Leeds Mercury (11/Apr/1883) - Huddersfield and Her Parks

The following is a transcription of a historic newspaper article and may contain occasional errors. If the article was published prior to 1 June 1957, then the text is likely in the Public Domain.


In a short time Huddersfield will have two public parka, whose quality may make up for want of size. A northern town with 87,000 inhabitants and no park is rare, and but for former signs of a desire to have ouch an institution one might be tempted to overstep fair bounds in condemning the absence of aesthetic culture in a commercial centre like Huddersfield. But the fact is that in 1866, two years before Huddersfield became a corporate borough, and when affairs wore managed by a Local Board, an attempt was made to buy a modest eighteen acres of had for use as a park. Again, after the Local Board had ceased to exist, another vain, unofficial trial was started, and still later effort was directed to secure a small estate within easy distance from the main streets. Dungeon Wood, a rough plantation above Meltham Road, a mile and a quarter from town, was the aim of the first and second endeavours ; while the aim of the third was Greenhead estate, a plot of ground hard by Trinity Church. The failure of these efforts was only temporary, for today Dungeon Wood and Greenhead are the sites of Huddersfield's new parks. For Dungeon Wood the town is indebted to Mr. H.P. Beaumont, of Whitley Beaumont, formerly Member of Parliament for the Southern Division of the Riding. A few years ago this gentleman offered thirty acres of Crosland Moor, but the Corporation held that to make this into a park would involve an outlay greater than they were willing to bear. Thereupon Mr. Beaumont graciously changed his offer to twenty-one acres in Dungeon Wood, an offer which both Council and public accepted with gratitude.

Dungeon Wood covers the brow of a steep hill, through which the Meltham branch of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway has cut a way, and at the foot of which runs the high road to Meltham. At first sight the ground is anything but favourable to the purpose of a park. A strip of land a mile long, with a slight bend, narrow at one end, broad at the other, shelving from the brow of a hill clothed with hard, stunted oaks, beech trees, and firs, among which spring rough moor grass, shrubs, and gritty sandstone, that drop without warning into deep gullies and combes — imagine this, and you have some idea of the wilderness out of which Huddersfield is manufacturing a park. The plan of the landscape gardener is of course regulated by the ground with which he has to deal, and here the aim seems to be to combine the artificial with the natural style. Whether the effect of the combination over so small an area will be altogether agreeable remains to be seen. Sufficient progress has not been made to give a complete conception of what the general result may be ; yet it is possible to evolve from the half-finished lawns, the imperfect roads, and the broken mounds of rock and earth some indications of the scheme. Farthest away from the town is the broad end, sloping gradually from New Park Road to the railway, and giving soma scope for artificial treatment. The lower part will serve as a playground, while the upper is divided into lawns, terraces, and flower beds centred round a miniature lake. Approaching from the far entrance the park winds through well-turfed lawns, beneath a rustic arch, to three alcoves made from the gnarled roots of oak trees, all blackened and hardened by age and long burial in the ground. Beyond these retreats, whose rough brown walls when overspread with ivy, Alpine and rockery plants, will give the dark tones to the middle tints of the lawns, the path breaks up, one section joining the broad main road and another skirting the lake. This lake, by the way, is pear-shaped, and lies fifteen feet below the level of the main rood. A path surrounds it, and, for its greater realism, a couple of islands are being loft in the basin, one of them crowned by a Scotch fir, which but for an unmistakable lop-sidedness would be very beautiful. Lower down, above the main road, lies the band-stand, a square structure of no particular attraction, surrounded by one or two short promenades and an arrangement in semi-circles. Nearer still to the town, forming the base of a fine parterre, is to be a rockery, fifty or sixty feet long, rising and falling to various heights, and breaking away from the even line into tiny combes for plants and flowers. One extremity of the rockery is marked by the arched bridge over which the main walk passes, and beneath which will rush the waters of a cascade, falling a considerable height from a tiny lake on the superior level. Then more lawns and flower-beds, and the main entrance is reached, and the ground seems to lose its aptitude for artificial treatment. The descents now are more rapid than ever. Only a narrow strip can be walked with ease. The grass is scarce and dry. Shrubs have almost disappeared, and dark-grey sandstone rocks form a steep and dangerous boundary. Hereabouts the appearance is of a hilly plantation, exposed to unproductive winds, on thin soil, that has been quarried and then left to grow a scant vegetation. But the place has a rugged glen-Iike beauty of its own, and needs but a little cultivation and skill to be made the greatest attraction in the park. Small secluded coves, where primrose, harebell, and foxglove might be trained to a rich growth, are found by the side of sharp falling rooks, over which a streamlet might be led with charming effect. With this part nothing has yet been done, the labours of the men having been occupied upon the higher section. Those labours have been by no means light. Basins have had to be quarried, roads and levels made under no ordinary conditions, walls erected, brushwood removed, and trees cut down wherever they interfered with the plan or with some view of the surrounding country. And the view, although somewhat bare of wood and stream, is pleasant. Away to the north, running from west to east, is a range of hills where smoke wreaths and church steeples mark the sites of Farnley and Newsome. Tinker's monument, a curious old tower, is visible just before the hill sinks into the Holme valley. Eastward still lies Honley Moor, hiding Holmfirth behind a belt of hills fringed with trees, while westward rises the mound of Castle Hill. In front cluster the white stone houses of Berry Brow, until the hill crosses Holmfirth Road and descends to the level of the narrow, lazy stream of the Holme. Beaumont Park promises to be a possession of which any town may be proud. Its horticulture will be as varied as space and the situation of the park will allow. Alpine and rockery plants are to catch the eye wherever they can be trained with artistic effect, and even the upper walls, with their numerous retreats and shelters overlooking the valley, are being adorned with ivy, silver streaked, silver blotched, gold streaked, and gold blotched. It was expected that the park would be ready for opening this year. Already much has been done towards its completion, but it is now thought that another year will have arrived before the people of Huddersfield are able to enjoy the full advantages of Beaumont.

