Norman Park, Fartown

Originally known as the Fartown Recreation Ground, it comprised just under 2 acres of land purchased from the estate of Sir J.W. Ramsden, with a further 2 acres and 584 square yards from Mr. Scholes of Clough House.[1]

The park was laid out by Charles Kershaw of Brighouse at a cost of £860.[2] The total cost to local ratepayers was reportedly £890 6s. 9d.[3], using surplus money from the Fartown Ward's waterworks funds.[4]

In March 1896, members of the Sheepridge Liberal Club passed a resolution that they objected to the expense of a lake being built in the new park, which they regarded as "an extravagant and unnecessary scheme".[5]

Huddersfield County Borough Council approved the change of name to Norman Park in August 1896[6] and, a month later, passed a motion proposing that they "adopt and authorise the common seal of the borough to be affixed to the bye-laws for the management and regulation of Norman Park, Fartown."[7]

In December 1896, the council noted that George Henry Crowther — agent for the Clarke-Thornhill and Whitley Beaumont Estates — had "given permission for bracken roots and narcissus bulbs to be taken from Grimscar Wood for planing in Norman Park".[8] In February 1898, it was reported that £352 2s. 11d. had been allocated for construction works relating to the park, along with £81 18s 6½d for the enlarging the lake.[9] By the following month, it was reported that Henry Platts[10] had been employed to see to the opening and closing of the park.[11] Platts was initially paid £50 per annum to maintain the park.[12]

When the nearby Clough House was demolished in 1899 to allow for road widening, the 1697 date stone and other parts of the property were placed in Norman Park.[13]

The Borough Treasurer's Annual Report of 1914 noted that the expenditure on Norman Park had been £423, compared to £3,508 on Greenhead Park and £2,110 on Beaumont Park.[14]

In July 1914, the Parks and Cemeteries Committee noted that the level of vandalism, particularly in Norman Park, was of concern — "plantation trees had been broken down, branches broken off, and footpaths made where they should not be."[15] The following year, it was reported that "five newly planted rose trees" had been stolen[16] and a correspondent later wrote to the Huddersfield Examiner suggesting that the park gates be closed at sunset as they felt that "young people" were up to no good in the park at night.[17] In May 1916, Alderman Woolven reported to the town council that "deplorable and disgraceful damage" had taken place in the park, caused by children and teenagers.[18] In August 1919, Fred B. Bowker and Harry Brook were fined 10 shillings for plucking roses from the park.[19]

A memorial to the those from the Fartown and Birkby district who died in the First World War was erected in 1921 at a cost of £1,370. Comprising a "life-size figure in bronze of an infantry solider in full fighting kit on an unpolished granite pedestal, with panels of bronze bearing the names of the men who have fallen", it was unveiled on Saturday 2 April 1921 by Sir Ian Hamilton.[20]

On the evening of Wednesday 14 April 1937, an air-raid demonstration took place in Huddersfield. An aircraft from Liverpool flew over over the town and spotlights in Norman Park, Lindley Recreation Ground and the St. Paul's Street Drill Hall were used to spot it.[21]

In March 1939, the Huddersfield A.R.P. Committee estimated that 8,000 steel air raid shelters would be needed for the town. Ten sample shelters were erected at various locations, including the A.R.P. headquarters on South Parade, Greenhead Park, Ravensknowle Park and Norman Park.[22]

In recent years, the war memorial was vandalised in 2004 and 2009.[23]

Discovering Old Huddersfield

Extract from Discovering Old Huddersfield (1993-2002) by Gordon & Enid Minter:

Whilst in the Clough House area, readers might like to take a short walk in Norman Park which may be reached through an entrance to be found directly opposite the bottom of Cowcliffe Hill Road. Here, a number of stones from Clough House were preserved in a quiet arbour to the right of the gate. They included the date stone, the sun dial and a number of capstones and finials all of which are shown quite clearly in a photograph taken in the 1930s. Sadly, the picture is very different today. The capstones and finials are gone the sundial has fallen (or been pushed) over, face down, and the date stone is so badly weathered and overgrown that it is only with the greatest difficulty that the date, 1697, can be made out. It is sad indeed that these few relics of an interesting old house were not deemed worthy of better protection.

