Ever engage in a bit of quick research thinking this wont be difficult and an hour later am screaming at how little seems to be known about it. That’s this pocket park.

The area that the playground occupies was once a row of houses, but the whole row was badly damaged during WW2, and in 1948, what was at the time the Metropolitan Borough of Holborn decided to lay out the land as a public playground with children’s toilets.

Known as Old Gloucester Street playground it is now called Alf Barrett Playground, which, without formal evidence, I presume to be named after the political activist who was active in the Holborn area in the 1960s and 70s fighting for decent homes for the working class.

What’s rather easier to find out about, and for rather disappointing reasons is the statue of the cat sitting in the park.

This is Humphrey, who lived at the Mary Ward adult education centre until he died in 1992, and the sculpture is by Marcia Solway, who attended the education centre. This was her only completed work, and after she also died in 1992 (aged 32), the work was donated by her mother, and it was agreed that it would be erected in Queen Square in Bloomsbury, by the education centre. This happened in 1997.

Unfortunately, the Trustees of the square then changed their mind, and forced its removal, and the cat ended up in Alf Barrett playground, and following refurbishment of the park, the cat was revealed once more in 2003.

Something else that’s new is the mural – which was only added last year.

The Paul Street Boys is a widely read Hungarian novel by Ferenc Molnár, and the mural was commissioned by the Hungarian Cultural Center and created in collaboration with Hungarian artists, iamsuzie and Cokestd, and their partners, Színes Város and Global Street Art, to celebrate Molnár’s 140th birthday.

It’s a rather limited park in terms of planting, but the tall canopy of trees does much to make it a more enjoyable spot to sit and relax.


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