As you look around the Showground it might be hard to imagine that the site has been, at various times, a deer park, a military base, a hospital and the venue for a Glenn Miller concert.
Cirencester Park was laid out in the 1700s and a monument erected in 1741 to the memory of Queen Anne by the first Earl Bathurst, whom she had created Baron Bathurst in 1712, with the help of the poet Alexander Pope.
During the First World War part of the 200-acre deer park, which later gave its name to the neighbouring comprehensive school, became a military camp and was at one time the home of the Warwickshire Yeomanry.
It was during this time – when many of the estate workers were called for military service – that the fences surrounding the deer park fell apart and fallow deer escaped. A herd of wild fallow deer still live in the Park to this day.
In 1943 the military returned to the park in the form of two massive US military hospitals, the 192nd and the 188th, in preparation for the casualties of D-Day. It was here, in July 1944, that the famous Major Glenn Miller and his band performed to 7,000 troops.
When the military departed, the war-torn estate was left with two camps of 200 nissen huts and concrete bases. Part of one of the hospitals was compulsorily purchased in the 1960s and is now home to Deer Park School.
During the same period planning permission was granted for the construction of the caravan park, which was built on the crushed foundations of hospital buildings.
In 1997 Lord Bathurst drew up an ambitious restoration plan to reinstate the area to its 1760s form. Using plans of 1780 and 1875, proposals to fell poplar trees – planted after the war to break up the foundations of the hospital buildings – became a reality.
Small groups of trees were planted to recreate the vistas that had been landscaped by the first Earl Bathurst nearly 300 years ago.
Over 15,000 tonnes of concrete foundations were pulled up and crushed. The whole project proved an immense task, but a worthwhile one as anyone who enjoys the beauty of the Park today will attest.