HOVE Park is one of the most popular and well used open spaces in the city by the sea. So it is surprising that there was so much opposition to it back in 1899 from councillors.

They thought £14,000 was far too much to pay for 40 acres.

One of them, Bruce Morison, was of the opinion that the money would be better spent on housing many poor people who lived in Hove.

In a delicious irony, Morison opened the park when he happened be Mayor of Hove after the council had bought it from the Stanford estate.

Originally it was to be called Goldstone Park after the strange slab that still stands near the frontage on Old Shoreham Road. But the name was changed before it opened in1906.

Scores of men were employed laying out the park which stretched all the way from Old Shoreham Road to what is now called Three Cornered Copse.

At the opening ceremony more than 3,000 children were present and there was a big procession to the park from the town hall.

During the First World War, much of the park reverted to its original use as land was taken for allotments.

But after that the park became a sporting centre with pitches for cricket and football plus a bowling green and tennis courts.

In the Second World War the park was used by a regiment of Canadians who were popular with the locals.

A miniature railway was opened in 1951 and is still there but is generally only open on certain days in the summer.

Until the mid-1960s the open space was bisected by The Droveway which meant that cars crossed it. Blocking off brought peace to this part of the park.

The great gale of October 1987 caused serious damage to the park with four out of every five trees felled. Among them were many elms which Hove had protected from disease.

Councillors decided to start again and created wooded areas particularly at the northern end and this was extremely successful.

Further improvements were made to the park including moving the children’s playground from the sunless western side to the east and fitting it out with attractive equipment.

The park was often used for big events such as the Lions’ carnival in May and visiting circuses until animal rights campaigners forced a halt. Since then a circus without wild animals has been held on the seafront lawns.

Another controversial move in the 1990s saw rugby players leave Hove Park for the nearby recreation ground where neighbours complained they had taken over the open space.

On a sunny Sunday afternoon, hundreds of families enjoy the park, many more than if it had remained a market garden.

And it is still possible to walk from the busy Old Shoreham Road to the countryside using the park and the copse.

Some of the information for this article comes from The Encyclopaedia of Hove by Judy Middleton.