The Tadworth Plaque

by Robert C Davison, Project Officer

Tadworth 8 - 045 - 600 pix

Just before noon on Wednesday 28th. October 2015 a small group of retired and serving BTP officers assembled in the roadway, now named Lucas Park Drive, leading into the grounds of what used to be the BTP Training Centre at Tadworth – or ‘Tadders’ as it was affectionately known. They were there to officially unveil the plaque commemorating the Training Centre and all who worked there, passed through there or had any connection with the place. This was an historic event as it was the first occasion that the BTP History Group had commissioned a commemorative plaque. The rain earlier that day had ceased and the sun shone over a tranquil autumn scene. Those present were John Owen, Acting Chairman of BTPHG; Bill Rogerson, Secretary of BTP HG; Rob Davison, Project Officer BTP HG; Ed Thompson and Martin McKay, Committee members BTP HG; Dick Pople BTP HG member and ‘official photographer’ for the event; Graham Poyser, Treasurer of BTP Federation, and Craig Hare and Dan Newman of BTP Recruit Training Unit at Spring House.

As Project Officer for the plaque I was delighted to be asked to officiate at the ceremony and having now been joined by Alan Hindley of the site developers, Berkeley Homes, I gave a short address to those present, outlining the history of the project and taking the opportunity to publicly thank persons who had been actively in involved. Having welcomed all present, I pointed out that my original suggestion for a commemorative plaque went before the History Group Committee in late 2012 and having been approved, Chairman Viv Head immediately approached Berkeley Homes who were developing the Tadworth site for luxury housing, to ‘sound them out’. Berkeley’s representatives were supportive from the very start and this spirit of co-operation continued in my dealings with all of their staff through the years, so I thanked their representative, Alan Hindley. Obviously this project was going to cost money and thanks to an appeal in the NARBTPO newsletter ‘Retired Lines‘ a number of retired officers gave pledges of varying amounts. As it transpired, these amounts would not have proved adequate, but the HG were very grateful for their willingness to assist.

There was not much progress in 2013 because of delays in the house building project. However, the HG were able to influence the naming of the roadway into the site thanks to the relative of a serving officer in the local authority Planning Department alerting us to this. It was felt that a suitable name should be one with a Tadworth connection, and eventually Lucas Park Drive was chosen. This was in memory of the late Tom Lucas who was Deputy Commandant for many years and was a local resident. Tom’s daughter, Caroline Maitland, had hoped to be present at this ceremony but due to an unfortunate shift change at her work, was prevented from attending.

HGP00586 Tadworth Plaque.evBy mid-2014, the development work by Berkeley had progressed well and Viv Head and I decided that it was time to go ahead with design for the plaque. I came up with the wording and general layout, based on plaques that were already in existence at various railway locations. They provided a useful template, and once the design had been approved by the HG Committee, it was time to search for a firm to produce the plaque. We eventually settled on ‘Leander Architectural’ based at the wonderfully named Dove Holes, Buxton, Derbyshire. However, the price was well out of our range, so Viv took ‘the bull by the horns’ and approached the Chief Constable, Paul Crowther, for financial assistance. To his great credit, Paul authorised the full payment for the plaque so it transpired that our initial pledges were not called in. By November 2014 the plaque had been produced and paid for and Viv took possession. Leander had made a superb job of it and it was credit to the ethos of the project.

When it came to finding a suitable location to display the plaque, Berkeley came up with the location in the grounds where we were holding the ceremony. The builders had rescued the stone lintel from above the main entrance to the school building, and had created a stone bench which displayed the initials of Mr and Mrs Steer the couple who had it built as a school. The plaque was set in a raised wooden frame alongside the bench and at such a height as to protect it from being bashed by lawn mowers! I concluded my address by emphasising the importance of Tadworth to the Force as its ‘spiritual home’. No matter where in the UK officers were serving, or whatever jurisdiction, being rail, docks, or London Transport, Tadworth was where they came to learn not just from their Instructors but from each other. It was the catalyst for our role as BTP officers. In matters spiritual I like to think that the ghosts of old Geoff the Gardener, and past Instructors and students now have a focal point to gather, as of course do we mortals!

I then asked Craig and Dan who were holding the BTP flag over the front of the plaque to release it and I declared the plaque officially unveiled. Photographs were taken and some of them accompany this article. We then adjourned to the nearby pub ‘The Bell’ for beer and sandwiches and reminiscences of old times.




Tadworth 7 - 040 - 600 pix Tadworth 4 - 032 - 600 pix Tad Plaque 2 - IMG_0143 Tadworth - 2014 (3)

Main photograph and first two photographs above, courtesy of Dick Pople.