The Linslade War Memorial originally stood at the junction of Wing Road and Leighton Road.
Photo © Kevin Quick, used by permission
As traffic increased and lorries got bigger, they found the junction hard to negotiate and by 1955 (see footnote) the war memorial had been moved to its current location in the park on Mentmore Road.
That park – the Mentmore Road Memorial Park – was created from land owned by the town council of the time, who had purchased some of the land from the Dormer charity in 1936, and the remainder from the Wilkes charity in 1943.
Here is an aerial view looking south-west, dated 1948, where you can just make out the war memorial in its new position; the houses in the bottom right-hand corner are on Mentmore Road, the end of the row that starts just after The Wharf:
And here is a similar view dated 1950, when the first paths had been laid; again, the houses are the row that starts just after The Wharf:
You can just make out the old allotment plots; the whole area was used for allotments during the second world war.
The gardens originally consisted of lawns with some small ornamental trees, and narrow flower beds lining the paths. Eventually those labour-intensive flower beds were emptied, though the red tulips they had contained continued to flourish and can still be seen in April and May growing through the grass, particularly around the memorial and along the path to Mentmore Road.
Over the years the gardens began to look uncared-for and neglected:
Photo © Basher Eyre and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence
In 2013, Dawn Love, a South Bedfordshire Friends of the Earth member who lived nearby, wanted to re-establish the gardens as a peaceful, attractive place of remembrance which would also be a haven of biodiversity, full of plants that are attractive to bees. In November 2013, Leighton Linslade Town Council gave South Beds Friends of the Earth permission to do this, and the turf was cut during that winter and the following spring. All the labour came from volunteers – local residents, the local preschool, South Beds FoE members, allotment-holders from the Wyngates site, and Spencer Rail, who were installing the lifts at the station at the time.
Many others have also been involved over the last couple of years, including many councillors, the Friends of Tiddenfoot Waterside Park, Nature’s Harvest, Dillamore’s furnishers and Heathwood Lower School, who demonstrated the bees’ waggle dance for us and made felt poppies for Remembrance Day 2015, and members of various wildlife trusts.
See ‘The story so far’ for more details of progress so far.
Note: 1955 is the generally accepted date for when the war memorial was moved. However, the photographs from the ‘Britain from the Air’ archive that clearly show the memorial in its current position are dated 1948 and 1950. A general appeal for memories on a Facebook Leighton Buzzard page brought many memories of it still being there in 1955, with reasons. When there’s more time over the winter (2018-19) we will check the local newspaper’s files in the library.