CUTTING OF THE FIRST SOD OF THE BEAUMONT PARK.
On Saturday afternoon, in weather which was so irreproachable that it might have been especially selected (or the occasion, the first sod of the New Park site, which Mr. H.F. Beaumont has so generously placed at the disposal of the people of Huddersfield, was out by Mrs. Beaumont, in the presence of a large number of people who had assembled to take part in the auspicious ceremony.
Dungeon Wood, which all who know the locality will remember, is most picturesquely situated to the right of the Meltham line at its junction near the Lockwood Viaducts, has for more than a decade of years been looked at with a loving eye by those who coveted a public park. So far back as October, 1866, Mr. John Ashton, then a member of the now defunct Lockwood Local Board, proposed and Mr. Bush worth seconded a resolution by which a committee was empowered to see Mr. Dunderdale, Mr. Beaumont's agent, with a view to obtaining a knowledge of the terms at which it would be disposed of for a public park. That committee was instructed to report to the next meeting; but they failed to do so for various reasons, and on March 11th, 1867, the Board having become frightened at finding itself in debt to the tune of £4,500, passed a resolution by a majority of five to two, forbidding the committee to take any further steps in the matter. The scheme thus became in abeyance, and when the Local Board became swallowed up in the Huddersfield Corporation, the project of a public park at Dungeon Wood was at least publicly forgotten. It slept in peace for over twelve years, until in May, 1879, Mr. W.J. Dunderdale offered to the Huddersfield Corporation, on behalf of Mr. Beaumont, about 30 acres of land at Crosland Moor. The Corporation, at their meeting on the 21st of the same month, agreed to accept the gift, providing that the conditions, on further information, were such as they felt able to undertake, and a committee of Aldermen was appointed to consult with Mr. Beaumont on the matter. As will be seen from the Mayor's speech hereafter, the first site was hardly considered sufficiently accessible, and Mr. Beaumont then very generously offered to give Dungeon Wood. Of this offer the committee reported in favourable terms, and at a committee meeting of the whole Council, held on August 8th, upon the motion of the Mayor, seconded by the ex-Mayor, it was almost unanimously resolved to close with Mr. Beaumont's proposal.
The land thus acquired by the Corporation covers 25½ acres, of which five will be required for roads. The whole of Dungeon Wood will be taken in from the commencement of Starling End to the end of Butternab. It is proposed to bound the upper side of the new Park with a road ten yards wide, which will extend from Starling End to Butternab. Butternab Lane will be widened from six to ten yards, from its junction with Woodside Road to its termination at Butternab. Other roads will be constructed upon the property effecting junctions with Dryclough Lane and Moorend Road. A portion of the site is in the township of South Crosland and the rest is in Lockwood. With the exception of four fields the whole of the site is woodland, and from nearly all sides of it a most magnificent view can be obtained. The weather on Saturday was all that was needed to show the beauties of the prospect in their utmost splendour. Looking from the terrace which overlies the Meltham line, the glorious sunshine and clear atmosphere showed a picture which pen cannot paint. Down the valley of the Holme, to whose dirty water distance lent its usual enchantment, the eye wandered with loving pleasure. To the right and left lay the background of the picture — the trees of the wood with their varying shades of green sloping down sharply to the valley. To the right front lay Honley Moor like a patchwork quilt; in the direct front, Armitage Bridge Church and the beautiful wooded crescents by Colonel Brooke's house; to the left, towering crest above crest stood Castle Hill, and the eye followed on the grand range of bills, patched with grass, corn fields, and wood, until the horizon line became merged in that of the dark majestic range which marks the confines of the county. Half a dozen steps in an opposite direction revealed another picture quite as imposing if not quite so rural. To the right lay Huddersfield, or a good part of it, and most conspicuous of all, the new public assembly room, the scene partially topped with the fringe of trees which comprise the avenue at Whitley Upper; whilst to the left lay Crosland Moor, and standing sharply above it, and hiding the valley in which lies Edgerton and Birkby, was the splendid slope of Woodland extending down from Fixby to Grimscar. The scenery could by no possibility have been visible under more favourable conditions than on Saturday. It may be added here that the entire cost to the Corporation of making the roads, &c., stipulated for in connection with the new park will be £4,153, which it is estimated will be covered by an annual rate of one-sixth of a penny in the pound, spread over the whole of the borough.
