History of Harold Park...
Harold Park is so named to perpetuate the memory of Harold Gathorne Hardy, who was a distinguished member of the Hardy family, connected with the founding and success of the Low Moor Ironworks. He died in 1881, aged 32.
A granite obelisk incorporating a drinking fountain was erected on the main walkway as a memorial to him. It bears the inscription -
ERECTED BY PUBLIC SUBSCRIPTION
IN REMEMBRANCE OF
THE HONORABLE HAROLD GATHORNE HARDY
OF LOW MOOR HOUSE
AND AS A RECORD OF THE SERVICES
WHICH HE RENDERED IN THE ENCLOSURE OF THE COMMON
AND SPECIALLY IN THE FORMATION OF THIS PARK
A second memorial was erected in 1902. This is a monumental sundial, funded by subscription in memory of the late Lieut. Frank W Milligan, of Royds Hall, a noted cricketer. While on service with the Forces in South Africa he was killed in the attempt to relieve Mafeking on 31st March 1900. The memorial was unveiled by Lord Hawke. It originally stood near the Cemetery Road entrance gates but currently stands in the rose garden near Park Road. In the last few years the Friends of Harold Park have held a short service at the memorial on Remembrance Sunday.
The park was appropriated as a Public Park or Recreation Ground under the Inclosure (Wibsey Slack and Low Moor Commons) Provisional Order Confirmation Act 1881.
It was part of the North Bierley Urban District, and opened to the public on 19th September 1885. North Bierley became part of Bradford City Council in 1899 and the park was further extended with a recreation ground around that time.
The park contains two dams. The largest, built it is believed on the site of a former quarry, has an area of approximately 7 acres and varies in depth from shallow to approximately 30 feet. The smaller lake, known because of its shape, as the Jug Dam, is situated at the top end of the park.
1931 saw a major extension to the park. Horsfall Playing Fields (now Horsfall Stadium) were made by the Bradford City Council under the Unemployment Act. They were opened by Alderman S Horsfall, J.P., Chairman of the Parks and Cemeteries Committee. Many important athletic events have been held here, where the facilities include a 200-metre running track, a 400 metre oval track, a covered stand and a brick-built changing pavilion. In more recent years the stadium has become the new home of Bradford Park Avenue Football Club. The upper section of playing fields is used by local teams for football, cricket and hockey matches.
20th century developments
For many years there were rowing boats for hire on the main lake. The booking office was situated by a wooden landing stage in the corner of the lake near the Hardy memorial.
In the earlier days of the park there was a circular pond near the Cemetery Road entrance with an ornate fountain in the middle, and shrubs and stones round the edges. It was later “demoted” to the status of a paddling pool, with just the shaft of the fountain remaining. There was a stream that ran alongside the path adjacent to the bowling green, and entered the pool by way of small waterfall. The pool was eventually drained and grassed over, sometime in the 1980s.
There was a bandstand near the jug dam, and tennis courts (which existed until relatively recently) were situated at the top end of the park. The bowling greens were previously situated where the rose garden is now but were later sited in their present position by the Horsfall pavilion. A large greenhouse stood where the tea hut stands near the entrance gates.
The Low Moor Gala/Whitsuntide Walks
The Low Moor Gala was an annual event that was held for many years during the first half of the 20th century. As well as being a well- supported community fun event, it raised much money for the Bradford Hospitals, in the days before the National Health Service. The procession started at the Robin Hood pub in Wyke and proceeded through the streets until it reached Harold Park, accompanied by bands of various kinds and participants in fancy dress. There were many different kinds of activities in the park, including choir contests, children’s races, fancy dress competitions, best-decorated horse competitions, and swimming races in the lake. Fairground rides, coconut shies and skittles were part of the other entertainment, and there was always plenty of food available. A highlight each year was the crowning of the Carnival Queen, a local young lady elected in advance of the celebrations.
The park was also a venue for the annual Whitsuntide Walks and games organised by the local churches. These, like the galas, were well supported and enjoyed by many local people.
The lodge at the Park Road entrance was formerly the residence of the successive head gardeners, employed by Bradford Council. It is now privately occupied and credit should be given to the present occupier for its smart appearance.
“Rose Cottage”, near the top of Park Road, was home to the Head Groundsmen of Horsfall Playing Fields. The house predates the park.
It is worth noting that although there are no gates at either end of the park, there are still the iron gates posts, which were no doubt made by the world famous Low Moor Company just down the road.
The Park Shop and Cafe
The “Park Shop and Café ” was a well-patronised establishment, being situated in Park Road, just below the main gates. It had boat-swings in its public garden.
Extract from the Inclosure document of 1888
“And whereas Adam Hall Hardy of Somerville House, in the said township of North Bierley, Gentleman, the person interested in certain old inclosed Freehold Land, containing one acre two roods and nine perches, or thereabouts, situate near the Reservoir at Moor Top, on Low Moor Common, and numbered 568a on Part 2 of the map hereinafter referred to, has given his consent, in writing to the same being considered allotable and parcel of the Land to be Inclosed and made to form part of the Recreation Ground, known by the name of Harold Park, in exchange for a certain Allotment numbered 18 on Part 1 of the said map.”