A Retrospective look
at Wellholme Park
Life in Brighouse
Lane Head Recreational Ground
With the on-set of the Industrial Revolution (1760 – 1830) the
prosperity of the Hipperholme-cum-Brighouse Township began to
grow. This was to increase quite significantly following the
construction and opening of the Calder and Hebble Navigation Canal
in 1760. The canal was to follow the un-navigable sections of the
River Calder through the town centre paving the way for barge traffic
of an unprecedented scale.
During the early nineteenth century the Township was largely an
agricultural based economy. It was dominated by a small number of
landowners – the Armytage family at Kirklees Hall; the Walker family
at Crow Nest Mansion at Lightcliffe; the Lister family at Shibden Hall
in Halifax and the Sunderland family at Coley. There were a number
of other landowners but these were significantly smaller.
Nineteenth century Brighouse town centre
With ever increasing industrialisation of the town centre area house
building and a rising population soon followed.
A major development in the history of Brighouse was the formal
separation and independency from Hipperholme in 1866, to become
a town in its own right and have Local Board status (the forerunner
to the Borough Council in 1893).
Commercial Street c: 1890
As the town centre began to grow the word recreation and leisure
would have meant little to the largely working class families. In
Brighouse the concept of the weekend would have had a far different
meaning to what we know it as today, but life was about to change
The only recreation for many
Brighouse people was the
annual community event
Life in Brighouse
The life of a Brighouse family would have meant working Monday
through to Saturday, with half time working for many children.
Sunday was the one day when families would have the opportunity of
having a ‘free’ day. In the morning would have meant Church or
Chapel and Sunday School and then in the afternoon the family
would have the opportunity of taking a Sunday stroll in the
countryside. If it was raining or during the winter Sunday afternoon
would have been spent at home entertaining themselves.
The earliest known piece of green open public space in the town
centre dates back to 1840 at Swan Field. It would appear that this
piece of land was situated behind the Black Swan public house in
Lower Briggate just off the town centre.
Hall in Thornton
Lower Briggate – the three
storey building is the Black
Swan and the three cottages
next to it were built near to the
old Swan field – today it is the
site of the now disused
Thomas Sugden’s Flour silos
In the mid-nineteenth
century there was a
revival in the old
Rushbearing Feast. The
rush cart was paraded
through the streets of the
town centre and was then taken to Swan Field behind the Black
Swan. This event is the earliest recorded gathering for a community
event in modern times and was to soon grow in popularity.
The date for Brighouse Peace Festivities after the Crimean War was
finally arranged for May 29th 1856 when a procession would
culminate again in Swan Field.
On that day numerous bands had been engaged to play in the
procession through the town, a procession the size of which had
never been seen before. The procession was led by local Constables
carrying decorated Maces followed by the local gentry and then the
Drum and Fife Band the first of the bands. Next came the scores of
Sunday School scholars from the Church Schools, Bethel School and
finally the Wesleyan Schools.
The next band was Pratt's Brass Band followed by representatives
from the Ancient Order of Shepherdesses and then the Waterloo
Following on were the Independent Order of Oddfellows and then the
United Order of Oddfellows and two highland pipers.
With the Ancient Order of Shepherds, the Ancient Order of Gardeners
and the entire workforce of Sugden's flour mill this was by far one of
the largest processions seen in the town for many years both before
and after. Once having passed through the decorated archway at
Lane Head the procession went on to Brookfoot and going onto
The procession nearing the end of its journey on through Rastrick
down Gooder Lane back into Brighouse finally arriving at the
triangular field where the procession spilt into their various groups this was at Swan Field. Having set off at 1 pm they arrived at the
field some three and a half hours later, with everyone no doubt
exhausted and ready for the cups of tea that awaited them.
It was estimated that once the procession had reached Swan Field
between 700 and 800 wives and widows dashed off to the various
hotels in the town to prepare the tea that was being laid on. To mark
this special occasion a special thankyou card was produced and given
to each of the lady helpers. This was another memorable community
event and took part at what was then considered to be a recreational
oasis in the town centre.
The people who were organising and managing The Rushbearing and
other local events including the popular Pig Fairs soon realised these
large scale events had now out grown Swan Field. However, with no
other public space available in the town centre area these events had
to be moved to the nearby Black Bull cricket field an open space that
was later swallowed up following further development in the town
There was a strong desire by the majority of the local people to
continue organising these annual community events.