Of very different appearance is the Greenhead estate, where the second park is being made. It is nothing more than a vast fluid covered with grass, and dotted here and there with a few solitary forest trees. As we have said, a former attempt to secure the leasehold came to nought. But the Central Wards Committee prevailed at last, and the estate passed into the hands of the Corporation for a sum of nearly £38,000. Sir John Ramsden, the owner, coming forward with a handsome subscription. A low stone wall surmounted with iron palisades has been thrown round the land, whose shape — an irregular triangle — is clearly definable from rising ground at the southern end. No other preparation has been made, but an inspection of the Borough Surveyor's plan shows how the Corporation purpose to deal with their new property. A band stand will command the hillock on the south, and from it will spring two or three promenades terminated in circular beds. Then from the terrace surrounding the stand the principal walk begins to fall gradually towards the main entrance at the function of Trinity Road and a newly constructed thoroughfare from Greenhead Lane. Right and left of the walk are to stretch grassy lawns and flower-beds, those on the south and east relieved by a couple of small lakes. A fountain will play near the entrance on the right, while the open space beyond is reserved for playground and hothouses. Such, briefly, are the features by which it is hoped to make for a busy manufacturing town a healthy "lung," that a few years hence would otherwise have been covered with bricks and mortar. Greenhead presents none of the gardening difficulties of Beaumont, nor has it half the natural beauty. It is, as we have said, nothing more than a large open space, a few minutes' walk from the town, capable of artificial adornment, and offering a pleasant prospect of the hills in the neighbourhood. Castle Hill stands clearly against the sky on the south-east, with England's backbone range beyond, and nearer a black fringe of trees, the boundary line of Beaumont Park. Marsh and Gledholt, two residential suburbs, rise up on the southwest, and behind them the hills above Crosland Moor. These are the two parks for which Huddersfield has waited so long, and of which her inhabitants will doubtless soon reap the benefits in health and enjoyment.