13th November, 2019 Restoration Project Pearson Park, Hull 6.

The next element of the Restoration Project as listed on the information board is ‘Landscape Improvement Works’. This is more open-ended than the other elements but, presumably, includes such things as the installation of a road-side kerb separating the park land from the peripheral road around it. This has been a big job as it has been done properly and is ongoing, but not with far to go.

As quite large areas of the grassland of the Park are currently shallow lakes (with having had what must be one of the wettest autumns on record) and, I think, there is an intention to build-up these low-lying areas.

I am hoping that ‘Improvements’ includes draining and cleaning the ornamental pond/lake. Minutes from the early days of the Parks and Cemeteries Committee of the Municipal Authority show that this was done annually/regularly, and draining the water away so the cement base could be cleared of accumulated sludge seemed then a relatively straightforward task. Incidentally, at the moment, most ducks and geese normally on the pond/lake have deserted, preferring one of the newly formed shallow lakes where the grass should be – free movement of wildlife.

(to be continued).

11th November, 2019 Restoration Project Pearson Park, Hull (5).

The next element of the Restoration Scheme as stated on the information panel is ‘Improvement works to the ice-cream kiosk’. The present building serving this purpose is seen above, right of centre, middle distance, with at one end public toilets and at the other end the park ranger’s storage ‘shed’. Immediately behind this building is a paved area with ‘fitness machines’ fixed to the ground and much-used by local people along with the perimeter road used by joggers (‘how many laps today?’). In my mind this raises the issue of green-flag status and listing for park-runs. The former is a hotly contested status whereby government inspectors award a municipal park a green flag (literally) as evidence of its range of facilities and its good management, my experience of Baysgarth Park, Barton on Humber being so awarded makes me think Pearson Park should be competent once the restoration is complete. Park runs are sites to which people travel for a ‘park-run’, this encouraged by the local authority.

In the early days of buildings in municipal parks there to sell refreshments they were called ‘pavilions’ and were rented to someone on an annual basis, the tenant hoping to profit from the venture. In Hull they were regulated by the relevant committee (Parks Committee up to 1899, the Parks and Cemeteries Committee thereafter) the tenant at West Park often complaining about ‘hawkers’ at the Park gates capturing trade. I’m not sure if they could have sold ice-cream back in the late 19th century with having no electricity supply, in fact the Committee Minutes give no clues as to what merchandise was sold. It would for sure then have been more common for people to bring a pick-nick and to be more independent in making-a-day-of-it at the local municipal park.

I believe the ‘kiosk’ is to get an awning to give out-door customers some shelter. It is currently the only place to get a cup (plastic) of tea for 50p.

10th November, 2019 Restoration Project Pearson Park, Hull.

The fourth element on the Restoration Project information board is ‘re-building the Victorian conservatory’. (Large heated greenhouses – conservatories -, like bandstands, were to become a standard feature of most, but not all, late Victorian municipal parks. These represented a great investment by the park’s authorities not only in their building costs but also in their running costs in terms of coal fuel for the boilers and labour. Since the futuristic construction methods pioneered by Joseph Paxton’s Chrystal Palace in the 1850s it had been possible to build conservatories of single-glazing onto a wrought iron framework although a wood framework might still then have been used to reduce capital outlay. From the relevant committee minutes such details are not always clear except when repairs were needed.

The raison d’etre for municipal park conservatories was education, by being able to see hothouse plants growing the common man would get an insight into global variations of climate and geography and thereby be enlightened.  Visitors would follow a defined path through the conservatory and visitor numbers of hundreds over a weekend were often recorded. The photo above shows the steel skeleton of the Project’s new conservatory in Pearson Park erected early in November 2019).

The next element listed on the Project’s information board is ‘Improvement works to the bowling pavilion’. (By the early 20th century crown-green bowls was becoming a very popular sport and bowling greens were increasingly added to municipal parks to accommodate this sport. Pressure then arose for ‘bowl houses’ to be built to provide shelter and storage for the competitors – the term ‘bowl houses’ being misleading when first encountered. The Project’s bowling pavilion when restored is intended to be multi-functional).

