In 1938 Alice Park was given to Bath for use as a public park by Herbert Montgomery MacVicar of Batheaston. MacVicar was a wealthy gentleman who lived in a nearby house with his wife Frances Alice Harriet, who died in 1936 at the age of fifty three. Her untimely death was the motivation behind MacVicar's donation of the park in memorial. This is where Alice Park gets its name from.
The park and cottages were laid out and constructed (for the reputed sum of 325,000 pounds) between 1937 and 1940. The two park keepers' cottages were designed by Geoffrey Jellicoe, one of the principal figures of landscape design in Bath at the time. The tea chalet - now Alice Park Cafe, was originally called 'Jellicoe Tea Rooms' after the park designer., and was the original changing rooms for the popular youth football and cricket teams. Two cottages were built to house Alice Park's keepers who each worked on alternate days to keep the grounds in order. These are now the Alice Park Nursery and a private residence.
MacVicar founded the park as a facility for the enjoyment and sporting achievement of local children. Several sports clubs were also set up and endowed by MacVicar to the delight of those in Bath at the time. He maintained a close interest in the development of the clubs and attended tournaments by means of a gate between the park and his house, "The Elms". MacVicar believed that access to the sports clubs should be available to all of school age, regardless of background, and subsidised clothing, sports equipment and even transport costs for those unable to afford it themselves.
In June of 1944 Alice Park was visited by Queen Mary to plant fruit trees in the grounds. This was not the first time she had visited the park as Queen Mary had met MacVicar with the Duke of Kent three years earlier in 1941. Several photos exist, some on our gallery pages, of the Queen in Alice Park. The Queen's visits were not always as popular as you might think. Queen Mary, apparently, was fond of collecting antiques, and it was an unwritten custom that, if the Queen approved of a particular item, that it would be presented to her as gift! So the stories go, MacVicar would try and ensure that his best and favourite items were safely out of Her Majesty's sight when she paid a visit!
During World War II an underground air raid shelter was constructed so that park visitors could seek refuge from German bombs. Once the war was over the old shelter became a store for sports equipment but it has now been filled in with concrete. The outline of this can just about be seen below the tennis courts.. In 2010,, there was some potential interest from 'Time Team' regarding an excavation on the site, however this came to nothing - we can only assume that their interest waned once it became apparent there was only an air raid shelter here.
The paddling pool (which can be seen in some old photos) is now a sandpit in the children's play area.
The Jellicoe Tea Pavilion (named after Geoffrey Jellicoe) was originally built where the Cafe now stands. Much of its original structure still stands despite a well needed refurbishment in 2009. This is were Tony and his team now serve coffee, snacks and food.
Herbert Montgomery MacVicar died in July 1957, at the age of 85 with no children. He was buried at the Church of St. John The Baptist in Batheaston next to his wife. His lifelong motto, "Make neither fish, fowl nor red herring of one another" (which many interpret as "all should be equal in the scheme of things") is chiselled into the four futuristic stone plaques on the cottages.
Tony has held the lease on the cafe since 2009, and is keen to write a book about Alice Park, and specifically the role the cafe has played in its development. If you have any photos or stories that are part of the rich heritage of interest, please get in touch.
Thanks to some fantastic research (and a lot of hard work) the original conveyance documents for Alice Park have been located. You can download scanned copies of them below.
Queen Mary and Herbert Montgomery MacVicar in 1944
Copyright © 2019 Tony Hickman