Park history

Greenhead Park was formally opened with great pomp and ceremony on 27 September 1884, although efforts to provide a public park in the area began more than 15 years before that. From 1870, thanks to the efforts of Alderman Thomas Denham, the people of Huddersfield were able to enjoy access to about 15 acres of parkland which he had personally leased from the owners, the Ramsden estate. This early park hosted  band concerts, flower shows and galas just as Greenhead Park does today, although animals continued to graze alongside the recreational uses!

Detail of the plaque on the Park lodge

Alderman Denham’s aim was always to secure a proper public park for Huddersfield, and negotiations to purchase the necessary land started between the Council and the Ramsden Estate as early as 1869. But it was not until January 1881, after seemingly endless discussions, that the Huddersfield Corporation finally sealed the deal to purchase 30 acres of land from the Ramsden estate (the present park as we know it apart from the area where the bowling greens and tennis courts now sit).

Planning of the park was placed in the hands of the Borough Surveyor, Richard Dugdale, who took responsibility for every aspect of the design – the lay-out, the buildings and even the park benches. Most of the main features were ready for the official opening and many of these survive to this day, including the entrance lodge, Italian Gardens and fountain, the main lake (filled in in 1954 but restored in 2010) and the octagonal bandstand.

An information board tells visitors about the history of the conservatory and rose garden

Important later additions to the park were the Boer War Memorial, unveiled in 1905, and the massive Great War Memorial in 1924. The inter-war period saw the park extended to its present size with the addition of two bowling greens, fourteen tennis courts, two putting greens and a pavilion housing a cafe and changing rooms. The fine conservatory was another striking new feature, opened in August 1930 by the Chairman of Parks, Alderman Albert Woolven.

Originally the park had five lakes or ponds, of which two survive -the recently restored main lake and next largest, now a children’s paddling pool. The other three, on sites now occupied by the conservatory and the rose garden, were all filled in by 1930.

There were no more major changes to the park, apart from the removal of the gates and railings in 1940 to be melted down for the war effort (though it is not clear whether any good use was made of them!). However the park is now surrounded by railings again - though of a plainer design than the originals - and exact replicas of the two main gates have been re-installed too as part of the major restoration project carried out in 2010.

Heritage information in the park

A series of ten information boards -like the one pictured above – tell visitors more about the main historic features of the park. A leaflet showing the locations of the boards is available at both the park cafes, or you can download it here.

A Park for the People - display in the conservatory

There’s also a 6-panel display in the Conservatory about the Park through the years, produced by the Friends of Greenhead Park.

Want to know more?

There is much interesting information which has not been covered in this very brief history of Greenhead Park.  You can find out much more in a new book, Secured for the Town: The story of Huddersfield’s Greenhead Park published by the Friends in March 2011.  This book, written by local historian and member of the Friends, David Griffiths, tells the story of Greenhead Park from its earliest days to its renovation in 2010.  As well as relating the main events in the Park’s history, the book includes childhood recollections and numerous historical photographs, while five ‘park heroes’ are honoured in short biographical notes.  The book also mentions some of the firms involved in creating the park – those who would like more details can consult our list of ‘makers’ of the park.

Secured for the Town is on sale at £5 in the Cafe in the Park (by the tennis courts), The Park restaurant (behind the conservatory) and local bookshops. You can also buy it direct from the Friends at our Wednesday drop-in session and at Friends’ meetings and events. It’s available by post too – at £6.25 including P&P – from Friends of Greenhead Park, c/o Refreshment Rooms, Greenhead Park, Huddersfield HD1 4HS.

If you’d like to see more historic photographs of Greenhead Park, including early postcards, you’ll find a good collection in the Kirklees Image Archive.  The Huddersfield Examiner holds archive photographs too, including an interesting collection featuring the Park’s Great War memorial. There are also some fascinating aerial photos of the park, taken between 1926 and 1934, on the Britain from Above website.

History Hours

Anyone interested in the story of Greenhead Park is welcome to come along to the free lunchtime History Hours  organised by the Friends. These sessions are usually held on the first Wednesday of the month from 12.30pm to 1.30pm at the Greenhead Park Community Room and include talks, walks and other activities.

The 2014 programme starts on May 7 when we’ll hear from David Cockman of Huddersfield & District Archaeology Society about recent excavations by the Society at Slack Roman Fort, Outlane. At one time an altar from the fort was displayed in Greenhead Park and there was also a Roman hypocaust in the grounds of Greenhead Hall (now in Ravensknowle Park), so there’s a tradition of interest in Roman remains! Then on June 4 David Griffiths, our own Park historian will introduce the varied life of Joseph Brook, ‘father of Huddersfield’. Joseph lived at Greenhead Hall in the 1840s and was a major business and public figure in mid-19th century Huddersfield. David’s biography of Joseph Brook was recently published by Huddersfield Local History Society and copies will be available to purchase.

More History Hour sessions are planned for July 2, September 3, October 2 & November 5 – see our monthly events listings for all the details.

We’d love to hear from anyone who has photographs, postcards or other items relating to Greenhead Park. Do also contact us if you have any suggestions for future History Hour topics.

Sharing  memories

To complement archive information about the Park, we worked with Chris Webb from the Centre for Oral History Research at the University of Huddersfield to collect people’s memories of the Park and how it has been used over the years. More information on this project, and fascinating recordings, can be found on the Greenhead Stories website.

Chris put together some of the memories he recorded into an audiotour of the Park. You can download this from the website – or to a smartphone if you’re in the Park near the top cafe (by the tennis courts). The Friends of Greenhead Park also have MP3 players with the audiotour available for you to borrow. Contact us for more details.