Such an auspicious event as the cutting of the first sod of the new park was necessarily attended with considerable ceremony. Mr. and Mrs. Beaumont did not arrive on Saturday until the 3 7 p.m. train from London. They were met at the George Hotel by the Mayor and Mrs. Walker, and just before four were escorted from the hotel to the Corporation Offices. Here, or rather in Buxton Road, the volunteers had assembled, and in the vicinity were a great number of carriages waiting to take part in the procession which was to be organised. Shortly after four Mr. and Mrs. Beaumont arrived, and the procession, which had been marshalled by Mr. Withers (in the absence of our own Chief Constable), started in something like the following order :—
The route taken was along Buxton Road, down Chapel Hill, to Lookwood Old Bar, up Swan Lane to the Yews, thence up Moor End Road to the park at Crosland Moor end. The route was crowded with sightseers, and occasionally a flag or banner was displayed in honour of the event. The scene at the stone laying was scarcely in keeping with the ceremony which had hitherto accompanied the proceedings. One of the small fields to the left of the road leading op to the rifle range was selected for the crowning ceremonial of the day. At the edge of the wood a grand stand had been erected for the accommodation of ladies, and in front of this was a railed-in space. To the right of the stand a small tent had been erected, from the entrance of which a crimson carpet was laid to the centre of the enclosure, where had been placed four tiny flags, indicating the sod which had been prepared for Mrs. Beaumont's spade. Around this central object members of the town council and other privileged people placed themselves. The volunteers and cavalry were drawn up somewhere close to the road, and the general public thronged between them and the enclosure railings with a great deal of density. Indeed, the Linthwaite Band found great difficulty in getting itself into its proper quarter near the grand stand, and the big drummer's drumstick waved more than once over the heads of the public before he and his instrument found a resting-place. When the Mayor led Mrs. Beaumont out of the tent there was considerable cheering, upon the subsidence of which His Worship essayed to commence the proceedings; but the music of the last band in the procession rendered his words inaudible, and he had to wait until the tune was played to the end. The troubles, however, had only began, for scarcely had the sod been lifted when the fence gave way, and the sanctity of the inner space was invaded by the general crowd. The Corporation lost its cohesiveness, and dirty children issued from their hiding-place under the grand stand, and mixed with the municipal throng, gazing with eager eyes on the Mayor's gold chain, and jeered at those common councillors who had left their Sunday chimney pots at home, and ornamented their heads with their everyday "Jim Crows." Then, as soon as Mr. Beaumont had got out the preliminary "Mr. Mayor" to handing over the conveyance, the band began the National Anthem, and the air was taken up by one or two of those in the distance. Mr Beaumont's little speech finished, it became necessary for him to make his longer one. But he could not speak to advantage from the middle of a crowd, and so he looked hopefully at the grand stand. The crowd however, had blocked up both entrances to it, and so Mr. Beaumont and the Mayor, and Mrs. Beaumont and the Mayoress, had to undergo a little gymnastic exercise by struggling up the three or four feet of boarding in front of the grand stand. This accomplished, things went on smoothly. The speeches were made in comfort, and at the end of them the band played and the people sang a verse or two of "Auld lang syne." Most of the carriages then returned to town. A large number of persons, however took advantage of the opportunity to wander through the wood; and the romantic surroundings were heightened by the playing of some of the bands. The volunteers marched into another field, and had tea before they returned home ; and a good number of the general public, we suspect, would have been glad if they could have enjoyed a cup without the bother of going home for it.
