History – All Our Stories

Crompton Parkinson’s Children’s Gala. source Ilkley Gazette

On the tithe map of 1838 the fields that now make up Parkinson’s Park are shown as meadow and pasture.  They sit on the side of the Chevin below Whale Jaws Hill, between Kelcliffe Lane and the flat lands of Greenshaw Close and Kelcliffe Dole.  Guiseley at that time was still, just about, a rural farming and weaving community, and the land belonged to local farmers, Marshall Grimshaw from Kelcliffe House,  Benjamin Popplewell from Upper End Farm, together with Betty Pawson, and Mrs Frances Foss, the daughter of John Blesard who had been a local Quaker.

Names are a window on the past

The whole area of the park has been known for many hundreds of years as Kelcliffe or Kellcliffe or Keltcliffe – sometimes spelt with a C.  The name appears in farms, houses and field names; it is Old Norse for a steep area where there are springs.   Together with the name Ings, an area of wetland,  Swincarr, and Stockwells (around Guideley railway station)  it indicates that the area is in general wet and marshy.  A reason why the Netherfield area has always been an area of flooding and is to do with the geology of the Chevin at this point.

We have found that the area around Kelcliffe House and Hillside Avenue, used to be a Tannery from at least the seventeenth to the nineteenth century.   Tanning of leather was very important, not only for clothes, but for buckets, harnesses, and the belts that ran the looms and farm machinery.  Tanning was a smelly business often kept away from a village, and needed oak bark for tannin, running water, and limestone, as well as a good supply of cows and sheep.   Part of the steep slope behind Hillside Avenue was called Tanhouse Brow.

The names of the fields in the Park can tell us a lot about past use.   The steep part at the north west end was called Great Brow in 1838, but formerly known as Potterton Brow – indicating that it might have been farmed by a family called Potterton.  There is a John Potterton who was ‘buried by the Parish’ in 1713, and a Potterton is listed as a manor tenant in 1675.

Clapper Brow, the very steep part where the wood now is, hints that there might have been a medieval rabbit warren there; Clapper is middle-English for ‘rabbit hole’.  After the Black Death in 1348, with many fewer people to cultivate land, rabbits became an important source of food, fur and leather.  There is an area in Bedfordshire known as Sharpenhoe Clappers – which is definitely a middle age warren. However, we have not found conclusive evidence yet,  only the name, which goes back to at least the seventeenth century.

Field names below the park where the Nethercliffe area is, known as Kelcliffe Dole; and above the park where Kelcliffe Mount now is, known as Farndales or Farn Doles; indicate that the land was reclaimed from waste at some point for arable production and doled out to farmers and copyholders of the Manor of Guiseley and Esholt – this was often in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries following the Reformation in the late 1530’s.  There is a 1639 enclosure agreement in the Guiseley Parish Records, doaling out the Common Close to 13 families.  This is very possibly the Farn Doles area above the park, as the names that appear in the agreement, also appear in the tithe records and court rolls for that area.   Close itself is a Tudor term, used when open fields were enclosed to help increase food production and keep animals off crops.

One of the most interesting field names in the park is Crooked Lands, the area to the South East, between the farm gate and Greenshaw Terrace.  Following a geophysics exploration in 2013 in this area,  its several lines of banks were found to be medieval lynchets and headlands – highly likely early medieval, which is pre 1066 – or Anglo Saxon.   Crooked Lands refers to the banks and their slight backward S shape, which was caused by the way the land was ploughed with teams of Oxen.  Early court rolls of the Manor show that local farmers were forever being fined for taking their carts over crooked lands to the West Field.  The West Field was one of a three field, open field, system – and was around the top of Kelcliffe Avenue/Lane, and the fields and houses behind the school.   It is also the reason for Crooklands House being so called.

Names of the fields around the Park, indicated that the area has been in use from very early times in the history of the area.  Flatts, which gives its name to local houes Flatfield  and Top’o’t’Flatts is the area of The Sycamores.  This shows that it was an area of an early (thirteenth, or fourteenth or earlier) open field system.  A flatt was a bundle of furlong long farming strips which were each farmed by different tenants of the Lord.  New Dykes, means an early extension of this strip farming system.  One of the more fascinating names is Callen Rean, the area where the Oaks, Beeches and Birches is – Rean is Old English for a boundary,  but Callen is Old French for disputed – perhaps something that happened post 1066 when the Normans came to the North of Anglo Saxon England.

The Jonathan Peate connection

Around 1900, as Guiseley became an industrial township,  complete with public buildings and modern transport, the land around the park was bought by local woollen cloth manufacturer and philanthropist Jonathan Peate: whilst John Dibb, the local grocer, bought other plots from Susannah Foss.  Jonathan was well known for buying land and either helping the local working men to acquire allotments and houses on favourable terms,  or presenting land as public open space to the people of the town eg Nunroyd Park.  It is likely that he planted the oak trees that still line the area of Clapper Brow in the park, around 1909  – and he may have had a park in mind for Guiseley.

