In the late 1880s, it was felt that the people of South Leeds were not being treated with equality with those on the north side of the river, whilst the latter possessed Roundhay Park, Woodhouse Moor, and the East End or Jubilee Park there was nothing of this nature south of the river except for a very small park in Upper Wortley.
The opening campaign for a Park for Holbeck took place in the Mechanics Institute on Sweet Street West in July 1887. Councillor Joseph Henry was called upon to preside at this first meeting as Chairman, as it turned out a better choice could not have been made. From the first he threw himself whole-heartedly into the campaign for the Park and it is largely due to him that the effort of the early promoters was successful.
Everyone present at the mechanics Institute agreed that a Park should be secured, but there was soon the inevitable difference of opinion as to the site. This argument went on for months; the merits of the respective sites of Beggar’s Hill, Brown Lane, and the Cross Flatts Estate were well discussed at meeting as well as in the correspondence columns of the newspapers. The Incumbent of St. Matthew’s Church, the Reverend O. Cookson, and some other important Holbeck people favoured the Brown Lane site whilst others just as vigorously championed Beggar’s Hill. It became known that the Cross Flatts Estate was on the market for sale and could be secured at fairly reasonable terms from the Low Moor Iron Company and this caused opinion to swing round in favour of this site.
Now that a site had been found and approved by the Committee set up by Councillor Henry and the other members the next step was to convince the Town Council of the need to purchase the site. At the Town Council Meeting held on the 9 December 1877 a deputation comprising of the Reverend O. Cookson, the Reverend J. J. Bynner, Dr. Dobson, a Liberal Councillor and doctor who practised for 60 years at No.1 Marshall Street, Mr. C. Melville, Mr. Fielding, Mr. Hutchinson, Mr. Kilburn, Mr. Craven, Mr. Manknell, Mr. Flockton and a score of other leading gentlemen of the Township put such a good case forward to the Corporation that it was at once agreed that the matter should receive the serious attention of the Council; from that day the Park was half secured.
“Half secured”, but by no means wholly so; when the question of purchase came to be considered by the Corporate Property Committee it received serious opposition from unexpected quarters. But the zeal of the Holbeck Councillors, and in fairness it must be added, the help of the Town Councillors of West Hunslet won in the end. It was decided in the end that the Corporate Property Committee, of which Sir Edwin Gaunt was Chairman, should be asked to sanction the purchase of the Cross Flatts Estate for £12,000 and afterwards for it to be set out for the purpose of a Park.
The Council eventually endorsed the proposal and the outcome of a well-managed campaign triumphed through. Thanks to Councillor Joseph Henry and the other Councillors and influential residents of the Township of Holbeck along with the help of the West Hunslet Councillors Holbeck, Beeston, and West Hunslet residents now had a Park to be proud of. However, it must be said that at the last minute Councillor Henry did cause a major problem with some Councillors when he wanted the Park to be named Holbeck Park.
The formal opening of the Park took place on Saturday 11 July 1891, the ceremony being carried out by His Worship the Mayor, Councillor Cooke, Cross Flatts then becoming the property of the burgesses. This important event was marked by an immense gathering in the Park. Several Brass Bands were engaged to accompany the public procession which was marshalled outside the Mechanics Institute in Sweet Street West in preparation to leaving for the Park. The Councillors of the Township, the Poor Law Guardians, and many other prominent gentlemen took part in the Pageant, and among others who have promised to be present at the opening ceremony beside the Mayor are Sir Edwin Gaunt (an old Holbeckite), Sir George Morrison, several Aldermen along with other Town Councillors and several local notabilities.
His Worship the Mayor will appear in State in the procession (accompanied by the Artillery band), which will start at 3 pm. On arriving at the Park the opening proceedings were commenced by Councillor Henry introducing the Mayor who then performed the opening ceremony, this was then followed by speeches from Sir Edwin Gaunt and Sir George Morrison. During the afternoon and evening the Artillery and Holbeck Brass bands played selections of music for the crowds, while a grand fireworks display concluded the day’s festivities.
Cross Flatts Park was to be laid out in “Capital Style”, that is to say in formal style in the way of Roundhay and other Parks. The Park was laid out to the best advantage with pleasant walks and attractive flower beds (this can be seen on maps). Already 12,000 trees have been planted and this with the gift of a lovely water fountain along with a Bandstand and the nearby Aviary will only add to the many attractions that the Park has to offer. It is laid out to the plan of Mr. Bailby of Roundhay Park and he will oversee that Mr. Dobson and his staff of workmen adheres faithfully to this plan.
Councillor Henry wanted to name the park Holbeck Park and not Cross Flatts Park, in fact he was quite adamant about it, but was outvoted by fellow members of the Committee so Cross Flatts it became.
An ironic footnote to the above article is that in 1898 Colonel John Thomas North wanted to purchase Holbeck Moor for the residents of Holbeck and donate it to the Corporation who, unfortunately, did not take him up on his offer. Lady Charlotte Maynell Ingram was prepared to sell the Moor to the Corporation, but was not prepared to relinquish her manorial Rights to the fireclay which lay beneath the Moor. In 1900 the Moor was purchased by the Corporation, only two years after they could have had it for nothing!
This article was written by Ken Burton using our Community Reporters website