The spade presented to Mrs. Beaumont was of silver, and was beautifully chased and engraved. It was enclosed in a pollard oak case, lined with maroon velvet. The inscription was as follows :—
Mayor. Aldermen, and Burgesses of
Borough of Huddersfield
Mrs. H.F. Beaumont, of Whitley Beaumont,
on the occasion and for the purpose of her
the First Sod
of"The Beaumont Park,"
the munificent gift of her Husband,
Henry Frederick Beaumont, Esq,
to the borough as a Public Park,
Upon the emergence of the party from the tent, the Mayor presented Mrs. Beaumont with the spade. In doing so he said :— Mrs. Beaumont, it is my pleasing duty to present you on this occasion with this spade, as a memento of this important occasion, in consideration of your kindness in promising to be present and gracing this assembly, and also in taking part in this important undertaking. I have very great pleasure in name of the Huddersfield Corporation and of the burgesses generally, in presenting this spade to you, to perform this interesting ceremony, and I trust you will always hold this as a memento of this day's proceedings. I am very glad to see that your son and others of your family accompany you, and I trust that they will remember this event as long as they live. I trust that whenever you think of this occasion it will be with pleasant recollections, because it is so important an occasion affecting the welfare of the people of the district. I have very great pleasure in presenting you now with this spade. (Loud cheers.)
Mrs. Beaumont said :— I thank you Mr. Mayor. She then proceeded to out the sod, and handed it to her husband, amidst general hurrahing.
The band then played the National Anthem, the large assembly being uncovered.
Mr. Beaumont, who bad placed the sod upon the parchment deed conveying the land to the town, then addressed the Mayor as follows :— Mr. Mayor, by this deed I grant, and with this one sod in the name of the whole, I deliver possession to you Mr. Mayor, and to the aldermen and burgesses of the borough of Huddersfield, all the lands described in the deed, for the purpose of a public park for the inhabitants of Huddersfield for ever. (Loud cheers.)
The party then mounted the grand stand, from whence Mr. Beaumont again addressed the assembly. He said :— Mr. Mayor, ladies and gentlemen, I may say that the first part of this interesting ceremony has been ably performed. It would ill become me to bestow any praise upon my wife for the way in which she has performed it; except that she has done it, I may say, ably. (Cheers.) It is now my duty to perform my part of the ceremony, and to say a few words upon an occasion which I believe to be a most auspicious one. I have long seen that your town has needed a park — (hear, hear) — and I only wished that others who owned land more central, indeed more suited in my opinion for this purpose, would have come forward to give it, but in default of this loan only say that it gives me great pleasure to be able to place at your disposal the very best site at my command. (Cheers.) I hold that public parks and open spaces are almost necessities to large and populous towns. (Hear, hear.) I hold that they tend to increase the happiness of all, young and old, rich and poor, one with another; that they tend to develop the frame and constitution in the young ; that they promote the general health of the people. Indeed, I might almost say that they tend to increase the length of life of the people. (Hear, hear.) If you look at the youth in towns where they have no parks, where they live in alleys and narrow streets ; if you look at what are somewhat irreverently termed gutter children in large towns where there are no public parks or open spaces, you see them squalid, pallid, and unhealthy; if, again, you look on the other side, at those who live in outside villages where they have the power of breathing the fresh air of heaven, where they have plenty of space, where they are not cramped for room, you see a totally different thing. There, as a rule, they are clean, ruddy, and robust, and I am inclined to think that if you give to the people bodily health, a healthy state of mind is pretty sure ; is at least most likely to follow. Now, sir, if we try to rear young stock, whether young cart-horses or young thoroughbreds, or sheep, or cattle, do we not look out for a healthy situation, and above all a good stray and space to enable them to exercise their freedom. If young stock are cramped up in too small places, they degenerate; at