Monthly Archives: February 2019

27th February, 2019. History of Hull’s Public Parks, 6.

This third blog about the early days of West Park includes a picture (above) of the original bandstand on the island (s.p.b.), this taken from the Malet Lambert Reprint identified in the last blog. The lake, island, rustic bridge and bandstand are long-gone.

Already by the late 1880s the Corporation Parks Committee was making provision for team sports at West Park. In October 1887 there was a reference to a football dressing room while in November 1888 Kingston Juniors Football Club asked to play on the ‘Recreation Ground’ adjoining West Park (roughly where part of the KCOM stadium car park now is) ‘during the season’.

In October 1888 a greenhouse was purchased for West Park (this would have been a large public access structure) while in June of that year 20 extra benches had been ordered.

In September 1889 a ‘Young Indian Gazelle’ was donated to the Park by a sea captain, as were many such donations (s.p.b.s).

As regards access to the Park(s) in June 1890 the Committee decided that all the Corporations ‘Pleasure Grounds’ were to be open from 6am April to September, 7am over the winter, and closed one hour after sunset – this making clear the enclosed nature of early parks (s.p.b.s).

Initially West Park had as its neighbour over the Hull to Scarborough rail line Hull’s Botanic Gardens and certain minutes make it clear that there was a footbridge over the rail line for visitors to access one from another. However, by June 1891 the ex-Botanic Gardens were being replaced by the building of Hymers College and its extensive playing fields. The governors of the new school were to prove useful to the Parks Committee by offering, at preferential costs, fixtures, fittings and plants from the Botanic Gardens to West Park. Hymers College was funded from the bequest of the Rev. J. Hymers, Rector of Brandesburton ‘for the training of intelligence in whatever social rank of life it may be found’ (amongst Hull’s population). This direct grand school went independent in 1975 when the rest of Hull’s educational provision went comprehensive.

25th February, 2019. History of Hull’s Public Parks, 5.

The picture above is one of three grainy images of West Park, Hull copied from One Hundred and Twenty-One Views of Hull and District, c.1910, this publication reproduced as Malet Lambert Local History Reprint, Extra Volume No. 82. The volume also contains early photos of East, Pearson and Pickering Parks (in the last case only the entrance gates). The picture above shows the original West Park entrance off Anlaby Road.

By February 1885 most of the basic ground-work for West Park had been completed (s.p.b.) and the gardener was ordered to keep ‘meteorological observations’, these recordings went on for many years and were done by filling-in a pro-forma, presumably a weather station had been installed in West Park.

Between 1885 and 1890 visitor attractions at West Park were rapidly expanded. By March 1885 the issue of an aviary was being discussed in Committee, two months later the donation of exotic birds from members of the public began and continued apace for the rest of the decade, some ‘caught off the west coast of Africa’. By October 1885 there was a need for accommodation ‘for wintering the Birds in the Aviary’. The following year it was often recorded that, as well as birds and some mammals. fish and exotic plants were being donated to both West and Pearson Parks.

Clearly in its early days West Park drew a lot of people to the site. In April 1887 it was agreed to construct a refreshment pavilion at West Park, tenders having already been invited from persons wishing to sell refreshments there (later this building was recorded as being open from midday to ‘closing time’ for the Park except on Sundays (Sabbath Observance) and Christmas Day. Park officials and the police were clearly usually on duty when the Park was open, the latter being required to stop people with donkeys, wagonettes and traps plying for hire in the Park at holiday times.

(To be continued).

25th February, 2019. History of Hull’s Public Parks, 4.

As regards the early development of Hull’s West Park it needs to be recorded straightway that in 2011 Paul Gibson published his excellent booklet on this topic (cover-page see above).

In May 1882 the Minutes of Hull Corporation’s Parks Committee, 1882-1884, record that a sub-committee was formed to search for a ‘suitable site … in the East and West Districts for the use of the people as for a public Park’. By January 1883 its members were considering possible sites for ‘West District Park’. Later that same year they settled on a 40 acre site off Walton Street (newly named) already bought by the Corporation in 1878 from the North Eastern Railway Co. and then being used as pasture-land.

By the terms of earlier Public Health Acts parks could only be created by Urban Sanitary authorities, this highlighting the very important point that public parks were part of the great movement to improve public health in the late 19th century.

By February 1883 lay-out plans for he Park had been drawn and four acres was set aside for plots on which villas could be built alongside Walton Street (never built s.p.b.). The main entrance was to be created off Anlaby Road with a park-keeper’s lodge built alongside (surviving). Two carriage-drives were to be created, one serving the villas and one bisecting the site diagonally (both survive), also hard-surface footpaths (‘walks’) were to be laid. A 3000 square yards lake was to be dug with a central island and connecting bridge (see picture above described by Mr Gibson as ‘the lake and the original bandstand in a c.1888 view looking south towards St. Matthew’s church as depicted by local artist F.S. Smith’). There was to be a refreshment pavilion and arbours as well as a chief gardener’s lodge beside Walton Street (possibly never built).

