Wednesday, June 29th, 2022

The day a lion cub went on the prowl at the site of the new Sevenoaks car park

THE NEW Sevenoaks Town multi-decked Car Park opened on 8 April and is providing 480 long-stay parking spaces to the town. It sits on the former Buckhurst 2 car park site next to the leisure centre, swimming pool and town library. But can you remember what was there before? – asks My Sevenoaks Community editor Frank Baldwin

Prior to the second world war the land at the end of Buckhurst lane contained a row of cottages, a large house and a few outbuildings. This landscape all changed a few weeks before Christmas in 1940 when German Luftwaffe bombs flattened much of the area.

The bombsite became an exciting playground for local children before it was eventually cleared as it was a danger to the public. Older residents remember there being some allotments on the site plus a lovely open green space surrounded by trees which was known as Buckhurst Meadow (although it may previously also been called Buckhurst Field).

The meadow provided a venue for a whole host of local events including the popular town fireworks and bonfire night. It also became a race track for an annual lawn mower race which often turned the grass into a muddy bog.

A group of Sevenoaks schoolboys marked out their own wicket on the meadow for friendly games of cricket in the summer and this eventually led to the formation of Buckhurst CC who went on to play at Knole Paddock for many years.

And then there was the excitement of when the circus came to town. Once a year, a big top was erected on Buckhurst Meadow and surrounded by a few fairground rides and games.

BACK IN TIME: Stuart (left) and Mark Tutt with the lion cub from the circus at Buckhurst Meadow in Sevenoaks.

Roger Tutt, who was working as a local photographer in those days, remembers one amusing incident with the circus during the 1970s. He said: “I went down to Buckhurst Meadow to photograph a lion cub that I had been told was one of the circus attractions.

“I was very surprised when the lady looking after it handed me the cub on a dog lead and said I could take it away and photograph it wherever I wanted!

“You couldn’t do this today as, quite rightly, performing circus animals are a thing of the past. But I was allowed to put the cub in the back of my company van and then I drove home to Kemsing, picked up my two sons, drove back to Buckhurst Meadow and took some pictures of them with the lion. I remember the cub was called ‘Truder’ – because it was an intruder as the owners were surprised when it was born.”

Although all that remains of Buckhurst Meadow are a few of the trees that ran alongside, there is still some open space for people to enjoy in the form of the Environmental Park behind the new car park.

The new multi-decked long-stay car park offers five hour and all-day parking Monday to Friday, aimed at town workers and business parking. There are also hourly and all-day parking available on Saturdays for shoppers and other visitors to the town.

Charges apply 8.30am to 8.30pm Monday to Saturday with Sundays, bank and public holidays are free of charge. There are pay and display machines located on every level, alternatively payment can be made using the ‘Parkmobile’ cashless parking app and phone service.

The car park has achieved a ‘Park Mark’ Safer Parking Scheme Award. It comes equipped with 23 CCTV cameras, which record 24 hours a day, along with ‘smart’ energy efficient lighting that dims down and turns off when no presence is detected. There are eight electric car charging points and up to 23 blue badge bays. Motorcycle and secure cycle parking is available nearby.
Annual and quarterly season tickets are available along with resident season tickets and permits. Visit www.sevenoaks.gov.uk/sevenoakstowncarpark to register interest in season ticket or resident parking schemes.

  • Do you have any old photos of the circus or lawn mower races or any other event on Buckhurst Meadow? We would love to see them. You can send them to: editor@mysevenoakscommunity.com
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