any rate if they don't they never come to any great size, as they may do if they have plenty of space for freedom. And so I hold it is with the human race. The great Duke of Wellington told us years ago that the battle of Waterloo was won in the playing-fields of Eton, and so I present to you for your town this piece of ground, the further part of which will make an excellent playing field for the youth of Huddersfield, and I trust will be a lasting advantage to all dwellers, present and future, in this district. Look at London, the great metropolis. Considering its size and population, and somewhat necessary crowding of inhabitants, it is really a healthy town. Why is it healthy? One great reason, I hold, is that there are so many parks, so many open spaces, and so many recreation grounds for the people. We have several in London, Hyde Park among them. I have been told that it is a park for the aristocracy and not for the poor. But I believe it is as much for one as the other. When I was in Parliament some time ago as a representative of this part of the division of Yorkshire — (applause) — I used between seven and eight in the morning, after an arduous night's work for you, to go into Hyde Park and ride there to gain my health. I met very few riding, but there were hundreds walking, many of them youths going to bathe in the Serpentine. Later in the day, about the middle of it, the aristocracy and plutocracy — (a laugh) — took possession of it, but it was at a time when the poorer classes never required it. Later in the evening, between seven and nine, on my way home to dinner, they were gone; and thousands of the working classes were enjoying themselves among the trees and walks. Then there is St. James's Park and Green Park — essentially a people's park — Battersea Park, Victoria Park, Regents Park, and others which I might name. And I believe that these parks in London — I speak subject to correction — are kept up at the expense of the nation. I can't see why London should be the only favoured city; and I can't see why you should not have a grant from the Consolidated Fund to keep up this your park, now you have got it. If anybody has any doubt as to whether such parks are appreciated, I would ask them to take the first train for London the day before a bank holiday, and take the trouble to walk in the parks I have mentioned. If they walk through them either in the morning, afternoon, or evening they will find thousands and thousands enjoying the fresh air. Only last Sunday I walked through one of them — Regents Park, and from one end to the other it appeared to be crowded with people. There were, I should think, between 4,000 and 5,000 artisans, dressed in their Sunday best, going about enjoying the air; and there were some there also who looked to me as if they hadn't the wherewithal to buy Sunday clothes with. This is not the time to talk politics; but let me hope that there is a good time coming when all may be well clothed. (Hear, hear.) I hold also that these parks and open spaces, if properly managed, tend very much to elevate the minds of the people. Everything that is beautiful has an elevating tendency. We can see from the other side of this platform a most magnificent landscape — a most beautiful view. The situation is lovely, and I hold that it has capabilities by which you can make it one of the most beautiful things of its sort in England. (Applause.) I can imagine this ground might be laid out in terraces from the top road down to the railway. On these terraces might be grown flowers, shrubs, and ferns, in their proper seasons — a most beautiful and elevating picture for the minds of thoughtful people. In this place you have the capability — and I believe you will make use of it — to make one of the most beautiful things of the sort in England. You may have romantic secluded places, where an enormous number at least may come and rest after the toil and labour of the day, to enjoy rest, study, or meditation. I might go farther and say a great many more things upon this subject, but time is pressing, and there are others to speak after me. I have, moreover, had somewhat a hard day in coming from London for this occasion, so I will conclude by thanking you for the very handsome present you have given to my wife, and also for the reception you have given me. I also thank Captain Armitage and his yeomanry, and Colonel Day and Major Freeman and the volunteers for the honour they have done me in being present on this occasion. (Applause.)
