Parr family rests easy after memorial bench relocation

A local family with a rich boating history along the Thames are among the families that have come forward to re-claim a memorial bench as part of a riverside redevelopment scheme.

Kingston Council recently put out a call to residents to help locate the friends and relatives of 36 memorial benches and 39 plaques alongside the Queens Promenade by Portsmouth Road.  So far the council has managed to trace relatives connected with just over half of the benches and plaques.

The area affected is being re-developed as part of the Go Cycle programme, which includes revitalising the promenade with new landscaping and terracing. The improvements will create a peaceful and attractive place to reflect and honour the memory of a loved one.

Councillor Terry Paton, Cabinet Member with responsibility for the Go Cycle programme, said:

“Where details are available, we've contacted family members, but for most benches, especially the older ones that were not installed by the council, there are no available records.

“Since our initial appeal we’ve tracked down more than half of the bench owners but we’re again calling out to the community to help us find the remaining loved ones, so we can talk to them about ideas for the plaques and consult with them on their relocation.”

Local businessman Darren Parr, owner of Parr Boats, is among the the local families that came forward following our appeal, opting to relocate his grandfather’s bench to a mooring by the river.

“We’re five generations of Parr’s and have been operating boats on the river since the early 1900s, arriving on two narrowboats which moored on the large steps of the Queen’s Promenade. There was my great grandad, my grandad, my dad, me and now my son is helping out on the boats as well.

“The bench was in honour of my grandad Frank. Initially it was located on a spot closer to the roadside where he used to park up in his mini. After he retired he would still come down here, in his car and watch the world go by. We’ve now been able to relocate it and give him a great river view, which is what he would’ve wanted.” 

Frank’s daughter Wendy Strike said her family had a rich history with Kingston and the Queens Promenade:

“Parr Boats is the oldest passenger carrying business in Kingston (almost 80 years) having been established in 1938 by my grandfather and his brother. My father joined the business in 1945 at the end of World War 2. Originally they ran trips from the Canbury Gardens, which was like a taxi rank of about 10 boats taking their 'turn ' to pick up passengers, to Hampton Court.

“When the moorings on the Queens Promenade became available in the late 40's they took it, and that is still where we are today.

“My father worked every day except Christmas Day, my mother wouldn't let him leave the house! Working with his father and, in the early days, with the help of his grandfather he built the business from one tripping boat to a fleet of self drive motor boats.

“At the end of the day my father would often sit on the seat to watch the sun set across the river, he would always say you wouldn't see anything better. When everyone went home and the promenade was quiet it was a lovely place to sit and ponder the day.

“When my father died we had this seat replaced with a memorial seat in his memory. Our seat is not only for my father but for all our family that have sat there, my mother, grandparents and great grandparents.

“As a family this is the only place our seat could possibly be, nowhere else holds the memories of over 70 years, but as it can’t stay where it is then we are placing the seat on our moorings, on the river that my father loved and our family have worked on for centuries.

“We are thankful to have been able to reclaim our bench and I really hope that other families who have seats on the Promenade will come forward and claim them, like ours they all have stories attached to them.”

The council is in the process of working with those families who have come forward to help relocate the remaining benches on the promenade.

Plaques will be kept and set on new benches or seating areas. However, some memorials carved into wooden benches are in a poor state, so we will create new metal plaques for these where appropriate. We want to speak with relatives or those with connections to the plaques to individually agree what the best solution is.

The names and locations of those honoured on the plaques and benches are listed below, and we're urging anyone with any information to get in touch.

‘Anne Davey (1918-2004) and Alf Davey (1917-1990)’ - plaque on bench
‘Peter Hayden (1925-1995)’ - plaque on bench
‘Perveen Akther Awan (11/10/1948-12/6/1997)’ - plaque on bench
‘Betty Christine Creeth Hansen (1919-1998)’ - plaque on bench
‘Kathleen O’Neil’ - plaque on bench
‘Ella G. Arnold (14/8/06-18/8/1992)’ - plaque on bench
‘Rose Burt (1902-2000)’ - plaque on bench
‘Una Larkin (1896-1976)’ - plaque on bench
‘Firouzeh Zohhadi (1044-2006) from Némat Arash family’ - plaque on bench
‘Gladys Holloway (1901-2000) and Horace Holloway (1894-1965)’ - plaque on bench
‘Alexandra Arditti (1907-1998)’ - plaque on bench
‘Stanley Garbett (1916-2013) and Marion Garbett (1918-1991)’ - plaque on bench
‘Esmé A Maries (1923-2005)’ - plaque on bench
‘Rowland Bayliss and Elsie Bayliss’ - plaque on bench
‘John O’Gara (30/11/1934-31/12/1999)’ - plaque on bench
‘Phyllis Lillian Grace Greaves (1907-2001)’ - plaque on bench
‘Gertrude Chamberlen (1903-1991)’ - plaque on bench