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London skatepark gains protected status

Words: Laura Edgar
Rom Skatepark

An icon of the 1970s British skateboard scene has been awarded Grade II protected status.

Designed by Adrian Rolt and G-Force and opened in 1978, Rom Skatepark in Hornchurch, London, is an elaborate, purpose-built skatepark and the best example of the survivors of the 1970s craze that swept the nation. Next to the River Rom, the skatepark is 8,000 square metres, with the centre surfaced in shotcrete with a variety of bowls and hollows in its surface. It is used today by skateboarders, BMX-ers and people on kick scooters.

The Rom is the first skate park to be listed in Europe and only the second in the world, the first of which was Bro Bowl in Tampa, Florida, which was added to the USA’s National Register of Historic Places in October 2013.

Ed Vaizey, heritage minister, said: “The Rom was built in the late seventies for the very first skateboarders and is as popular now as it was then. Its listing at Grade II is testament to its design and also highlights how the UK’s unique heritage reflects all parts of our culture and history. I hope the protection provided by this listing ensures that the pool, moguls and snake run can be enjoyed for years to come.”

The decision, which has been described as giving the idea of heritage an extra twist by English Heritage designation director Roger Bowdler, was informed by research by Simon Inglis, author of Played In London.

The new publication looks at the spaces, buildings and sports that embody and have shaped London’s cultural and urban landscape for over two millennia.

Inglis said: "When most of us think of sporting heritage we conjure up images of Victorian cricket pavilions, of old football shirts or of Edwardian swimming baths. Lots of people thought that like Chopper bikes and Space Hoppers the fad would soon pass, but as we can see in London alone, where there are at least 75 skateparks currently in use, skateboarding is still as cool as ever.”

Inglis explained that the Rom Skatepark stands out from others he looked at. “A great design team, a great ensemble of features, all in amazing condition and redolent of the 1970s. I think it is wonderful that English Heritage is taking practical steps to protect this amazing piece of late 20th century heritage in Hornchurch.”

Image courtesy of Brad Law