Roundhay Park, a park steeped in history and drama celebrates its 140th birthday since its grand opening in 1862. North Leeds – News looks back on its most defining moments.
Roundhay Park, one of the biggest city parks in Europe spanning over 700 acres of parkland, lakes and gardens is visited by nearly one million people each year. Each one of these visitors can thank Liberal councillor John Barran, who in 1872 saw the park for its full potential when the land went up for auction.
William the Conqueror
The park was originally set aside as a gift for Ilbert De Lacy by William the Conqueror as a reward for his loyalty. The park was also once owned by historic figures Henry IV and Henry VIII, but in 1803 was bought by Thomas Nicholson before going to auction by court order for a will dispute.
Councillor Barran had competition from a Manchester-based consortium who planned to buy the land and build houses, but Barran thought otherwise and was quoted to say “Here we have an estate which would make an ideal playground for the people of this town.” Barran and his council faced many obstacles to acquire the land. The site was seen as ‘outside the city boundary’ therefore the council were prohibited the purchase, so Barran and two of his friends bid for the park with their own money, which they successfully did, all be it paying double the original worth.
The park was officially opened to the public on September 19, 1872. The big occassion was attended by Prince Arthur, third son of Queen Victoria, who was escorted from the Town Hall in a mile-long procession to the park.
The park has split many opinions over the last 140 years, many commenting on its purpose and locality to the city which saw the park dubbed the ‘white elephant’. However the park has staged many successful concerts and events, and with its popularity increasing every year the future looks bright for the landmark park.
Five facts you may not know!
- In 1896, Charles Blondin tight-rope walker crossed the lake on a wire at the grand age of 72!
- Waterloo Lake was given its name as it was dug by soldiers who had fought against Napoleon
- The great Houdini was thrown into the lake handcuffed and emerged free a few seconds later.
- Aviation pioneer Robert Blackburn conducted test flights of his aircraft on Soldiers’ Field in 1909 and in 1919 established a small airport there, with flights to London and Amsterdam.
- Hill 60, was named to commemorate Leeds soldiers who died in First World War battles around Hill 60 near Ypres
We would to hear your thoughts on Roundhay Park. What are your best memories of the beautiful park? Which areas do you enjoy the most? Leave a comment below, we will tweet the best ones!