1880 – Bowling Park is opened by the Mayor who is shocked by the great unwashed
The site of the new park, the fourth belonging to the Corporation of Bradford, comprised 54 acres. It was designed by Mr Lister Kershaw, Landscape gardener and Mr George Hepworth architect both of Brighouse. It cost £34,000 including £19,808 paid for land.
When they first discussed building a park on this site it was derided as Bowling smoke was considered to be so detrimental to vegetation that it was considered to be a waste of public money. However the Council had only agreed to the purchase of Manningham park on the understanding that similar parks would be constructed at Horton and Bowling and there were few suitable sites of sufficient size in Bowling so this location was chosen. It is situated in the area generally known as Bowling Springs on the north western side of Bolling Hall.
A newspaper report of the park while construction was still in progress was concerned about the effect of the smoke from nearby manufacturing sites on people’s ability to enjoy the park and also on the ability to cultivate plants. The smoke was particularly bad at the junction of New Hay Road and Hall Lane as the smoke from the dyeworks swept right across this portion of the grounds. Disused coal pits also littered the grounds and although they had been filled and planted with trees by the former owner of Bowling Hall they had not grown to any size, nevertheless they relieved the district of the bare look it would have had otherwise. It had been hoped that the corporation could purchase both sides of the valley as, by Waggon Road, there is a pretty wooded valley with a stream running through it, but this was not possible and the wood and stream are not included in the park. There was however a chain of four small lakes each one lower than the other and united by cascades. A little farther on was the cricket ground and bowling green and outside these the flower garden. A terrace on the highest part of the grounds has views of Bradford in the hollow below up to the heights of Rombolds Moor. “When the chimney is not vomiting smoke and the evening is fine the sunsets will be delightful.”
The park was opened by Mayor Mr Angus Holden on a Saturday afternoon. He was presented with a large silver guilt key beautifully enamelled by which to open the gates. The key was an object of much interest to the spectators near enough to see it that it was periodically held aloft during the course of the afternoon. After requisite speeches the Lord and Lady Mayor went on to plant sycamore trees.
Although nothing was mentioned in the press at the time a later report revealed the shock of the officials at the large numbers of the “great unwashed”:-
“As the corporation and municipal officials wended their way to the park, they were abashed at the sight of so many of the “great unwashed” among the assembled spectators in the line of the procession. The preponderance of grimy countenances formed the subject of much remark, doubtless in many cases more jocular than otherwise; but the circumstance had its serious aspect, and probably on that day some members of the council were won over to the side of the advocators to district baths.”
This shock of the state of the people of Bowling resulted in the opening of Manchester Road baths on 18th January 1887 midway between West Bowling and Little Horton.
The Leeds Mercury, Saturday August 23rd 1879
The Leeds Mercury, Monday 6th September 1880
The Leeds Mercury, Wednesday November 24th 1886