Kidwells Park, Maidenhead
Kidwells Park, a municipal park of 3 hectares bordering Bad Godesberg Way (A4) in the centre of Maidenhead, is named after Nevill Kidwell who was a burgess of Maidenhead during the reign of Charles II and warden (equivalent of mayor) in 1674. Kidwells House stood at the corner of Marlow Road and West Street; it was also known as the Manor House, demolished in 1970 to make way for the inner relief road (A4 - Bad Godesberg Way).
Kidwells House and Park in 1840, from Terry’s survey of Cookham parish. Back Lane is now West Street, Folly Hill is Castle Hill.
Traced from a map in Maidenhead Library.
The earliest record of Kidwells House is in 1705, three years after the death of Nevill Kidwell. Kidwells Park (the western half of the present municipal park) was a seven acre enclosure which was part of the Kidwells estate. In 1818 William Payn, mayor of Maidenhead in 1837 and County Treasurer for Berkshire from 1822, who lived in Kidwells House, extended Kidwells Park by 29 acres as a deer park, as far north as what is now Cordwallis Road. Stephen Darby (Cookham’s historian) recalled that:
‘It was a joke that I well remember that the park was so small that the deer would not lie in it but were continually escaping from it: no doubt its closeness to the town had something to do with it’
At that time the eastern half of present day Kidwells Park was an enclosure called ‘Home Close’, part of Swallow’s Farm in Market Street and in different ownership. William Payn died in 1840 and the general enclosure of Maidenhead Fields in Cookham Parish (of which the Kidwells estate formed a large part) was completed by 1852, enabling the development of most of the former deer park as the Norfolk Park estate, centred on St Luke’s Church (consecrated 1866). In the 1860s Home Close was incorporated into Kidwells Park and purchased by J D M Pearce in 1876, along with Kidwells House, though he never lived there (the 1874 first edition 25” Ordnance Survey names them ‘Kidwell House’ and ‘Kidwell Park’). J D M Pearce was five times mayor of Maidenhead and, although Kidwells Park was already in use for local gatherings and sporting events, in his last term of office in 1890 he presented it to the people of Maidenhead, with the stipulation that three-quarters of the trustees be total abstainers – J D M Pearce was a teetotaller. He died in 1898, when the ‘Maidenhead Advertiser’ wrote:
‘Few towns of Maidenhead’s size can boast so pleasant a park, dotted with such beautiful trees and so centrally situated’
Kidwells Estate in 1876, from the conveyance to JDM Pearce. The Manor House (as Kidwells House became known) had recently been divided.
However, the eastern half of the park was surrounded by a cycle track for many years and still has sports courts for tennis, netball and football, while the western half was used for football and rugby, with the result that most of the established trees were felled (though two old plane trees remain, and the Irish yew in the middle of the Castle Hill roundabout once stood in the Manor House garden). The trustees consented to the building of a Technical School (now a Youth and Community Centre) and Drill Hall (now replaced by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission) on the Marlow Road frontage. The Maidenhead Corporation acquired the park from the trustees in 1946.
During the 1950s and 1960s the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament used Kidwells Park as a stopping place for refreshment on their annual Easter marches from Aldermaston to Hyde Park Corner. The rugby club later moved to Braywick Road and following the upheaval of the building of the inner relief road (Bad Godesburg Way) in the 1970s the park has largely been restored as parkland and ornamental garden. The gravel ridge in the centre of the park was once thought to be a Roman road, and is marked as such in early Ordnance Survey maps. The eastern end of the park now includes a skate park and young children’s play area. Maidenhead’s annual July Festival is centred on Kidwells Park.
An Irish yew tree in the middle of the Castle Hill roundabout, which once stood in the garden of Maidenhead Manor House (Kidwells House), demolished in 1970. Photographed in June 2023.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission HQ, built on the site of the old Drill Hall in Marlow Road, framed by two London plane trees, remnants of the original deer park. Photographed in June 2023.
(former resident of Kidwells House 1949-68)