Image (c) Friends of Arnold Circus

Lazy summer days in deck chairs ranged around bandstands in local parks was once a highlight of a Victorian or Edwardian families' day. Bands and musicians were employed to perform at least weekly with some concerts lasting three hours.

But their popularity waned by the 1950s. There was a brief revival in the late 60s when groups like Pink Floyd and Fleetwood Mac played a series of free bandstand concerts at Parliament Hill , and David Bowie played a free concert in what is now known as the Bowie Bandstand in the Croydon Road Recreation ground in Beckenham.

In the years between 1979 and 2001, more than half of the bandstands in historic parks across the country were demolished, vandalised or fell into a chronic state of disuse.

There are famous ones like those in Greenwich and Regent's Parks, Clapham Common and Victoria Park or the Horniman Museum's with its view across the stunning central London landscape. Here are five you may not have visited:

  • Arnold Circus in Tower Hamlets was created during slum clearances in the 1890's with its now listed bandstand sitting on top of a tree-lined and terraced hill in the centre of a circle of housing blocks. It's still an impressive design today, and at the time it influenced housing schemes in Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin and Vienna.
  • Finsbury Circus , with an area of 2.2 hectares it is the largest public open space within the square mile. It's an oval shaped park with an octagonal bandstand.
  • Myatt's Fields bandstand in Lambeth is now better known as the Summerhouse and is still in use, as are restored greenhouses and cold frames. The park was originally a market garden in the 1890's which reputedly grew the best strawberries in London.
  • Croydon's Wandle Park , famous for the changing fortunes of the river Wandle which went from being a central feature to being culverted and then restored has a newish bandstand well worth a visit.
  • Pymmes Park in Enfield was created in the late 1890's and was the first public park in the area. Its layout was much photographed for postcards at the time, and among its features was a bandstand that could seat up to 800 people. The old bandstand was updated with a new performance area and modern amphitheatre in the 1990's.

For more on bandstands contact the UK's undisputed expert, Paul Rabbitts. prabbitts@hotmail.co.uk

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