Frank and Albert Parkinson’s journey begins

Around this time, down in a shed at Eldon Mount,  young Frank Parkinson was starting his electrical motor agency business with £21 from his post office savings.   The son of a local quarry owner on Moor Lane, Frank was an astute and forward thinking young man, and his business grew.  In 1913 his brother Albert joined the firm and the brothers turned to manufacturing motors.  So, during the First World War they moved their works on to Jonathan Peate’s land (Greenshaw Close) in Netherfield Road.  In hindsight this move was akin to the handing over of the local philanthropy baton from Jonathan to Frank – Jonathan died in 1924.

Crompton Parkinson founded on the same principals espoused by Gandhi

” he regarded himself as the trustee for whatever worldly possessions he had, and whatever use he made of them should be for the good of the country and in particular of this county” obituary 1946

In 1918 F & A Parkinson Ltd bought the Netherfield land from Jonathan, and Kelcliffe Dole from the church, and expanded their factory.  Jonathan also acted as their mortgagee. Thus,  the first field of the park, Clapper Brow, came into the company’s ownership.  The company continued to thrive, even through the Great Depression, building their success on the ethos of ‘practical idealism’ (high wages for loyal staff and low productions costs for quality good); a philosophy also expounded by Mahatma Gandhi in his quest of Indian independence.  In 1927, they joined forces with Crompton’s, a lighting firm from Chelmsford.  The firm thus became Crompton Parkinsons, greatly increasing the share value of the many small Guiseley and Wharfedale shareholders. In 1932, the Netherfield Road site was again extended with the building of a lamp works for manufacturing Crompton light bulbs.

Parkinson’s Park replaces Guiseley Recreation Ground

But,  that was not the end of the firm ‘F & A Parkinson Ltd’.  The business ethos of the brothers meant that this organization continued to be used for building up assets for the welfare of employees – acquiring houses for their staff, and land interests.  In 1936/37 they bought the remaining fields of the Park and set about laying the footpaths from the old stone walls,  putting in gates at the entrances,  and seats along the ridge to admire the view of Hawksworth Moor and Wharfedale.  In the early 1950’s the two copses were planted to celebrate the national events of the Queen’s Coronation and the Festival of Britain.  Nearer the factory they carved out a bowling and putting green together with a rose garden in addition to well appointed tennis courts and pavillion.

Part of the motivation for setting up the Park, and giving it to the People of Guiseley, may have come from the loss of Guiseley Recreation Ground, on Kelcliffe Lane to council housing in the early 1920’s,  under the 1919 Addison Act – part of post World War One reconstruction.   The army had found that during the First World War many men had a shocking lack of fitness.  This was attribued to poor living conditions; a belief summed up in a housing poster of the period “you cannot expect to get an A1 population our of C3 homes” – referring to military fitness classifications of the war.   So Guiseley Town Council purchased the allotments/recreation ground owned by W W Whitaker Thompson on Kelcliffe Lane, and built a number of new houses for returning troops.

In recompense,  Jonathan Peate gave land at Nethermoor for a Park with an outline of how it should be turned into a Pleasure Park and cricket ground.  However, Jonathan died before this had all taken place; so it could well have been that F & A Parkinson decided that the area behind their factory could serve as both a place of rest and recreation for their staff and the people of the area.    A description of the old Kelcliffe Lane Recreation Ground at the time, is very similar to that of Parkinson’s Park.

Frank Parkinson’s legacy to Yorkshire and Guiseley

In 1946 Frank Parkinson, like his father before, suddenly died of a heart attack – amongst his legacies was the magnificent front of Leeds University (the Parkinson Building) which cost £200,000; bursaries for Yorkshire students to study electrical engineering at the University; the Frank Parkinson Agricultural Trust; and one of the last great country houses built in England, Charters, in Sunninghill, Berkshire.  He had moved to Berkshire in the 1930’s to be close to London and transport to the many company outlets across the Empire.   He left £1.5 million pounds in his will: not bad going for a boy born in South View, Guiseley 59 years before.   A very large proportion of this went to forming the Frank Parkinson Yorkshire Trust, which was to be used to help the poor, sick and elderly of Guiseley,  and educate and support young people in electrical engineering.

Annual events start in the Park

In addition,  his will gave £1,000 a year to be used for the benefit of the Crompton Parkinson staff.  In 1949 the Crompton sports and social club launched their first summer Children’s Gala in the park, which became an annual and much enjoyed event.  This was followed in 1951 by the first September Flower and Produce Show,  and, at some point, the October bonfire started,  complete with firework display, and vans selling parkin and hotdogs.

A timeless place to inspire the people of Guiseley

Best Friends

At the entrance to the park were put notices for all to know that the Park, whilst belonging to Parkinson’s, was for the use and recreation of the people Guiseley .   Thus, it became a place for the local children to have adventures, play hide and seek, fly kites, and, best of all,  sledge down the hills in winter on the snow, and in summer on the grass.  The ‘Snowdrop’ was the sledging run down the steep slope of Great Brow, and the ‘Bluebell Run’, was on the more gentle slopes of Crooked Lands.  Since then children have added the ‘Suicide Run’ down the steep area above the old carpark, near the woods.

