Simple, innocent pleasures

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THERE may have been Blackpool and Belle Vue, Manchester, within striking distance but here in Brighouse we had our own playground of the north - Sunny Vale Pleasure Gardens.

In the years immediately after the war, Sunny Vale, nestling in the Walterclough Valley and Hipperholme, would be a hive of activity as things began to come alive again from the winter lay-off.

All the local concert parties would be auditioning potential new members and rehearsals for opening performances would be in full swing.

Sunny Vale had been the place to go for that annual summer treat from as long ago as the late 19th century.

When the Bunce family created Sunny Vale little did they know that it would be around for 75 years and visited by generations of families who would come year after year. Attendance numbers easily exceeded six figures annually.

The musical entertainment included brass band of all levels, with regular contests held well into the late 1930s. But it was the summer brass band concerts that attracted countless people to just sit and soak up the music and the summer sun.

There were, of course, the regular children’s concert parties who entertained the vast audiences. These included the Victory Follies, who were from Clifton and had been put together by Ernest and Mary Hudson. All the children were drawn from the village Methodist Sunday School.

The concert party that was always there was the one Mildred Crossley formed and ran. Mildred was born in Elland and she first appeared on a stage at the age of four, and from that early age was the start of a life time in the world of musical entertainment. She was a singer and a dancer and soon put all that expertise to good use when she formed her own children’s concert party, MC Productions, Langdale House, Langdale Street, Elland’

In 1940 she married Norman Teal, a professional xylophonist with the Herman Darewski Orchestra. As a couple they were to become the youngest revue producer/owners in the country. Hundreds of successful pupils passed through her training school having been taught piano, music and dancing, examinations and degrees. She taught many young people, several of whom went on to be professionals in the world of musical entertainment,the most famous being the late Roy Castle.

In 1946 Sunny Vale was bought by Fred Thompson who was described as a fairground caterer from Cleveleys, where he also owned the Queens Theatre.

It was here where Mildred and some of her older members of her concert party went, and was to bring her direct involvement at Sunny Vale to an end.

Our featured photograph dates back to 1947 when on Saturdays the stay-at-home members of the concert party would perform at Sunny Vale. These weekend shows were run by 19-year-old Connie Womersley, nee Hamer, who had been a long-serving member of Mildred’s concert party.

However, after the war years peoples expectations of life, particularly in the entertainment world was changing. Once petrol became available for motor cars again people wanted to go to the seaside for their holidays.

This signalled the end of an era and Sunny Vale go into a terminal decline from its heydays.

Life was beginning to move on after the austere days of war time.

n ‘The Sunny Vale Pleasure Gardens’, a publication with 150 illustrations and many personal memories from people who visited both before and after the two world wars gives a fascinating insight into a place once described as ‘a childrens paradise’.

For further enquires about this publication please send an e-mail to . . . enquiries@chrishelme-brig house.org.uk or telephone 01422-205763