These events were developing quickly with something new each year
and were soon to include trotting, Knurr and Spell matches, wrestling
and boxing matches as well as the traditional horticultural shows
which also included fruit, flowering blooms and vegetable
competitions, space was at a premium.
During the 1870’s and 80’s through lack of a suitable venue another
open field site behind the
Parish Church had to be
used for the increasingly
Rastrick and District
Horticultural and Floral
Society and event that
was first held in 1874.
Front cover the first
programme dated August 8th
The days of children
seeing wild animal shows,
the smallest man and the
fattest woman and Lord John Sanger’s Circus would be numbered
unless something was done, and quickly, because the community
wanted to continue seeing and being involved in these events. The
last thirty years of the nineteenth century were very difficult times
with many mills closing down and wages being cut. The local people
had little to celebrate or look forward to - except those annual
Thump Sunday, was traditionally the last day of the Rushbearing
Feast and it was customary to see large crowds visit Brighouse,
crowds that reached and sometimes exceeded 3000 at their peak - a
large open public space was now needed desperately. With these
kinds of events having had a nomadic existence throughout the
nineteenth century something more permanent was needed.
One of the earliest events to be held in Camm Park, the grounds of a
large private house called ‘Well Holme’ on Bradford Road, the home
of the Camm family. The Brighouse, Rastrick and Clifton Horticultural
Flower and Agricultural Show in 1851was a major attraction. The
Camm family were local mill owners and were benefactors to the
former St James Church (1872 – 1972). Today the nearby Camm
Street and Alfred Street are two streets which were named after this
family of local worthies.
From the 1880’s Camm Park at ‘Well Holme’, was beginning to be
used more and more for community events and always through the
patronage of the Camm family. In 1883 the annual Brighouse Musical
Festival was held in the grounds. Brighouse and the outer districts
had many sporting clubs ranging from cricket, bowling, football,
tennis and even lacrosse; these were all clubs where individuals had
to become members. As yet there were no open space activities for
the general public to take part in unless they became members of a
Although the Corporation Act of 1835 was to change many things it
wasn’t until the 30th September 1893 that Brighouse was
not to be at
Camm Park c: 1895 – later to become Wellholme Park
Although there were now a small number of other open spaces in the
outer districts there was no real location centrally for the large
The council turned its attentions instead towards the Lane Head area,
in particular land that was bordered by Halifax Road and Garden
Road which was to become known as the Lane Head ‘Rec’
Within twenty years this way of life and many of these trees would disappear
and Camm Park would be transformed into a much needed area for
Lane Head Recreational Ground
This land first came on the market in 1870 at a public auction with
part of it being quarried for stone. The Brighouse Borough Council
Parks Committee Minutes of 1896 record the land being fenced and
designated for recreational purposes. This was the Borough Council’s
first move to manage the area as a place for recreational purposes.
Lane Head Recreation Ground c: 1920
Lane Head Recreation Ground c: 1957
It was now being recognised that public green spaces played an
important part in the lives of the local community.
The Lane Head Recreation gradually became the location for all major
community events in Brighouse and was to be recognised as public
This was to last into the twentieth century but gradually by the late
1950’s Lane Head Recreation was also becoming too small for those
major events and was unable to compete with what was to become
known as Wellholme Park.
The annual Brighouse Gala was held annually in Lane Head Recreation
In reality Lane Head Recreation ground was and still is no more than
a large field with a small children’s play area separated off at one end
that was to all intentions and purposes not really part of the
recreation ground itself.– the only ground maintenance was the grass
being cut. It had no attractions; there was little incentive by the local
people to use it. The only attraction it had going for it was what was
described as the ‘Old Mans Parliament’. This was no more than a
shelter where the elderly gentlemen of the surrounding community
could meet and put the world to right.
During the 1960’s it was only used for local club football which
included the local secondary school using it for their football lessons
because they had no football pitches of their own.
It was far from a welcoming place – because there was nothing to
attract ‘customers’ other than the people who took their dogs a walk.
Visual amenities were no more than a line of trees dividing the
recreation ground and the main Halifax Road and some
unimaginative outlying shrubs around the perimeter and the nearby
children’s swing park. As a public park it had little to nothing going
for it at all.
