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Welholme Park History Project

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Wellholme Park Brighouse history project

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Welholme Park History Project

  1. 1. A Retrospective look at Wellholme Park by Chris Helme
  2. 2. Wellholme Park c: 1965 © Christopher D. Helme (2006) - Tower House, Holme Mews, Wakefield Road, Lightcliffe, Halifax, West Yorkshire HX3 8TY – This story is copyright – Calderdale Metropolitan Borough Council can however, use this story either in a paper format to support their case for Wellholme Park gaining its Green Flag status or electronically on the Council website. The photographic images belong to the author and cannot be used for any purpose other than already stated above without written permission - all enquires should be directed to the author. E-mail: cdhelme3539.brighouse@zen.co.uk Telephone: 01422 - 205763
  3. 3. A Retrospective look at Wellholme Park by Chris Helme
  4. 4. Contents Title Page Introduction 3 Life in Brighouse 5 Camm Park 10 Lane Head Recreational Ground 13 Wellholme Park 16
  5. 5. Introduction 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.
  6. 6. 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
  7. 7. 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. The former Brighouse Town Hall in Thornton Square Swan Field c: 1893
  8. 8. 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
  9. 9. 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 Band. 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 Bridge End. 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.
  10. 10. 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 centre. 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 popular Brighouse, Rastrick and District Horticultural and Floral Society and event that was first held in 1874. Front cover the first programme dated August 8th 1874 The days of children seeing wild animal shows, the smallest man and the
  11. 11. 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 community events. 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.
  12. 12. Camm Park 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. 1881 ordnance Survey map showing the Well Home Estate
  13. 13. 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 club. Although the Corporation Act of 1835 was to change many things it wasn’t until the 30th September 1893 that Brighouse was incorporated and became a Borough. A public recreation ground was needed this space was however, not to be at Well Holme, yet. 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 community events. 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’
  14. 14. 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 recreational purposes
  15. 15. 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
  16. 16. 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 green space. 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 Ground 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
  17. 17. 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
  18. 18. Wellholme Park 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 Holme. 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.
  19. 19. 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.
  20. 20. 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 centralised community events Wellholme Park was becoming the place. With many of the old terraced house communities having been swept away in the interests of progress the Wellholme Park 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 town. 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.
  21. 21. 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.
  22. 22. 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 Brighouse.

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