Rom skate park in Hornchurch, east London, has been awarded a Grade II listing, the first of its kind in Europe.
The listing, by English Heritage, acknowledges a construction’s exceptional architectural and historic importance as well as ensuring no planning can go ahead on the site without special consideration.
The park was built in 1978 by Skate Park Construction using seamless pressurised concrete from a design by Adrian Rolt and G-Force – the leading skate park designers of the time.
Owner John Greenwood, 42, originally from Woolwich, took over The Rom after his father bought the grounds in 1979. Greenwood senior had previously built another skate park, Skate City, next to Tower Bridge, which has since been demolished.
John said, “Skateboarding had been going along since like ’65. When they started building here they picked all the good bits from the parks in America, expecting it to go crazy, but it completely died come ’79. A year or so later BMXing boomed and because this place was made right, the lines work.
“Had them bowls been made foot taller, or foot less deep, they wouldn’t work. It was luck and judgment. The people that built this also built one in Harrow. You can see it’s similar, but its slightly different so it doesn’t work. Half of that has been destroyed and filled up with stuff. 36 years we’ve been going now. The lines just work.”
Greenwood has seen the ebbs and flows of the park, which celebrated its 35th birthday last year. “The concrete hasn’t changed much, but the fashions change – hair goes longer and shorter, jeans go flared then tight again. It all comes around in a big circle. Scooting was big for a while, now BMX is coming back. Roller skating has almost disappeared but I’m sure that will come back again in some form or another.”
The Rom has welcomed three generations of skaters and riders, with a regular contingent now in their 40s and 50s: “They’ve been coming here for 20 years. It’s really nice. Last year we had a granddad come with his grandson”, Greenwood says.
Richard Duggins, 46, from Romford, was skateboarding “in the good old days”, and when his son Ted, 15, started riding he thought “sod it, I’ll get my bike out.”
The youngest riders at the skate park are as young as four, and Richard tells of a friend and regular skater at The Rom who brings his two year–old daughter with him: “He stands his daughter in front on the board and skates around the park with her.”
Richard is joined at the park by his son, his daughter Mollie, 18, and her boyfriend, also 18. Mollie celebrated her 18th birthday at The Rom when Greenwood opened the park for longer for the occasion.
Mollie hopes the attention that has already come with the new listed status will bring a change to the park: “I’ve seen pictures ‘cause my dad used to come here when it first opened, and it was just rammed all the time. I come here most weekends and there’s still a lot of people, but not half as many as there used to be.”
“I don’t know what’s going to happen. I’m still here everyday. It’s very exciting though”, Greenwood concludes.
Rom Park is open 10am – 6pm Sunday to Tuesday and 10am – 9pm Wednesday to Saturday all year round. Entrance is £5-£12, and helmets (which must be worn by all) can be rented for £2.
People photographed: Richard Duggins, 46, Romford, Luke Farrugia-Burns (wearing dark blue), 12, Bobby Sinfield (wearing red), 10, Hayden Sinfield, 12, Stanley (wearing yellow), 9
Photography by Tom Tapolczay