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Barrow Voice is published by Barrow upon Soar Community Association. Opinions expressed are not necessarily endorsed by the editorial committee or the Community Association.

Barrow Community Association is a registered Charity No: 505692.
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11 April 2010

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Feature

Proctor’s Pleasure Park Past and Present.
"It was lovely, really lovely. They had flower beds near their attractions and along little paths and it was always very nicely kept” .

“I remember the roller-skating rink. I watched them but I didn’t go on!”

“There was definitely a paddling pool, a sand pit, rowing boats, ordinary swings and swing-boats. I’ve got a photograph of myself at Proctor’s but it would take some finding now.”

“I came on the train with a Sunday school trip from Leicester. There were lots of special trains in those days from Nottingham and Leicester, and Loughborough, of course. The platforms were packed at the weekends. We were afraid of children falling off onto the lines.”

“Barrow was nicknamed Barrow-by-the-Sea back then. All those trains bringing families and kids on church outings - it was a good day out for them and nearer than Skegness.”

“And the dancing. Do you remember the dancing? I used to dance there at weekends in the summer. You could dance outside in front of the cafe. I did a fair bit of courting at Proctor’s!”

“There was a train you know. A miniature steam train that went round and round the site on its own track and pulled wooden carriages filled with visitors. The sides sloped out. I knew someone who jumped off, picked some flowers from the middle of the field and jumped on again the next time round.”

“Happy days!”

Such memories! Many thanks to Marion North, Glenda Brown, Win Burton, Iris Perkins, Jimmy Elphick and Mr Mitchell for conjuring up the place for me in the 40’s and 50’s. I’m sorry there isn’t room for every last one of the tales but Barrow Voice only runs to 40 pages...

Yet Proctor’s today is very different - it’s a large inland caravan park. It’s very much liked by the regulars in ‘statics’ who keep their caravans there all year round. These people usually come from Midland towns and cities to get away for a change of scene; walking along the river, boating, fishing, letting their dogs have a good run round or just relaxing.

Over the years many have made friends with other caravanners so at Proctor’s their social scene changes too. Another plus is the village. They think the nearness to the shops, pubs and Methodist Mini-Market a big advantage! In the summer Proctor’s is much busier as it attracts holiday makers in tourers from the rest of Britain and a few from Europe. Donington Park isn’t far away either and handy for caravan owners who want to attend a Grand Prix or see their favourite bands.

So two questions arise. Why was a Pleasure Park built here in the first place and how did it change into the caravan site it is now? The first question is easily answered with a name; Jack Proctor. Many older Barrow people remember Jack ( senior) well. Jack was born in 1912 into the world of entertainment as his father, John, was an early pioneer of the film industry. He toured with an early form of cinema called a bioscope. In 1906, for a penny or two, a punter could enter ‘John Proctor’s Royal Bioscope ‘ watch a few minutes of a flickering, silent moving image and come out amazed! The nature of the shows changed over the years but the family stayed in the entertainment line and Jack began building caravans and generators too. He started an engineering business in Quorn on the site that is now occupied by ‘QED’ Quorn Engineering Development. After the war, Jack decided to add yet another string to his bow and bought ten acres of land by the side of the River Soar in Barrow.

The land he bought was already popular with fishermen and boating people and tents were often pitched there. Jack could see the potential for making a tourist attraction here as it was such a beautiful spot. It also took time and money to reach the sea from the centre of England and in the immediate post war years of rationing and general austerity people often had little spare cash.

The positioning of Barrow Railway Station couldn’t have been better either. It was at the bottom of what is today the small sloping car park off High Street near Jerusalem Island. Before the closure of the station in 1968 you could get off your train, walk up the station slope then down Bridge Street and be in Proctor’s Pleasure Park in five minutes. As well as the attractions already talked about, a Pleasure Park advertisement from the 50s extols the delights of Archery, Donkey Rides, Putting and Teas from the Cafe at reasonable prices. There was a trip boat too called ‘Pattie’ - something for everyone. There had always been caravans on the site but the great expansion came in the early to mid 50s when Jack Proctor started renting, then eventually bought, land from Quorn Sand and Gravel. This brought the size of his property to about 140 acres and included a lake formed as a result of ‘wet’ gravel quarrying.

As the caravans grew in number the Pleasure Park gradually changed into a caravan site and the old cafe became the new clubhouse. Changes were made in the ‘70s too as Jack worked on improving the waterways; he deepened some of the channels by removing silt and dug new ones making conditions better for the boaters.

And that’s the way it is today; boats and caravans reign supreme. Will things change in the future? Any hope of a return to donkey rides, swing-boats and a miniature railway? No - unlikely! Today people are too sophisticated for these gentle pleasures. The present generation of Proctors envisage a future of making improvements to the site, such as removing more of the older caravans although some have already been towed away. They know the site has a good reputation for being a friendly one, where help is always at hand, and want to capitalise on this.

Gaynor Barton