audio transcript

The Trustees of Baxter Park was the body of men responsible for the Park. They were made up of Town Council members, church ministers, tradesmen and, at first, Sir David Baxter himself. They looked after the money that paid for the Park’s upkeep, decided which clubs and organisations could use the grounds, what kinds of amenities could be added and what rules visitors to the Park had to follow.

Rules were introduced soon after the Park was opened and posted up by the gates. They listed the Park’s opening times and warned that ‘a bell will be rung 15 minutes before the gates are closed and again at closing’. No alcohol, gambling or ‘improper language’ was allowed and anyone found climbing over the walls ‘would be prosecuted’. Anyone who damaged any bit of the Park, like the seats or the plants would also be prosecuted.

Work continued on the Park after it opened in 1863. Public bowling greens were opened, new entrance pillars and a gateway were put in the west wall, and a greenhouse was built to help with the continual planting of shrubs, trees and flowers. There was also maintenance and repairs to do on the buildings, lawns and paths. Because children had damaged the rockery in the Dell, climbing over it to watch photographers taking pictures, a new rule only allowed pictures being taken in the Park if the photographer had permission from the Trustees.

The Park was open on a Sunday, which one Minister didn’t like. He said that it was the ‘opening of floodgates of irreligion and sin’. But it was pointed out that this was nonsense and that thousands of Dundonians were only free from work on a Sunday. It was the only day they could visit the Park ‘to take open air exercise’ and ‘to improve our minds’.

The Park was visited by lots of people. As well as walking around, they could listen to concerts and take refreshments in the Pavilion, or watch a parade by the Artillery and Rifle Volunteers. There were regular firework displays, flower shows and fetes, as well as cricket and a few football matches. On special celebrations, like Queen Victoria’s Jubilee, the Park was decorated with flags. There were galas too, which would include contests between brass bands and tug of war competitions. The Pierrot Paragraphs were one of several troupes who performed musical comedies, and concerts that raised money for charity were a regular entertainment. Groups such as the Black Watch Volunteer Corps and the Cricket Association wanted to use the space so much, they had lots of arguments about the number of days each were allowed to use the Park.

The Park was very popular, but a statue of Sir David Baxter, which stood in the Pavilion, was regularly vandalized. In January 1894, the Trustees ‘regretted to see it had been considerably injured by stone throwing’. Sir John Steele, the statue’s sculptor, had supervised cleaning off stone marks a few years earlier, but the vandalism was getting worse and the cost of fixing it was very high. The Park Keeper, Mr Pattison, said that the statue would need to be constantly guarded to stop further damage. The Trustees decided to move it ‘to a place of safety’, at the Albert Institute (now the McManus Galleries).

The Trustees realised that because the Park was so popular, its upkeep was too expensive for them. The paths, walls and buildings always needed fixed, the rockery ‘was in a ruinous condition’, and parts of the grass was trampled away. So in 1903 they passed responsibility to the Town Council, who could put extra money towards it and hoped to make Baxter Park ‘a thing of beauty for the citizens’ of Dundee

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