In the early 1940s Whitings were extracting sand and gravel from the area which became the Park. There was a huge washing machine which had cylinders and sieves to grade the gravel into different sizes.
They had a punt to get over the Ouse between the Tove and the Iron Trunk. It was locked up usually and if John Holman borrowed the key they used to warn him not to lose it.
The Lodge and park area were sold to Betts and Faulkner. After that they were bought by Dowsett’s and Hall’s. At this time sand and gravel to build the M1 was brought on lorries through the village and over the stone canal bridge at the rate of one every three minutes this continued for some months.
Once the M1 section was finished in 1959 the Lodge and park were sold at auction to Mr White from Barton Hartshorn, who kept them for two or three years. During this time he had the idea of making the land into a leisure business. Jim Holman worked for him selling fishing licences and became a kind of bailiff. Mr White made all the planning applications to change the use of the Park to a leisure facility and this was granted.
In the early 1960s the Lodge and Park were sold to the Clarke family Mr and Mrs Clarke, Audrey and her husband Bill Hayward and Peter, who married Lesley. The family took on a huge amount of work on what Mr Clarke considered a ten year plan to turn the land into a leisure Park.
The ground was covered in humps and bumps from the gravel extraction and the Clarkes brought in Euclid earth movers, which scraped up the topsoil left as spoil heaps to spread it more evenly and begin landscaping the Park. Lakes were already there some newly dug. One was by the Broadwaters and two others towards Castlethorpe were divided by a 20 yard strip of land.
At first there were a few static caravans, tourers and camping pitches, and the site took some years to build up. The Clarkes and helpers, including villagers, all took on some of the work. Water ski-ing began with a few enthusiasts, including the Holman family. A Water Ski Club formed and grew into a regular group. They would put on a show every year which became popular. There were long queues for speed boat rides around the lake in one of three club boats.
Joy ?, Kath Lambert, Margaret Ballard and Lesley Clarke. One of the frequent waterski shows for visitors.
1959 Swimming at Cosgrove Park
There were regular practice evenings and
training sessions for waterski-ing enthusiasts.
Walkers could enter the Park for free and cars were charged for. There was a charge for the outdoor swimming pool which was built, and Phyllis Holman worked there for a time. Gradually many jobs became available and quite often village people like Cecil Ray and Johnny Cattermole took these on, doing a variety of work as the Park expanded.
The Clarke family turned the Lodge into a Hotel. This extended the range of work to include catering, cleaning, waiting, bar work, landscape gardening and so on, as well as the boat, caravan and fishing tasks. The Clarkes all did some of the jobs as well as the administration and office tasks.
LR John Holman, Lesley Clarke, Peter Clarke
Cosgrove Lodge Hotel used to hold Fancy Dress Balls, Tramps suppers and so on.
In the early 1970s the Lodge and Park were bought by Charles Mackenzie-Hill, who lived at Cosgrove Hall for a time. He was a building contractor and applied for planning permission to use the Park land for housing development. The Park closed for a time at this point but planning permission was refused.
Following this, the Lodge and Park were bought by Steels, who owned Whilton Marina. They sold the Lodge Hotel to the Emmett family, who developed and continued this business as a separate enterprise, using nearby land to develop their own fairground rides business.
The Park continued to be modified and expanded by Whilton, and grew from strength to strength. Before the new A5 and roundabout was opened there were sometimes queues of traffic from the park stretching through the village and up to Old Stratford.
In 2014 there were over a thousand pitches for holiday homes, including Lodges, statics and tourers, although no longer camping. The activities offered included amusements, a children’s play area, canoeing, minigolf, sailing, wind surfing and water ski-ing, as well as walking and cycling routes. Fishing was still the most popular feature with thirteen coarse fishing lakes now available, stocked with carp, bream, tench, roach, rudd and perch. The Park opened from March to October each year.