The artist who struggled to save Watford’s bandstand when its existence came under threat in the 1970s has expressed joy at its recent restoration and return to Cassiobury Park.
The Hill & Smith structure opened in its original parkland home in 1912 at a time when Cassiobury House was still home to the Earls of Essex. The manor was demolished in 1927 when the Earls ran into financial difficulties and could no longer afford to maintain it.
Watford Borough Council bought most of the park – previously part of the Earls’ estate – between 1908 and 1913, so the beauty spot could be enjoyed by the wider public. For years public bandstand performances attracted thousands, but by the 1970s the structure had passed its heyday, falling into disrepair, and its future came under threat.
Erica Adams, now aged 84, had painted the bandstand and when she heard about its plight in 1971, contacted the Watford Observer in a desperate bid to save it. Erica, who now has two great-grandchildren and seven grandchildren, sold her bandstand paintings to buyers in three different countries. She got the backing of Watford’s key movers and shakers, including musicians who loved the bandstand, and began a campaign to save it.
The council found a new home for the bandstand in Watford’s public square, next to the Central Library, but now – with new funding – it has returned home. Erica, who described the bandstand as ‘perfectly formed and very beautiful’, said: “It’s been worth the wait. Thank goodness I have not died before I knew it was coming home!”
The grand opening of the bandstand in its original Cassiobury Park home will run from 1.30pm to 6pm on Sunday 4 September, with music and festivities galore. The move is part of a council-led £6.6m restoration project – funded by the Heritage Lottery and Big Lottery funds.
The Cha Café has gone through an extensive refurbishment and reopened on Saturday 20 August to the delight of Watford’s tea, coffee and cake lovers. Plus the paddling pools are being transformed while a new environmentally friendly hub is being erected next to them as part of the monumental works programme.
Elected Mayor of Watford Dorothy Thornhill said: “We’re delighted to return the bandstand to its original home and can’t wait for the grand opening on Sunday 4 September. It seems such a long time since the bandstand came under threat, and we’re delighted to return it to its former glory.”