Middleton Park – Ancient and Modern

I spent an enjoyable afternoon in Middleton Park on a history walk organised and led by the Friends of the park. Alan and Jim led sixteen humans and five dogs on a tour that took in pits, houses and dykes.

The Middleton Collier with Salamanca locomotive and possibly Wood Pit – courtesy of the Science Museum

As well as the history we were updated with the improvements currently being made to the park thanks to a large Lottery grant. The new visitor centre with its sedam roof is nearly finished, paths are being improved and posts for direction signs have been installed. We saw works going on to the rose garden and heard about interpretation boards that will be dotted around the park to explain aspects of the park’s history.

The Rose Garden turns out to be still in its original position by the site of Middleton Lodge, the home of the Brandling family who owned the land in the 18th and 19th centuries. The Lodge was the centre of the estate with many outbuildings. It was all paid for by the profits from coal mining.

Coal has been mined in Middleton since 1635 and we visited the site of last pit to be sunk, in 1812, the same year that the world’s first steam locomotive “Salamanca” ran on the Middleton Railway. A large dell marks the top of the mine shaft of Wood Pit, near the Gypsy Lane end of the woods. Across the path is another dell that is thought to be the water reservoir needed by the steam engine that took miners and coal up and down the 125 yard shaft.

The famous print above shows a pithead in the background and this is thought to be Wood Pit. The mine was worked until the 1890s and was the last pit in the park although Broom pit, just outside the park, near the top station of Middleton Railway, was worked until 1968.

Tram track in Middleton Woods

On the way to Wood Pit we walked along the route of the No 12 tram, which ran right through the woods up to Middleton estate. Alongside this is a ditch and dyke that dates back 800 years. There was a dispute between the manors of Beeston and Middleton that was settled when the Knights Templar marked a border line between the two and the ditch was dug to make a permanent boundary.

Next week (30th September) you can see the Friendly Band from Sowerby Bridge perform, which will be the last of the Friends of Middleton Park’s Sunday events for this year. Watch out for the history walk next year though, I can heartily recommend it.