The Mayor said he was happy, on behalf of the Huddersfield Corporation, to accept the deed, and the sod as an emblem of the land described in the deed, and he promised on behalf of the Corporation and their successors for ever to maintain and protect their interests therein for the benefit of the public at large. (Cheers.) He held in his hand, now, the best guarantee that Huddersfield was to have a public park. The deed was already signed, and it, along with the sod, he had now great pleasure in handing to the Town Clerk on behalf of the Corporation and burgesses of the district. Mr. Batley having accepted his charge, the Mayor went on to say — It had fallen to his lot to represent the burgesses of Huddersfield in the acceptation of Mr. Beaumont's gift. In some respects he was very glad that it had, for he felt very proud at that moment of being Mayor of the borough of Huddersfield through the kindness of those who elected him to fill that post; not so much for the honour of filling it as for being able to take so important a part on that occasion. In the history of the borough that was the first time they had been able to congratulate themselves upon having a public park fur the people for ever. He held and maintained that it was the duty of public bodies, when they had the means at their disposal, to provide proper recreation grounds for the people. (Hear, hear.) There was one thing in connection with the park which to his mind showed very particularly the characteristics of the donor, and that was the manner in which the communication was made to the Town Council by Mr. Beaumont. There was no solicitation on the part of the Corporation, they had no claim upon Mr. Beaumont ; but he spontaneously came forward and offered them 30 acres of land if they would accept it. The land thus referred to he would, for the sake of distinction, call the rifle ground site. A deputation was formed to meet Mr. Beaumont on the ground, and when he heard from the deputation that the site was scarcely suitable for the people in consequence of its being so inaccessible, either by road or rail, be (the Mayor) could see that Mr. Beaumont was slightly disappointed. But he was equal to the occasion, and he said, "Well, gentlemen, if this site is not suitable, is there any other which you know of that will do for the people of Huddersfield? — (cheers) — for if there is one thing more than another I intend to do, it is to provide a public park for the people of this district." (Applause.) Seeing that Mr. Beaumont bad voluntarily made them that offer, the representatives of the burgesses were not slow to take advantage of it. They gave him a hint that Dungeon Wood, now happily and appropriately named the Beaumont Park, would be a very suitable site, and more accessible to the public. Mr. Beaumont at first shook his head. He said, "There is a difficulty in the way, I am afraid, which I cannot easily surmount ; but," be added, "if I can surmount this difficulty, nothing shall be wanting on my part to do so." (Cheers.) They were witness that day that Mr. Beaumont had overcome the difficulty, and he (the Mayor) was glad to say that they had come in their thousands to recognise the generosity and munificence with which Mr. Beaumont had that day given a park to the people of Huddersfield. (Cheers.) So far as the park itself was concerned, he had heard it graphically described ; but he was not a landscape gardener, neither could he indulge in the language of a Buskin, but he thought if they went to that part of it known as the Dungeon Rocks, they would see one of the finest views in the district — they could see up the valley of the Holme for a distance of eight miles, with a horizon-line including Cook's Study on the one hand, and Tinker's monument on the other. The valley was most beautiful, and the view was one of the most beautiful to be seen in the county of York. Then, again, there was another advantage in connection with it. Nature had done so much that it only remained for the Corporation to provide the necessary walks and seats, and to secure the dangerous parts in it, in order to make it one of the most beautiful parks in the riding. (Hear, hear.) Then he hoped that the company which was not usually very energetic in the public interests — he meant the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company — (laughter) — would not neglect the park, but would provide them with a station in the midst of it, so that people could start from Huddersfield, Lockwood, or the adjacent stations, be conveyed to the park at a cheap rate, and enjoy on a summer's day one of the greatest blessings nature could give them. (Hear, hear.) There were many who could afford to go away to the sea side, or to foreign climes, but there were thousands who could not do either. The next best plan for the latter, therefore, was to do as Sir Francis Crossley did at Halifax, when, it he could not take the men to the mountain, he brought the mountain to the men. (Cheers.) Mr. Beaumont had done this for Huddersfield. (Renewed cheers.) They had only to wait a short time, and then any one of them, walking through the park, could say, in the words of Alexander Selkirk —