The next element listed on the Project’s information board is ‘Improvement works to the ice-cream kiosk’. (Again the forerunners of such buildings today evolved in the early days of municipal parks rather than necessarily being there from day-one.

(to be continued)

9th November, 2019 Restoration Project Pearson Park, Hull.

The photo. above shows one of the information boards for the above Scheme. Each of the above elements of the Project is progressing rapidly, this despite the extremely wet weather this Autumn especially earlier this week which has left much of the Park a shallow lake and which caused severe flooding in the River Don valley and other parts of South Yorkshire. The projects listed are;

-Restoration and repairs to Grade II listed East Lodge (lodges were houses built on site for the senior work-person and their family, they went with the job, often in the case of Hull rent-free, but had to be vacated if the employee lost his job or moved to another job. East Lodge was built in a mock-gothic style).

-Re-instatement of bridge over the lake (this at the narrowest point of the serpentine ornamental lake. These features had become a typical feature of municipal parks by the end of the 19th century but the one at Pearson Park was an early example. Later park bridges were often built in an Oriental style to reflect a fad of the time, I don’t think this was the case at Pearson Park. The ornamental lake at Pearson Park was cement-lined which made it relatively easy to clean once drained – all ornamental lakes needed an impervious base, often ‘puddled clay’ being used. The restoration of the Beck at Barton on Humber required a specific impervious clay be brought to the site to be laid as a ‘liner’).

-Re-instatement of bandstand (bandstands from ‘day-one’  became an iconic feature of late-Victorian municipal parks, the reason being that playing in a brass or silver band was a very popular and much encouraged pastime. By the early 20th century municipal park authorities were getting many requests in early spring from local bands wishing to give public concerts, often of ‘sacred music’. The bands hoped to raise money but the methods available were strictly regulated by park authorities, one permitted was ‘a sheet’).

(to be continued)

5th November, 2019 Misc. Autumn leaves.

I think it has been a slow autumn, the loss of leaves from the deciduous trees has been slow, here we are getting into November and very few trees have lost all their leaves although the rate of fall has quickened today with a blustery north-east wind and wintery showers blowing in along the North Sea coast. It has been a wet autumn – rain, rain and more rain and we have had the tail-end of a succession of Caribbean hurricanes which have whisked across the north Atlantic Ocean and drenched the west coast and Pennines first.

The photo above shows one section of the peripheral road around Pearson Park, Hull and examples some varying levels of leaf-loss.

4th November, 2019 Misc. – Two footbridges.

Hull is getting an increase in its number of footbridges. A couple of years ago a very modern swing footbridge was constructed over the lower River Hull just north of Myton bridge, this carrying the heavy east-west traffic over the River Hull between Castle Street and Drypool.

Now two further footbridges are under construction. For years it has been a problem for pedestrians to cross the A63 west of Myton Bridge walking from the Old Town to the Marina and Minerva Pier areas and vice versa. This plus the fact that the available pedestrian crossing caused hold-ups in the traffic flow which then backed-up east and west. Over the weekend (2nd, 3rd November) a newly constructed footbridge of futuristic design was installed over the A63, this should make the flow of pedestrians over the A63 more feasible and reduce the hold-ups in the flow of traffic along the road. The footbridge is not open to the public until March so that installation work can be completed.

The smaller footbridge under construction in the photo. above is in Pearson Park and when complete will provide access over the Park’s lake at its narrowest point. It does not have a practical function, as with the footbridge over the A63, but it does have a cultural function. It is one element in the Pearson Park Restoration project which seeks to replicate some of the Victorian features installed in the municipal park originally from the 1850s onwards. Other elements in the Restoration project include a new bandstand, for which the steelwork skeleton is now in place (see above), and a new conservatory for which the steelwork skeleton was erected only last week (see above).