970s-early 1980s view of the Playground - see the large open slide and swings behind the Information Centre building.

Above: 1983 aerial view of the playground.
1980s Postcard gives a 3-in-1 bonus. Porritt Park Playground features in two with the old tunnels, lighthouse and of course the Wakatere. Plus a view of Thames looking south over the town.

Another view. In this you can see the Thames Information Centre is in the Park, later used by Citizens' Advice Bureau. Safety concerns no doubt led tot he demise of the lighthouse and tunnels - there are horror stories about what one would find within both. A large slide had previously been in a more northerly situation at the park.

In later years the boat has been slightly altered and masts removed. It now has the shopping mall as a backdrop. (2012 photos below)
 2013 view from Google maps of the Thames Playground, new equipment and fenced for safety.

Full article also in THE TREASURY JOURNAL