In October 1884 it was recorded that work could start soon ‘so as to provide employment to a large number of workmen and to abate the distress existing in the Borough’.

(to be continued).

20th February, 2019. History of Hull’s Public Parks, 3.

As with many public parks around the country created in the mid-to-late 19th century, at Pearson Park, Hull the intention was to sell-off plots of land around the perimeter of the land allocated to the park for ‘villa development’, often envisaged for relatively large detached (although terraces/semis survive beside Pearson Park) period houses and where proximity to the park would further add to their value. Such plots were sold-off around Pearson Park and some of the original properties thus created survive (the picture above shows one such example although the delicate ironwork of the verandah and the large paned glass of the vertical sash windows suggests a possible ‘arts-and-crafts’ influence this making it a later example on such a site).

This means of recouping relatively quickly at least some of the capital outlay required in creating the public park seems to have been fairly standard practice at the time. Certainly in the creation of West Park, Hull in the 1880s the intention to sell-off plots of land alongside Walton Street for ‘villa development’ is documented, however for whatever reason this plan was never followed-through and later the same area of land was given over to the establishment of three bowling greens, one with a clubhouse on site, these still in evidence today.

As East Park, Hull was being developed in the same decade there are hints in the Minutes (s.p.b.) that the same was planned here, certainly along its eastern side. Here again these ‘villas’ were never built but the speculative development along what became East Park and Westminster Avenues may have served the same purpose.

I am yet to discover whether the same development was planned for Pickering Park in the early 20th century, but if so they also were clearly never built.

19th February, 2019. History of Hull’s Public Parks, 2.

As is probably the case with most public parks around the country Pearson Park, Hull is a pale image of its former self in terms of ‘fixtures and fittings’ in the Park, although this should not detract from their ongoing value and simply reflects the fact that local authorities now have a wider spectrum of responsibilities, and now, in an era of declining income. Some parks, of course, have had an injection of capital over the last two decades as a result of Heritage Lottery monies being targeted to that end and this has often resulted in a restoration of some of the park’s original fixtures and fittings. One good regional example is People’s Park, Grimsby, another (hopefully) might be Pearson Park in the not too distant future.

The picture above shows Pearson Park’s ‘triumphal arch’ entrance off Beverley Road. At the time of the Park’s creation (1860) Beverley Road was a linear housing area on the edge of town with some of the contemporary middle-class mock-Gothic roadside housing surviving still. The land on which the Park was created would have previously been fields. Relevant committee minutes (s.p.b.) show that originally there was a large fountain just inside the Park which would have been visible through the ‘triumphal arch’. As an aside I don’t know what mechanics were put in place to drive a fountain in the 1860s, what drove up the water?

In 1886 the Pearson Park fountain ‘near the chief entrance’ was, for whatever reason, in need of restoration while two further fountains on the opposite side of the Park beside Princes Avenue were to be filled-in with soil and planted with flowers. The former no longer exists, its site probably being where a circle of trees now stands.

Also Pearson Park was of its time in having grand statues, one of Queen Victoria and one of the Prince Consort (both surviving) commemorating the royal visit to Hull in the 1850s. This was a level of ‘fixtures and fittings’ that was not to be replicated in latter Hull parks.

18th February, 2019. History of Hull’s Public Parks.

With Pearson Park, established in 1860, being Hull’s first public park, when West and East Parks were being established in the 1880s it was referred to as ‘The Park’ in the minutes of the Parks and Recreation Grounds Committee which may be viewed in the reference room of Hull History Centre.

Many features of Hull’s later public parks, and of the public’s reaction to these parks, were first evidenced at Pearson Park. For example, on the 7th September 1888 it was recorded that a ‘monkey’ had been donated to The Park as well as ‘3 Persian guinea-pigs’. Such donations of animals, birds, plants and even fish from members of the public reflects (hopefully) that such creatures were provided with suitable accommodation. Certainly parks often had/have aviaries and some enclosures for mammals. Most parks had lakes for fish, although the one at Pearson Park was concrete-lined so fish would have had little or no natural food supply.

Unfortunately it is clear from the Minutes about ‘The Park’ that bad behaviour in these public spaces was a problem from day-one. On 19th December 1884 it was recorded that two ‘Spanish geese’ had been stolen from Pearson Park (the date suggesting that these poor creatures were destined not to live a long and fulfilling life!). Also in the 1880s children from a nearby orphanage were causing problems by ‘running through the shrubberies’, while ‘youths’ congregating after dark in the Park were also a problem.

As well as exotic animals and birds members of the public were also often recorded as donating artefacts for display. For example, in April 1887 ‘4 large stones and a large tree root’ dredged-up from Dogger Bank (given the date probably by an early steam trawler) were presented to Pearson Park, these, presumably, inviting speculation about the bed of the German Ocean during glacial and inter-glacial times (if public consciousness had reached such a point).

Picture above = the notice-board of the Friends of Pearson Park.

(to be continued).