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Doidge Park (plaque no. 47)

Doidge Park

Location on Google Maps: On a pillar at the southeast corner of Cheapside and Wellington streets, London, Ontario

Date of plaque unveiling:  May 27, 2000

Speaker:  Julia Beck

Doidge Park

Photo credit: John Lutman, 2005

History

Thousands of years ago retreating glaciers deposited gravel in the area now bounded by Cheapside, Waterloo, Grosvenor and Wellington streets, including the present Doidge Park. Two early settlers, Richard Jones Evans and John Anthistle, established lime kilns nearby, burning deposits of limestone into lime, which was used in mortar and cement.  Evans, with David Margrave Thompson, a local lawyer, subdivided this block of land into building lots in 1856.

John’s son, William J. Anthistle, expanded his father’s business and mined the pit for gravel, sand, and cobblestones for home building c. 1874-1875. He manufactured cement blocks and sewer pipes, and laid some of north London’s first sidewalks. Many of the cobblestone-clad houses he built still stand, including his own home on Cromwell Street. For many years he operated a skating rink nearby.

Following Anthistle’s death in 1929, his widow, Annie, carried on the business of making cement burial vaults.

During the Great Depression the gravel pit property was taken over by the city. It became overgrown with weeds and was used as a parking area for city machinery. Local children enjoyed tobogganing on the steep hillsides.

In 1949, local citizens formed the North London Community Association and lobbied to have Anthistle’s old gravel pits converted into a playground. Among the major supporters of this plan was Dr. Edward Pleva, a planner and member of the Department of Geography at the University of Western Ontario.

Doidge Park, named after John C. Doidge, chair of the playground committee of the Public Utilities Commission, was opened in 1958 with financial help from the Kiwanis Club.