Our village park history

King George V Park
King George V Park

Whilst little remains of the local industrial giant T.F.Firth’s company at Bailiff Bridge, there is one small part of that family’s generosity which does remain and unbeknown to most local people it has just had its centenary.

Firth’s were very community spirited, Lady Firth would regularly help local families of employees who had fallen on hard times whether it was through war time or financial hardship.

I recall meeting a lady almost 30 years ago, Mrs Pamment, a well known and respected lady in the Lightcliffe and Bailiff Bridge areas. She was a seven year old when her mother would send her to the Firth’s family home in Lightcliffe. I suppose now a days we would call them handouts, but the family didn’t have to give it, but they did and were appreciated for it in those now far off days.

Mrs Pamment recalled to me that as a child she would come for the money and would welcome the glass of mineral water she would be given by the domestic servant Lily Blackwell.

Her visits would quite naturally in those days be via the back door of the house and would wait quietly until Lady Firth would appear. Mrs Pamment was never allowed to visit the house via the front door.

That was until I arranged with the owner of the Firth family home to let Mrs Pamment be driven up to the front door and walk through the house she first visited some 87 years earlier as a child. A wonderful day not just for Mrs Pamment but also for all those who had arranged it for her.

It was on July 31 1911 that Lady Firth gave the village a drinking fountain but sadly it was finally removed in 1962 in the interests of road safety.

A visible legacy from the Firth’s is the George V Park in Wakefield Road at Lightcliffe which was handed over to the Hipperholme Coronation Committee on the May 4 1911.

The park was created from what during the 1850’s was a sand stone quarry – something that is quite clearly shown on the Ordnance map of that year. This would answer the question why there is a depression in the centre of the park – subsidence after the old quarry was filled in.

The park was created and given to co-incide with the coronation of King George V.

The park is still there but the dividing hedge which separated the formal gardens from the play area has long since been removed. The old shelter at the back also went and the second shelter and toilets which were on the right hand side of the park as you looked at it from Wakefield Road were demolished – because of vandalism.

No doubt many readers will remember being taken to the park as children to try out their new two wheeler bike in what would be a safe environment and more importantly a softer landing than on the road or path at home in that initial learning to ride stage. The local church held events at the park – galas and small fetes and of course the Whitsuntide gatherings after the procession of witness in and around the local community.

This week we feature two photographs – one which shows two ladies stood in Wakefield Road during the early 1920s probably discussing whether they should go to the park that day.

The second photograph (above) captures probably most of the local children posing just before the work began to create the park in 1910. This park was given by the Firth’s and will be a lasting memory.