Peel Park, also known locally as Sparrow Park, was a small triangle of land bounded by Springwood Street, George Street and Upperhead Row.
Despite its modest size and proximity to the town centre, it remained a permanent feature for just over a century.
During discussions in 1869 relating to the erecting of a statue of Sir Robert Peel in the town, the triangle of land was described as "the newly-enclosed and planted piece of ground in Upperhead Row." The initial choices of St. George's Square and the Old Market Place as locations for the statue had been refused by Sir John William Ramsden and it was noted:
That the vacant ground now enclosed between Upper Head Row and George Street, (which the committee hopes will be named Peel Place) appears to this committee the most eligible one that can be obtained, and that application be made to the Corporation for permission to place the statue in that enclosure.
Council discussions in May 1869 also noted that consideration had also been given to locating the statue on an island in the middle of the road at the junction of New North Road, Westgate and Springwood Street. However, the railway tunnel passed directly underneath that location and it was feared the tunnel roof would not support the added weight of a heavy statue.
The implication from these discussions is that the area of land did not have an existing name, but it was hoped it would be named Peel Park or Peel Place should the statue be placed there. At a meeting of the Huddersfield Peel Statue Committee in January 1873, Mr. R. Skillbeck read out a letter from Captain R.H. Graham which noted, "In any case it would, in my opinion, be an egregious mistake to place it in the enclosure which has been facetiously termed Peel Park."
Ultimately, the Ramsden Estate reversed their decision and the statue was instead erected in St. George's Square.
The construction of the second Spring Wood Tunnel appears to have necessitated the digging up of the small park by the contractors. At the Council meeting of 15 April 1885, it was stated that the railway company was declining to "flag the space commonly known as Peel Park over the second tunnel instead of restoring the same to its original state." It was resolved that the Borough Surveyor request the railway company contractors to restore "the space of ground to its original condition."
In September 1885, the Central Wards Streets, Stores and Lighting Subcommittee resolved to plant trees around the boundary of the park with the minimum distance between each being no less than 12 feet. It was also decided to lay stone flags and erect iron gratings. It is perhaps these trees which attracted sparrows to the park, leading to alternative name of "Sparrow Park". Alternatively, the name may have simply reflected the small size of the plot of land.
In October 1885, an anonymous offer was made to the Council to pay up to £35 for the cost of installing a drinking fountain in the park. The Central Wards Committee resolved to accept the offer and "that the borough surveyor be authorised to make such arrangements as may be necessary for the reception of the fountain." However, no work was carried out and by April 1887 the Council was considering placing the offered fountain in the Market Place instead. With the subsequent erection of the Jubilee Fountain by Sir Ramsden in the Market Place in 1887/8, it seems the original fountain was indeed finally placed in Peel Park.
In July 1887, nine benches from Greenhead Park were relocated: three were placed in Peel Park, three placed near St. Paul's Church (possibly by St. Paul's Garden) and three placed at an unspecific location in Highfields.
The general condition and cleanliness of the fountain seems to have been an on-going problem — at the ceremony after the unveiling of the Jubilee Fountain in June 1888, Alderman J.F. Brigg gave a speech in which he stated it would be a great shame if this new fountain "was exposed to [the same] treatment which the fountain at Peel Park had received and so become a disgrace to the town." Although the Alderman may have been referencing a fountain at Bradford Peel Park or Salford Peel Park, the state of the fountain at the Huddersfield Peel Park came up several times during Council meetings and it was requested that staff from Greenhead Park should take responsibility for its upkeep.
The overflow of water from the drinking fountain also became a concern and, in March 1892, it was resolved that the water supply to the fountain be discontinued during the winter months, "because of the danger arising from the flow of water on to the adjoining flagging in frost weather."
During the 20th Century, the small park at some point gained a lavatory at its eastern end and had lost its fountain by the mid-1900s.
The 1960 Ordnance Survey map shows that "Peel Park", although not named on the map, was still in existence. However, its fate was eventually sealed by the decision to build the town's new bus station on Upperhead Row in 1970s.
As can be seen by comparing the archive and modern maps, the shape of the park is retained in the triangular section at the northern end of the bus station.
Extract from Discovering Old Huddersfield (1993-2002) by Gordon & Enid Minter
Just after Cherry Tree Corner, look out on the left for Upperhead Row which, until the coming of the ring-road, led directly to Outcote Bank and hence to Manchester Road and the river crossing at Longroyd Bridge. Upperhead Row was the site chosen in the 1970s for the new bus station, the building of which led to the demolition of a great deal of property and the loss to the public of an area called Peel Park. This was a small paved square with a dozen or so specially planted trees, two or three park benches and an ornate drinking fountain.
The name Peel Park must have been given to the area when, in January 1873, it was decided to erect a statue of Sir Robert Peel on what was described as "the open space at Upperhead Row" after Sir John Ramsden and the railway companies refused to allow it to be erected in St. George's Square. However, by June of that year the authorities had relented and the statue was given its rightful place in the Square. Whether it ever stood at Upperhead Row is doubtful but the park must have been officially named in anticipation of its coming and, officially, the name remained. Unofficially, the people of Huddersfield preferred the soubriquet Sparrow Park and as such it is still remembered.
Sparrow Park now lies beneath the entrance to the bus station which was opened on Sunday, 1st December 1974.