Northcliffe Park was opened to the public 100 years ago, in 1920
The reason we have the wonderful woods and meadows, the allotments and other spaces is down two factors.
One is that in 1918 the Rosse family, who were major landowners in and around Shipley, hence the name of the Rosse pub in Saltaire, decided to sell up and concentrate on their family lands in Birr, Ireland. The land was divided into development plots for housing and put up for auction. The plots that covered Northcliffe Woods and Northcliffe Park were not sold.
The second is that the newly elected Shipley MP Sir Norman Rae offered to buy the land and give it to Shipley Town Council to be used as a public space for the people of Bradford.
Once the land was handed over the Town Council did a lot of work to change the area from a farming and a mining area to make it suitable for use as a park. It was opened in 1920 with a grand ceremony and continued to be developed during the 1920s with Tennis courts, bowling greens, pitch and putt, hockey, football and cricket pitches along with bandstands for free concerts.
Sir Norman Rae was a mill owner, with mills in Bradford and Batley (where he was born) and business offices in Australia. He used his wealth to support local schools and businesses, gave land to Northcliffe Golf Club and had the Norman Rae Nursing Home built, now Shipley Hospital which is currently now being closed down. He was known as the benefactor of Shipley.
If you want to know more about Sir Norman Rae, a book can be obtained from FON for £5 click here for the Friends of Northcliffe website.
There is a chapter in the forthcoming heritage report of Northcliffe about the development of the park over its 100 years and this will be uploaded when it is completed.
We would have been celebrating this all year but our plans have been put on hold until next year.
Northcliffe Park is in Shipley, north west Bradford, West Yorkshire. As well as parkland and meadows, it includes Northcliffe Woods on its southern edge and Old Spring Wood to the north. Both woods are classed as semi-natural ancient woodland.
Northcliffe is on the northern edge of the Nottingham-Yorkshire Coalfield, with layers of mudstone, shale, coal, fireclay and sandstone below the surface. Northcliffe Woods lies in a valley formed not by North Cliff Dike which now trickles through it, but by glacial melt water 14,000 years ago.
The view today looks very green but its history over the past 300+ years is one of agriculture and industry. The parkland and meadows were farmed into the twentieth century. Coppiced wood and timber were extracted from the woodlands. Coal, stone and fireclay were extracted from beneath fields and woods. There were mine shafts, underground galleries, drainage tunnels, quarries and fireclay & brick works.
The parkland and Northcliffe Woods were purchased from the Rosse family and gifted by Sir Norman Rae to Shipley Town Council for the recreation and benefit of the public. The Park was opened in 1920 and, being saved from development, now provides an opportunity to explore evidence of mineral extraction which is elsewhere concealed in north Bradford. Extensive archives provide opportunities for historical research.
In November 2013 the Friends of Northcliffe (FoN) called a well attended public meeting, which heard from staff from the University of Bradford Archaeological Sciences Department and others outline the potential for a project exploring the archaeology and history of Northcliffe. A group of people came together to take this idea forward and after exploring options decided not to apply for funding but to put out a call for volunteers to undertake survey work. A group of about 30 people responded and with the support of a local archaeologist and local historians, the team were trained in basic survey techniques and set out to map the entire area, recording all features they could find. With assistance from the University of Bradford team various geophysics approaches were used, funded by FoN. Two excavations were carried out, led by knowledgeable volunteers. The main project surveys took place in 2014-16. The results were recorded in a database and draft summaries as areas of the park were surveyed or excavated and historical records interrogated. Public meetings reported back the work to the wider interested public.
A series of display boards was created and shown in the local library (put link to boards here). Guided walks have been offered over the past seven years and have been well attended; self guided walk maps have been created (put link in here). A summary report and the full length report are currently being compiled.