For the older folk,  the seats,  the fabulous view, and the spirit of the land gave rest and inspiration – a deep link, to different, more rural times.  The corner of the Park, near the churn stands on Kelcliffe Lane, had a triangular walled area, known as old man’s corner – where people came to sit to watch the sun setting in the West of a summer’s evening.

It was a place where grandfathers took their grandsons to reminisce and learn country ways,  and for mothers to take the little ones on nature walks: the park was a boon to dog walkers and factory workers alike.   In the Netherfield corner they had their own annual bonfire party, where all the children spent weeks chumping for wood,  and on the slopes of Clapper Brow the huge, stately trees were used for rope swings and collecting conkers.

Sleeping Beauty

But, in 1968 Cromptons was taken over by Hawker Siddeley Aerospace, and many trace the company’s demise form that date.  Albert Parkinson died in 1971, and the family friendliness of the firm slowly dwindled.  The following decades saw uncertainty grow with various buyouts and takeovers, until a final sale was made in 1999 to Cooper Industries. Cooper’s asset stripped Cromptons, and the factories were eventually closed.

In 2002, the land was sold to St Modwen Properties PLC,  by Brook Crompton’s of Huddersfield.  Not being locals, neither company knew anything of the Park’s history or use, and the unmanaged land began to rewild.  The copses grew and filled up with rubbish and drug takers,  the grass became a ‘dogs toilet’.   The handmade heavy wooden gates fell into disrepair, or went missing, whilst a ‘Sleeping Beauty’ thicket grew up around Jonathan’s oak trees hiding their grandeur, and the ancient stone walls began to crumble.  In 2006 Bellway dismantled the Crompton Parkinson factory, pulled up the bowling and putting greens and errected fences that blocked off the ancient track along the bottom of the park.

Friends of Parkinson’s Park

Demolition of Crompton Parkinsons – 2006

As local people we watched this sad deterioration, not knowing what the future had in store.  Some took it upon themselves to try and reinstate the footpath, others began to clear the growing litter; a task aided by a grant from Morrisons  .

Then in the late summer of 2011, after discussion with Local Councillors, a variety of concerned local people came together to form the Friends of Parkinson’s Park – Chris Parapia, Barbara Winfield, Jennifer Kirkby, Andy Cheetham, Joanna Brooks and Colin Alexander.  The  intention, written into the constitution, was to restore the legacy of the Guiseley philanthropists,  Frank and Albert Parkinson, and Jonathan Peate,  and enhance the integrity of the Chevin escarpment, in keeping with the Friends of Chevin Forest Park.

One of our first tasks was to rediscover the history of Parkinson’s Park; why it was here and what it was used for and meant to local people – and for that we asked for  stories and pictures from local people. We also, started to dig out old newspaper clippings, and dig in any old history books of Guiseley.  Then in 2012 we applied for and got a Heritage Lottery Grant to explore the history in more detail under the All Our Stories programme which explored the history of ‘ordinary British people’.

This allowed us to fund the geophysics survey in the summer of 2013, which was done with the same team used on the television series Time Team.  Meanwhile, local historians and Friends, Jennifer Kirkby and Barbara Winfield, spent hours in archives,  digging out old deeds,  court rolls, and parish records.  Slowly, the history of the Park and Kelcliffe area emerged, revealing that the area around the park had been in continuous use since at least the Bronze Age (2,300 – 801BC) and maybe earlier.  So, the work goes on.

The park is regenerated and the events restart

Meanwhile, the Friends as a whole, together with Bellway Homes, started to regenerate the Park, under a landscape plan put together  by the Friends with  local ecologists, and other groups interested in natural history such as the Wharfedale naturalists.   Other local people continued, on their own initiative, to look after the Park in small ways, and to try to stop any increase in anti-social behaviour and drug taking.

2012 could not have been a better year to start work on the Park, as it was the year of both the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics coming to London.  Both events, gave rise to grants to plant trees; so arose Jubilee Walk in the Park, at the top of Great Brow; and to hold celebrations.  This gave the Friends the means to relaunch the Children’s Gala in June 2012 with a Jubilee Picnic and Games – a successful event which is growing each year, as more local groups join in.

In 2013, the Friends launched the first Lantern Parade, to replace the old Autumn Bonfire; and event which was joined by the local churches and community choir in 2014.

In 2015, the Heritage Open Day walks became a regular event.  And the community orchard was planted.  Bellway, left the site and Meadfleet took over basic maintenance.

4th March 2016, the Friends of Parkinson’s Park became a Community Interest Company.

All of these stories are captured on the website, and we hope you will add your own.

The research on the Park was done by Jennifer Kirkby and Barbara Winfield with some support from the Heritage Lottery Fund – All Our Stories 2012 – 2014


2 Responses to History – All Our Stories

  1. elisa says:

    Thank you, what a fascinating read.

  2. Graham Hogben says:

    Again Thank you, The nostalgia reminded me of my childhood playground 1955 to circa 65 when I lived on Nursery road. It brought a tear or two as I read this fascinating History of the Park.

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