Laid out in 1896 Norman Park was, in less sophisticated times, a popular amenity in the neighbourhood. Gone now are the local folk, dressed in their "Sunday best" who would stroll decorously along the walkways to admire flowers, trees and shrubs and lawns kept pristine by the many, always heeded, "keep of the grass" signs. No more do bands perform for appreciative audiences on summer Sundays, no longer does the ornamental fountain play over the small lake into which, it was said, every child in Birkby fell, at least once. Gone are the children of those bygone days to whom the park offered limitless opportunities for such exciting games as hide and seek, cowboys and Indians, cops and robbers, tag and tin-cat-squat. Gone too is the park keeper, universally known as "Parky", whose retribution, if the children trespassed on the grass, could be swift and painful.

Today, alas, the park is run-down and somewhat neglected. However, flowers and trees remain and a short stroll around the walkways (and even across the grass) offers a chance at least of spotting something of the park's former glory.


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Further Reading


Notes and References

  1. The proposed park created debate in both the local newspapers and the Town Council meetings between those who wanted a recreation ground where games could be played and those who preferred having a formal park.
  2. This was nurseryman and landscape gardener Charles Kewshaw (c.1820-1903?) of Vine House, Halifax Road, Brighouse. The family business, Kershaw's Garden Centre, is still trading.
  3. "The Municipal Elections: Fartown Ward" in Huddersfield Daily Chronicle (03/Nov/1896). The cost of the park remained a contentious issue amongst some of the rate payers in the ward.
  4. "The Municipal Elections" in Huddersfield Daily Chronicle (06/Oct/1896).
  5. "Fartown" in Huddersfield Chronicle (14/Mar/1896).
  6. "Huddersfield County Borough Council" in Huddersfield Daily Chronicle (20/Aug/1896). The name reflected the fact that part of the land purchased from Sir J.W. Ramsden included the existing road called Norman Avenue.
  7. "Huddersfield County Borough Council: Management of Norman Park" in Huddersfield Daily Chronicle (20/Aug/1896). Alderman Glendinning noted that the bye-laws would allow them to deal with acts of vandalism, as "visitors to the park at Hillhouse had already begun to deface the seats which had been placed there for their accommodation, by artistically cutting out their initials."
  8. "Huddersfield County Borough Council" in Huddersfield Daily Chronicle (17/Dec/1896).
  9. "Huddersfield County Borough Council" in Huddersfield Daily Chronicle (17/Feb/1896).
  10. Born 1864, the son of waste flock dealer Henry Platts, he worked as a nurseryman and gardener. He died in 1939 aged 74.
  11. "Huddersfield County Borough Council" in Huddersfield Daily Chronicle (17/Mar/1896).
  12. "Huddersfield County Borough Council" in Huddersfield Daily Chronicle (19/May/1896).
  13. "The Old Clough House, Huddersfield" in Leeds Mercury (24/Oct/1903).
  14. "Huddersfield Borough Treasurer's Report" in Huddersfield Daily Examiner (10/Jul/1914).
  15. "Town Council" in Huddersfield Daily Examiner (16/Jul/1914).
  16. "Correspondence" in Huddersfield Daily Examiner (09/Apr/1915).
  17. Huddersfield Daily Examiner (28/Dec/1915).
  18. "Town Council" in Huddersfield Daily Examiner (18/May/1916).
  19. Leeds Mercury (26/Aug/1919).
  20. Leeds Mercury (04/Apr/1921).
  21. "Huddersfield Anti-Air Demonstration" in Yorkshire Post (14/Apr/1937).
  22. "Huddersfield Shelters" in Yorkshire Post (16/Mar/1939).
  23. "Huddersfield war memorial made vandal proof" in Huddersfield Daily Examiner (26/Jun/2009).