The History of Normanton Park

The front cover of the programme from opening day.

The front cover of the programme from opening day.

the early days

Normanton Park was formally opened on 4th September 1909 as the Normanton Recreation Ground. The event was marked by a garden party in the presence of the Duke of Devonshire, and other local notables. A number of bands played, including the 5th Battalion of the Sherwood Foresters and the Derby Excelsior Prize Band. The Lord Bishop of Southwell said dedicatory prayers. The plan on the back of the programme for the grand opening shows a flagstaff at the top end of the Park, where there is currently a basketball post.

A number of soldiers trained in Normanton Park during World War I, and in 1919 there was a grand procession from the middle of Town as a tank was brought into to Park.

Presentation of a tank to Derby: a memorable occasion Friday, May 3rd, will be well remembered in Derby as the date on which the old county town was rewarded, in some measure, for its patriotism and loyalty to the flag during the years of world-struggle.  Derby was one of the six towns to be presented with what is known as a male tank in recognition of the great efforts made in support of the war savings movement, when 26 Million pounds was raised to carry on the fight.  The tank was formally handed over to the civic authorities of Derby on the Normanton Recreation Ground on Friday afternoon, General Sir John Maxwell making the presentation. Derby Advertiser 30 May 1919.

An Art Deco building, by the Derby City Archtiect Charles Herbert Aslin, was opened as a clubhouse for the Bowls club in 1935.


In 1940, during the Second World War, a shot-down German Messerschmidt was displayed in the Park (though it was actually shot down in the South of England and displayed around the country for fund-raising purposes). Holiday activities were run in the Park during the War as part of the Holidays at Home movement.

In 1951 as part of the Festival of Britain celebrations, another new building opened in Normanton Park, and eventually became a new home for the Bowls Club, until the Club folded and the building fell into disrepair.

In the 1960s, Normanton Park was well known for its interesting summer 3-D flower beds, featuring folk tales and nursery rhymes, for example The Old Woman who lived in a Shoe, and Goldilocks and the Three Bears.


Over the years, the Park has continued to develop and adapt to new users and activities. Playground equipment has come and gone, the tennis courts have vanished, but there is a fine set of cricket practice nets in their place. The old refreshment rooms have opened and closed, and are now run by the Green Thyme Community Hub.