Skatepark, 1978, designed by Adrian Rolt of G-Force. Temporary or moveable wooden ramps, the clubhouse and indoor mini-ramp to the north, are not of special interest and are excluded from the listing.
Reasons for Designation
The Rom stakepark, built in 1978 to the designs of Adrian Rolt/G-force, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Historic interest: this is agreed to be the best, and most completely preserved, of a small number of purpose-built skateparks to survive from the early years of British skateboarding;
* Design and technical interest: devised by Adrian Rolt of G-force, the leading skatepark designer of the late 1970s, and executed in seamless pressurised concrete, the Rom is closely based on Californian prototypes which themselves derive from elements of the public realm (swimming pools, drainage conduits etc) appropriated during the pioneering phase of the sport;
* Cultural interest: an icon of the British skateboard scene, and thus an important and enduring strand in late-C20 and contemporary youth culture.
Skateboarding originated in the surf culture of southern California, where surfers in the 1950s and early '60s adapted the primitive scooters fashioned by local children from roller-skate wheels and lengths of 2 x 4 to create increasingly sophisticated wheeled surfboards. At first, skateboarders confined themselves to the streets and sidewalks of the public domain, but from the mid-1960s onwards other spaces were colonised, particularly the oval and kidney-shaped swimming pools found in the gardens of the Los Angeles elite, and the vast concrete spillways and drainage features of the Californian coast. These in turn influenced the design of the early purpose-built skateparks, built in ever-increasing numbers during the worldwide skateboarding craze of the mid-1970s.
The craze reached the UK in the summer of 1977. That year saw the opening of the UK's first commercial skatepark, Skate City, on the south bank of the Thames near Tower Bridge. Scores of similar venues of varying size and quality opened across the country in the course of the next two years. The best of these, technically speaking, were those designed by Adrian Rolt of G-Force and built by Skate Park Construction Ltd. These parks, which included the 'Rom' at Hornchurch, 'Solid Surf' at Harrow, the 'Barn' at Brighton, the ‘Black Lion' at Gillingham, 'Skatecountry' in Bristol and the 'Maddog Bowl' on London's Old Kent Road, as well as an unnamed facility at the West Midland Safari Park in Worcestershire, were all of shotcrete (pressurised concrete) construction and employed a series of standardised elements inspired by Californian prototypes. Skateboarding declined sharply in popularity by the early 1980s, and only Harrow and Hornchurch now survive in anything like their original form. Their influence can be felt in the various new skateparks built in response to the skateboard revival that followed the turn of the Millenium.
The Rom Skatepark was opened in August 1978. It takes its name from the River Rom, which flows through a corridor of green-belt land just to the west of the site. The park was at first a commercial failure, as the skateboard craze that had prompted its construction was on the wane within a year. It was taken over by its present owners in 1979, and owes its survival in part to the newer sport of BMXing, for which the original shotcrete features are well suited. Usage today is for a mixture of skateboards, BMXs and kick scooters.
Skatepark, 1978, designed by Adrian Rolt of G-Force.
LAYOUT: the Rom Skatepark occupies an 8,000m² site just west of Upper Rainham Road, in a corridor of green land that follows the course of the River Rom from which the park takes its name. The central 4,000m² is surfaced in shotcrete (pressurised concrete), with a series of bowls and hollows of various shapes let into its surface.
The seven main features are as follows, in clockwise order:
THE POOL: a twin-lobed bowl, approximately 6.7m in diameter and 2.75m deep, with a 2m ramp at one end and a metal rim. This is a standard design, based on the keyhole pool at Skateboard Heaven in Spring Valley, California and the San Diego 'Soul Bowl'. The resemblance to a swimming pool is emphasised by the smooth lining material ('marbleite' resin, according to a contemporary article) applied over the shotcrete surface, as well as the raised flagstone-like surround (known as 'coping' in skateboard parlance) and the layers of blue mosaic tiles beneath the rim.
THE MOGULS: six interlinked bowls of varying depth and diameter, arranged in a triangular formation with a high concrete 'shoulder' separating each from each.
THE PERFORMANCE BOWL: a single large bowl, 9m in diameter and up to 4m deep, with a long wedge-shaped entry ramp. Like its Californian prototype, the 'Vertibowl' at Paramount Skatepark, it was once enclosed by a curving vertical wall that served to increase its depth; this was taken down within a year of opening.
THE SLALOM RUN and FREESTYLE AREA: a long ramp that forms the site's main east-west axis; its eastern end is raised up, while to the west it descends into a large shallow rectangular bowl used for freestyle manoeuvres.
THE SNAKE RUN: a serpentine formation, shallow at one end and gradually deepening towards the other.
THE FOUR-LEAF CLOVER: four small bowls of unequal depth, arranged in a clover-leaf formation, each separated by a shallow concrete lip.
THE HALF-PIPE: a long, deep capsule-shaped bowl with vertical walls (partially lowered and shortened since construction) along the straight sides.
A number of temporary or moveable wooden ramps are placed at various points around the site. These, and the clubhouse and indoor mini-ramp to the north, are not of special interest and are excluded from the listing.