Monthly Archives: January 2019

30th January 2019. History of Public Parks, 21.

In Hull park-keeper’s/cemetery-man’s houses survive at Pearson Park (see above), West Park (beside Anlaby Road, just into the Park near the base of the Road’s flyover), East Park (near the main gate off Holderness Road), Pickering Park (near the main gate beside Hessle High Road), Western Cemetery (near the main entrance off Chanterlands Avenue), Hedon Road Cemetery ( near the main entrance off Hedon Road), Northern Cemetery (near one entrance off Chanterlands Avenue North) and Eastern Cemetery (near the main entrance off Preston Road). Two employee’s detached houses survive at Pickering Park and at Eastern Cemetery, a second was planned for West Park when a second entrance was created off Walton Street, but was never built.

Pearson Park’s cemetery-man’s house, shown above, is the earliest of the worker’s housing here listed. Its building style reflects the ‘mock-Gothic’, much in fashion in the 1850s. Features such as the steeply-pitched roof, Welsh slate roofing material (including some courses of ornamental slate) and ornately carved barge-boards reflect this style. The linear plot of land to the right of the house was the cemetery-man’s/gatekeeper’s garden. Now overgrown the garden and house stand neglected and drifting towards dereliction, although there is talk of restoration when funds permit.

The cemetery-man’s house at Barton (s.p.b. + picture) is of similar style to the house here described at Pearson Park, Hull although built over a decade later. Very detailed archives related to its building plan survive at Grimsby Archive repository. These reference details such as; brick type, bond, mortar constituents, size and colour of floor tiles, air bricks, yard asphalt, stone dressings for doors and windows, roofing slates, ridge tiles, skimming plaster, staircase, skirting boards, barge boards, gutters and fall-pipes ( see article on Burial and the history of Barton on Humber’s Cemetery in the Articles and Publications section of this website). This new house was then referred to as the ‘Lodge’.

Generally employee’s housing in municipal parks and civil cemeteries reflect the building style in vogue when the site was first opened.

28th January, 2019. History of Public Parks, 20.

The picture above shows the original main entrance to the civil cemetery at Barton on Humber, it shows three elements of early civil cemetery design ornate wrought iron gates and fencing, the cemetery-man’s house and a preference for ‘exotic’ tree species in the lay-out plan. All three elements could just as well apply to Victorian municipal parks gates and perimeter fencing, park-keeper’s housing and avenues of trees planted along the main carriageway with more random plantings elsewhere in the park.

Hull’s parks no longer have their original fences and gates (s.p.b.) but a study of the Parks and Cemeteries Committee Minute Books for the late 19th century show that by-and-large they did have them and one of the many duties required of park-keepers in return for their provided housing was to ensure that gates were locked and opened at designated times each day, overnight park security was seen as a necessary priority. It was only gradually that parks became more open (s.p.b.), this generally as a response to funding reductions.

Work on creating the original section of Barton’s Civil Cemetery began in November 1866. Alexander Stamp, builder of that town, was awarded the contract to build the cemetery-man’s house and the chapels of rest  (one for members of the Established Church, one for Nonconformists). However, over one third of the agreed sum for the work was the ornamental iron fence and gates which remain, still sturdy and impressive. Clearly fencing and gates were a considerable elements in the capital cost of creating early municipal parks and cemeteries.

The cemetery-man’s/park-keeper’s house was usually sited near one of the gates. In the case of Hull the man (and his family) in question usually lived in the house rent-free but accepted a slightly lower weekly wage than most labourers working under him. With having provided housing, usually of a good standard and detached, the keeper’s duties were considerable and his working time expected to be flexible.

(To be continued)

27th January, 2019. History of Public Parks, 19.

To continue blog 18’s theme of pathways/carriageways and benches. The rapid rise in car ownership after the Great War and the continuing popularity of visits to public parks resulted in the carriageways of parks becoming increasingly swamped by parked cars or stationary cars with the passengers just taking-in the view and people watching. This problem post Second World War resulted in some loss of green space hard-surfaced for parking but often a generous allocation of hard-surfacing by Victorian park creators meant this was deemed not necessary. This aspect of park development was connected with the fact that originally municipal parks usually had substantial perimeter fences and gates, the latter shut and opened at agreed times by the park keepers. However, declining budgets often resulted in park gates being just left open, while during the World Wars original wrought iron fencing often was sacrificed to war-needs and then never replaced (s.l.b.).

Today Hull’s main parks – Pearson, West, East and Pickering all have open access to vehicles and are subject to only very ‘light’ policing, given this, and given some people’s perception of the town, the absence of serious anti-social behaviour would seem to imply a residual respect for the municipal park environment.

To be able to sit and soak-up the ambiance of municipal parks across all seasons is essential and so the park bench has always been prime ‘park furniture’. Whether made of metal or wood all benches will deteriorate over time so their provision or replacement can involve a significant capital outlay. A survey ‘on line’ of sturdy benches reveals that there can be little change out of £1000 for a single one, ad then they have to be installed (s.p.b.). In creating the Chad Varah Memorial Garden recently in Baysgarth Park, Barton on Humber the Friends of B.P. had installed solid plastic benches made from recycled plastic, and I have seen these elsewhere.

