Beaumont Park : A Brief History

On 8th August 1879, Huddersfield Corporation accepted the offer of 20 acres of woodland and four fields from the wealthy landowner Henry Frederick Beaumont for transformation into Huddersfield's first public park.  The land was rocky and precipitous, with splendid views over the Holme Valley.  To improve access to the site, Butternab Road was extended to the West and a new road, Beaumont Park Road, was built.  Natural falls in the ground necessitated the construction of supporting arches (which eventually held grottos with drinking fountains).  The road and arch works cost £4153, and were subsidised by a one sixth penny rise in the rates.

                        Beaumont Park Arches
 

On 29th May 1880 the first sod was cut in an enthusiastically-attended civic ceremony.  The workforce from the recently-completed Wessenden Reservoirs was drafted in to construct the Park, under the overall direction of R.S. Dugdale, the Borough Engineer.  The skill of the Wessenden stonemasons is still evident in the Park.  The site was enclosed by metal railings made by the Coventry Art Metal Company at a cost of £2487, and two miles of paths, including the main gravelled promenade, were laid.

                         Beaumont Park - Main Avenue

A series of smaller building projects began.  A pavilion was erected at the top side of the play area, offering covered seating areas and two cloakrooms.  A 100 feet high flagpole was centred in an arboretum above a lake, which was quarried out of solid rock (with additional concreting to the bottom, at a cost of two shillings and sixpence).

                         Beaumont Park - The Lake

                         Beaumont Park - The Lake

A  bandstand was constructed with a stone base, a pine superstructure and a weather vane gracing the top.  A pond and cascade were built, and as there were no electric pumps, water from the mains was used and allowed to run off into the bottom of the Park.  Imagine the cost of using Yorkshire Water today!  The Park Keeper's Lodge was built at a cost of £300.  Apart from the Lodge, all the building work utilised rock and gravel quarried out of the Park.

                                                                  Flag pole at the Butternab entrance

The original vegetation in the Park consisted mainly of stunted oak trees. The soil was very thin and of poor quality.  Much work was done to improve it, and then intensive planting took place.  Birch, beech, laburnum, sycamore, scotch fir and ash trees replaced the oaks.  Ferns, heathers, 20,000 primroses and 5,000 daffodils were planted and - of course - rhododendrons.  Andrew Pattison was appointed as the first Head Gardener on wages of 25 shillings a week plus rent-free use of the Lodge. At £1 each, 147 benches were purchased.

By September 1883, to ensure the Park was ready for its official Opening, 150 men (on a total weekly wage of £150) were toiling away.  When the Duke and Duchess of Albany performed the grand Opening on October 13th, the area between Butternab Road and the Park Keeper’s Lodge had been completed.  The metal fence between the Lodge and the lower boundary wall and steps at the top of Hanson Lane had been installed, but no other building work had been carried out to the North of the Lodge.  The building works already completed had cost £20,000.  Many members of the Corporation were worried about the spiralling costs and wanted to stop, but the Mayor was in favour of continuing.  In December, the Council made the decision to go ahead and complete the Park.

In 1884, the Lower Gate, a castellated entrance, was built for £275.  This was to provide a grand entrance for visitors from Meltham Road and passengers on the steam tram which ran on a specially built line from Lockwood Bar to the Park. In July the Council set aside a sum of £800 to build the ‘Castle’, a building comprising refreshment rooms, a dance floor and living accommodation. When completed, the cost had risen to £2165.  Close by, a second cascade was built.

                          Beaumont Park - The Castle

Beaumont Park - The Castle

                                         Beaumont Park - The Castle

Beaumont Park - The Castle

                                         Beaumont Park - The Castle

The Park was now fully open, ‘to increase the happiness, promote the good health and elevate the minds of the people of Huddersfield’, as intended by Henry Frederick Beaumont when he donated the land in 1879.

During the Second World War, the gates and railings other than those along exposed lengths were commandeered to help to build Spitfires and other war machinery (although there is some doubt as to whether they were ever used for this purpose).  A blast wall was built just below the Dryclough Road entrance for the safety of visitors and Park workers in the event of an air raid.

By the 1960s, Beaumont Park had fallen on hard times. The bandstand had long been pulled down and only the stone base remained.  This had been covered with soil and planted with trees and shrubs.  The Castle was demolished in 1964 when the estimated cost of repairs was judged to be prohibitive.  In 1988 the paddling pool was filled in.  By now, the once splendid Park had fallen into a state of disrepair. Flowerbeds were no longer planted; neglected vegetation was strangling paths and obstructing vistas.  In 1998 the pavilion was demolished and parts of the Park were being used for the tipping of rubbish.  Something had to be done or this magnificent inheritance would disappear for ever.  The time had come for the formation of the Friends of Beaumont Park.

                                          Beaumont Park

                     Overlooking Lockwood and the Holme valley