Frederick Betts, a notorious and prosperous property owner born in Penge, has been described as a “Jekyll and Hyde character with a colourful past.” According to the Penge Heritage Trail, one of his surviving relatives Matthew Betts, tells of his great uncle’s “dark side’” stating that he was “the sort of landlord you should worry about” but acknowledges a generous side too. Betts Park itself began in 1927 when Penge Council bought the house and grounds of Oak Lawn, at one time the vicarage of Holy Trinity Church on the corner of Croydon Road and Anerley Road. The extensive grounds of the house included much of the Croydon Canal remnants almost as far as Seymour Terrace. Parts of the back gardens of the two neighbouring houses were also purchased to form an L-shaped park with an access road down to the present entrance in Croydon Road past the then grounds of Weighton Tennis Club. The £3000 purchase price and some garden urns were donated by Frederick Betts of Purley, described in the Council Minutes as “a former pupil of St John’s School”, which he had attended along with Penge’s Councillor Gully. The Park and Library were formally opened on Saturday December 3, 1928 at a private event in the library, and to the public on the following Monday. The Beckenham & Penge Advertiser recorded the plaque in the library read: “In loving memory of Sarah Betts, this park and building were presented by her son, Frederick Betts, to the residents of Penge, 1928”. It is thought that Betts did not want his own somewhat unpopular name linked with the park.
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