In assessing a municipal space one criteria could well be ‘are there enough/any benches’.

24th January, 2019. History of Public Parks and Cemeteries, 18.

With the development of civic public parks and cemeteries in towns around the country in the second half of the 19th century certain elements of such places became common, some, but by no means all, remaining so today.

Access paths (this including carriageways whereby those with private horse-drawn vehicles might enjoy the park without having to walk, and in the case of cemeteries also allowing access to hearses) were one recurring feature. More essential initially than later, surfaced pathways allowed perambulation independent of weather conditions and were a means of keeping walkers off the grass in the early days or a public park’s development when newly seeded ground and young trees were more vulnerable. Information on early surfacing materials seems to be rare, later tarmacadam became popular, apart from anything else it didn’t necessarily need an edging stone so hard surface and grass could merge. Chalk clunch may have been an early choice (if readily available in the locality) as with being compressed by footfall and the effect of rainfall it formed a sort of cement surface, while today wood/bark chippings provide a flexible option. In Loudon’s time (s.p.b.s) the perception of public parks was very much influenced by the principles of private parkland architects and grassed areas might be fenced-off from the walkways and sheep grazed on the grass of the park.  Access to grassed areas soon became more liberal and the image of sitting or laying on the grass in the park became the norm – although the no-nonsense ‘Keep off the Grass’ signs may still be remembered by the older reader.

Places to sit, especially if the grass was wet or likely to stain one’s clothes, also became a common feature of parks. Even in the early days of King’s Lynn’s famous Walks (s.p.b.s) the main thoroughfare was edged by long simple benches. The photo above shows a pile of top-soil removed from a point in Eastern Cemetery, Hull where a new base is to be laid as foundation for a new bench. Eastern Cemetery has two areas for Muslim burial, this bench to be near the older area no longer used for burials.

22nd January, 2019. History of Public Parks, 17.

In 1845 Joseph Paxton was commissioned by the local authority in Coventry (west Midlands) to design (a lay-out plan) for their London Road Cemetery. Initially (presumably) a commercial venture, most public cemeteries post-dating the initial Burial Acts of the 1850s, this early example of a burial site beyond local churchyards remains reasonably well maintained unlike many disused burial sites elsewhere which suffer the neglect which follows declining local authority budgets. One reason this Cemetery is important (or more important) is that it is a classic example of Victorian public investment in cemeteries on a par with the investment in municipal parks. Here exotic and native young trees were planted, carriageways, to the chapels of rest, and footpaths were hard-surfaced and various structures commissioned to further add interest and diversity. After Paxton’s death in 1865 the Paxton memorial was erected (see picture above), commemorating his service to the town both in the Cemetery and as its M.P. in the 1850s. Other structures included the Prospect Tower, a raised turret giving a viewing point around and accessed by stone steps, and the two large chapels of rest, one for Nonconformist services and one for Anglican.

The importance here then is that in the 19th century and beyond cemeteries were perceived as places of resort, places for perambulation, this not just on the occasion of a burial but generally as a place to visit and to appreciate, but in a respectful manner. Also given the 19th century fashion for large headstones or memorials with considerable biographical information inscribed cemeteries were places where local information could be studied.

The public cemetery at Barrow Road, Barton on Humber is also a good example of the above points, albeit on a more modest scale. Barton Cemetery (of which more to follow) shows ‘at a glance’ the result of declining local authority investment in civil cemeteries during the 20th century.

16TH January, 2019. History of Public Parks, 16.

Opened in 1847 the Birkenhead Park is usually cited as the first English public park (s.p.b.s), this because it was commissioned by the then local authority and because, once completed, it was open to all citizens. In fact the local authority were dragooned by a wealthy local industrialist of modest origins Sir William Jackson, Bt. (whether there is any connection here with the once common retail outlets in Hull of ‘William Jackson’ I don’t know, probably just a coincidence of name). His enthusiasm was fired by a comparatively small park opened in Toxteth, Liverpool six years earlier, but there most of the park was reserved for nearby residents only.

As with a number of early public parks (s.p.b.s) the site chosen had for centuries been an uneconomic marshland which the designer and chief engineer, in charge of over 1000 navies across three years, transformed into a meandering lake  and undulations created form the excavated soil. Famously the designer was William Paxton, once head gardener at Chatsworth and designer of the Crystal Palace building for the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park, 1851. ‘The significance of the 1851 Great Exhibition to the parks formed in Victorian Britain in subsequent decades cannot be overestimated’ Elborough, T. A Walk in the Park, 2016, p.101.

As was also commonly the case nearly half the acreage allocated was given-over to middle class housing around the perimeter of the site leaving 125 acres for the Park itself. Various rustic and neo-classical built structures added greatly to the cost – see the ‘over-the-top’ triumphal gateway in the photo above (similar but less grandious triumphal entrances can be seen at Sewerby Park, just north of Bridlington, and at Pearson Park, north Hull).

In 1850 Frederick Law Olmsted, from New England, U.S.A., happened upon Birkenhead’s Park on a visit to England and, using his influence back in New York was able to generate enthusiasm for a similar park, this leading to the creation of Central Park (s.p.b.).