Vice-Chair of the Friends, Jennifer Kirkby, took a group of local people around the Park, telling the stories uncovered by herself and Barbara Winfield through the 2012 Heritage Lottery Fund research grant.
She told the story of how the Park was formed by the Guiseley Gap glacier over 13,000 years ago; and contained a marine band with the fossils of goniatites, an ancient relative of the squid. Moving forward in time, areas around the Park have been noted as potential Romano-British settlements; whilst after the Romans left the province of Britannia Seconda around 410AD, the land had become part of the British Kingdom of Elmet until 617, when it was subsumed into the Angle kingdom of Northumbria, taken over by the Vikings in the 9th century (hence a lot of local Danish names) and finally became part of England in the 10th century – under King Athelstan.
The group explored the early medieval earthworks of the Park, as well as the newer ones left by Bellways. Jennifer, explained the fields were part of the old medieval Open Field system, and that the meaning of the old field names, gave clues as to how they were used – and how that had changed over time, as the land had moved in and out of cultivated usage, depending on population and climate.
She also told the stories of some of the people who had farmed the land since the Manor of Guiseley and Esholt was sold in 1719 to the freeholders of Guiseley for £13,800 – including the three ladies called Susanna, who at different time from the 18th century, had owned one particular meadow.
The Park has a number of royal ‘memorabilia’ including trees planted around the times of Victoria, George V, and Elizabeth II’s coronations. Also, artefacts found, have included a medal for Edward VII’s coronation – given to all school children in 1902. Children, have always been important in the Park, and stories of snow and grass sledging, as well as bonfires, and courting couples were discussed.
Bringing the stories up to date, the formation of the Park in 1936/7 was described, following on from the building of Crompton Parkinson’s factory – and that it has been given to the people of Guiseley by the philanthropic brothers Frank and Albert Parkinson. But, the covenant had disappeared after the land was sold in 2004.
To bring the story up to date, Jennifer explained the formation of the Friends in 2011 and that they were now looking at land ownership with Bellway, and the best way to ensure that the Park was truly put back in trust for local residents – the story continues, as very much a part of British History.