The annual gala procession making its way to Lane Head
Recreation in 1907
One of the most unusual requests for Wellholme to be used for a
public recreational purpose was in June 1912 when Mr S.J.Hendry
applied for permission to hold a month long open air cinema. It must
have been a real treat for those that went and saw the movies for
the very first time. Fine days were spent sat outside under the stars
and the flickering fairy lights decorating the tree lined field but wet
days were spent inside a 600 seater marquee.
An idea for what we would call today an out of town shopping
complex was given serious consideration by Brighouse Councillors in
1921, an idea that after some discussion was dropped.
Camm Park c: 1895
The green fields were part of the Wellholme Estate which belonged to
Alfred and Anna Maria Camm and their family who lived in Well
The land came on the market in 1924 and there was great
speculation as to whether the council would buy it or not. Eventually
they did and then wondered what to do with it for many years after.
Building houses on it was one consideration but another that brought
out the locals to form a Well Holme Protest Committee was to build a
new Civic Centre, it was probably this group that finally helped
persuade the council in 1938 that Well Holme should stay as an open
space for all the community to enjoy and use.
The stage is set at Wellholme Park for
’Holiday at Home’ - 1944
With the Munich crisis looming it was decided that the Calder Valley
area including Brighouse should be one of 16 districts in the West
Riding for air raid precautions. The trenches were dug in Wellholme
Park but by the September crisis of 1939 air raid precautions were
found to be in chaos. Although the crisis did subside the Home Office
refused to allow the trenches initially to be filled in again.
Towards the end of the war the ‘Holiday at Home’ events were a
regular feature at Wellholme Park and attracted many families from
in and around the outer districts.
As the war ended and life in Brighouse began to change and develop
into the new order. Community events were once again to play a
large part in this process of building for the future.
Community Associations were now the order of the day on the vast
new post war housing estates. These associations annually
celebrated their own localised events but for the bigger and more
Wellholme Park was
becoming the place.
With many of the old
been swept away in
the interests of
events gave many
former neighbours the
opportunity to meet
up once again and
reminisce about the
old days – Wellholme
Park was becoming a
focal point for the
Brass bands have been a feature of Brighouse and its surrounding
communities since the nineteenth century. It is difficult to imagine
these days that it is not that long ago in the context of the town’s
long history that brass band concerts on a Sunday were frowned
upon and brought objection from many quarters.
During the early 1960’s however attitudes had changed and the
Sunday afternoon and evening brass band concert in Wellholme Park
was part of the council’s summer calendar of events.
Every Sunday a different brass band would be engaged to perform
from 3pm until 4.30pm and then again from 7.pm until 8.30pm.
The largest event to take place in Wellholme Park is still the annual
Brighouse Charity Gala which was started during the mid 1960’s.
With almost a mile long procession winding its way through the
surrounding communities and parading along Brighouse’s main
thoroughfare Commercial Street and finally ending at Wellholme
Park. This event will attract between 10,000 and 20,000 spectators
and visitors to both the town and Wellholme Park every year.
Wellholme Park flower beds c: 1965
Today, Wellholme Park is once again the welcoming place it once was
– tennis courts, putting, bowling, attractive flower beds are just
some of the many activities and attractions that are available for an
ever growing number of visitors. Perhaps even one day the Sunday
afternoon brass band concerts might be back.
After what seemed like a period of stagnation Wellholme Park has
now a welcoming feel about it. A well maintained park is always
viewed as a safe park and since the café was opened the park is
beginning to see the appearance of more families – why – because
there is now something for all age groups.
Visiting parents feel the park is a safer place to bring small children
particularly around the swings area. Little to no rubbish helps to
ensure it remains that way and does not become the dumping
ground it once was and attract the undesirable and intimidating
gangs of youths.
One thing the park does lack and that is any sign of local heritage
such as a permanent photographic display of different aspects of the
park’s history. There could also a sculpture aspect to the park
whether it was a rolling exhibition or a permanent one. These would
be assets to the park and could be at the forefront of the council’s
marketing strategy for the whole park.
Wellholme Park during the successful Brighouse Charity Gala,
when it seems the whole town descends on the park to be
part of this annual community event.
I close this short story about the recreational facilities in Brighouse
and in particular Wellholme Park with this photograph recently taken
at the annual Brighouse Charity Gala. It illustrates how much
Wellholme Park means to the local community both in and around