(Applause.) He had heard it said that the new park was out of the way. Well, he hoped that the result would be that the poor man, coming from his work in the evening, would be able to enjoy it, would refresh his body by eating his food there, and his lungs by inhaling the pure air which the park would be always ready to afford. Of one thing he was quite sure — that they would never regret the ceremony of that day ; on the other hand, he was sure that as they enjoyed its benefits they would be grateful to Mr. Beaumont, and that his name would be honoured, not only in his lifetime, but in that of his successors. (Cheers.) Then again, the rich would walk through the park, and be hoped they would have soon an impression of the liberality of Mr. Beaumont that they would be encouraged to go and do likewise — (hear, hear) — in other parts of the borough. He was quite sure that they could not have too many parks. Such pleasure grounds would not always be so palatable if their cost had to come out Of the rates — (near, hear) — but if they could find a number of gentlemen who in the north, south, and east would emulate Mr. Beaumont in the generous gift they had that day received at his hands, he was quite sure that Huddersfield, healthy as it was, would be still more so if the people could enjoy these recreation grounds without let or hindrance. He hoped that when the park was opened the ceremony would be graced by the presence of Mr. and Mrs. Beaumont and their family. He was glad that Mr. Beaumont had brought his own own there that day. He thought the young gentleman would remember the ceremony of that day as long as he lived, and would think with pride of the generosity which moved his father to present to the people of Huddersfield that which they could not under the circumstances provide for themselves. He thanked his audience on behalf of the Corporation for supporting them on that occasion, and he was sure that Mr. and Mrs. Beaumont would be pleased to see that their efforts were so well appreciated by that multitude. (Cheers.)
Alderman Woodhead — in response to loud calls — congratulated the Mayor upon the position he occupied that day, at having been made the recipient, on behalf of the Corporation of Huddersfield, of that magnificent gift of a public park. And if it were true what was once said by one who knew what was in the heart of man — "It is more blessed to give than to receive" — he might congratulated even more than that large assembly his friend Mr. Beaumont, who had that day had the privilege of bestowing a park upon the town. For it was a privilege to be able to confer a blessing of the vast importance of this park upon a people, and with the Mayor he rejoiced that Mr. Beaumont's name would be associated with his gift throughout all generations. Allusion bad been made by Mr. Beaumont in his admirable speech to the benefits which would accrue to the people of this district, so far as their health was concerned ; and there was no doubt that by bringing men into contact with those schools of natural beauty much would be done, not only to promote their bodily health, but to promote their mental health also. The benefits which would be received by men and women would not be confined to the time they were there, but they would carry with them to their homes some of the sunshine which they had imbibed. Their health would be improved, and they would make all the more amiable husbands and fathers, and wives and mothers would in time to come bless Mr. Beaumont's name for having brought sunshine and blessing into their homes through the instrumentality of his park. Mr. Beaumont and the Mayor had said all that needed to be said with reference to the park, and he could only warmly and strongly emphasise the sentiments uttered by them. The people of Huddersfield rejoiced in this park, and they hoped that it was the beginning of better days so far as parks were concerned in Huddersfield. (Hear, hear.) He daren't have said that if the way had not already been marked out by the Mayor — (a laugh) — he was under his worship's protection. The Mayor had given the hint — Mr. Beaumont had given it very legitimately, and being under the wing of those gentlemen he was perfectly safe. There could be no doubt that if they could bring to people simple, innocent, elevating pleasures, snob as those which they would enjoy on visiting that park, they would be conferring one of the greatest blessings that a community could enjoy. Englishmen had not so fixed a climate as their friends on the continent, and the Yorkshire climate was what the Americans would call a good deal more mixed, and the mixture had a good deal of liquid in it. Still, they had many glorious days, snob as that one; he hoped that they would often come there, and their brows would be often fanned by the breeze which should come over that hill, and that as they enjoyed the sunshine they would remember the incidents of that day, and hoped that soon they might be renewed in other quarters of the borough. He trusted that those hopes and aspirations would receive their fulfilment at no distant day; and as the poet said of John Gilpin —
so when next there was the cutting of a sod for a new park, might they be all present to witness it. (Applause.)
In the evening the Mayor entertained a select party at dinner, which was served in the dining-room at the Corporation Offices. The repast, which was supplied by Mrs. Bolting, of the George Hotel, was of a most elegant and recherché description.