Some open land survived at the south end of this park within the site that would later become the showcase for the Milburns’ architectural developments of 1907. In 1879 a drill hall was constructed within this site at Livingstone Road for the training of local military divisions and beneath it a large bottle (discovered in 1926) was buried as a time capsule containing two Sunderland newspapers, coins and a list of officers from the Rifle Volunteer Corps.
The drill hall, later occupied by branches of the Durham Light Infantry and the Territorial Army utilised the neighbouring field as a parade ground. This field came to be known as Garrison Field. It roughly occupied the land from the fire station northward to the neighbouring courts.
Garrison Field also become the parade ground for the first ever Scout troop. Formed by Colonel Ernest Vaux of the famous brewing family, the troop became known as 'Vaux Own - Sunderland No 1' and it was on Garrison Field on 22nd February 1908, that Lt. Gen. Baden Powell, founder of the Scout Movement, inspected the first ever scout parade. At the event he handed each one of the newly-recruited scouts the small ‘fleur de lys’ insignia badge that was to become the famous emblem for the many millions of Scouts that subsequently joined the worldwide movement.
For decades, particularly in the pre and post war era, the Garrison Field parade ground was locally famed as a place of entertainment where fairs or events were held, often featuring steam organs, roundabouts, stalls and shows. The sights and smells of such regular events are still remembered by older Sunderland residents who fondly recall Garrison Field as a venue for youthful fun and entertainment.
The open spaces of the Garrison Field are now gone, with a car park occupying much of this primary spot neighbouring the fire station, but you can still get a feel that this was once a focal point for fun.
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