Potted History of Northcliffe
Here you will find a series of short articles on the history of Northcliffe.
Once the war was over, a gala was held in Northcliffe, and slowly the facilities reopened: the tennis courts in 1944, the Tennis Club, bowling green and putting course in 1945. Farming was required to continue for another few years because of the food shortages in the country. By 1946 the Council was looking at what additional facilities to provide in Northcliffe, exploring the idea of a second bowling green on a former grass tennis court, a pavilion for bowlers and a bandstand. The second bowling green was created but none of the other ideas were followed through.
In 1947 the pond at the start of Northcliffe woods was drained, possibly as a precaution against the spread of poliomyelitis. It was filled in with rubble said to be from Fox's Corner, Shipley in the 1960s and grassed over.
Before the war, the Council had decided that only organised games could be played on the playing fields. Families and friends were not allowed to play their own games and run activities and when this was challenged by several people after the war the Council refused to change the rules but offered a review, only to decide that they wouldn’t change the rules a year later. Local people remember being chased by a ranger in the late 1940’s to keep them out of the woodlands where they were said to be damaging ferns, or for cycling which was forbidden.
In the early 1950’s the Bowling Pavilion was leased to the Northcliffe Amateur Bowling Club and the Northcliffe Fellowship discussed the redecoration of the room they rented and would occupy until the mid 1960s when they gave up their lease. It was re-let to the Northcliffe Bowling Association Ladies’ Section.
In 1948 Mr H. Chippendale offered the council Old Spring Wood, as a gift, which was accepted and added onto the maintenance schedule of Northcliffe. In that year, the Council approved £100 for condemned railway sleepers to make steps on the steep slope of Northcliffe Woods near the golf club house. These steps have now been replaced by concrete flagged ones.
The 1930's were Northcliffe’s heyday in many ways. The ponds were cleaned out, the cottage converted to a shelter, the putting green was completed. A new entrance with shrubbery and flower beds was made off Bradford Road (near where the flat are now). The Council rejected an application to put an aviary into Northcliffe Woods because of the costs of building and maintaining it.
Eight hard tennis courts were built and the new Northcliffe Park Tennis Club was allowed the use of two courts. The bowling green also opened but the council did not approve the formation of a bowling club here.
The sports pitches were well used with 13 football clubs using them, plus the ladies’ hockey pitches which the Airedale Harriers used to train on in winter.
The Council took out a loan to obtain a horse for rolling and mowing the playing fields.
The bandstand hosted 13 concerts in 1931 alone, including Don Pedro’s Band. The playing fields continued to be booked by schools, churches, and many others organisations. May Day celebrations were allowed, a carnival week was organised and in August 1935 there were sheep dog trials.
The Council had a deputation from local unemployed people asking for work in Northcliffe to be given to them. A third set of allotments of 67 plots was set up for unemployed men along the back of Lynton Drive and were known as Spring Woods Allotment. To get a plot men had to be interviewed by Councillors and an official from the unemployment office. 49 plots were allocated to unemployed men and the rest to plot holders from Fernhill allotments who were being displaced. Shovels and water tubs were provided. Soon there was a dispute between the Council and the employment exchange about plot holders being prevented from cultivating their allotments because they were required to attend training courses, with the Council arguing that growing food was a good reason for not attending.
An application by a military band to give night time performances in Northcliffe was rejected, and in 1936 the British Union of Fascists were denied permission to hold a mass meeting with Oswald Mosley. From 1937 bookings included those by the Shipley Branch of the League of Nations, the British Legion Garden Party and the Military Anti-Aircraft Display.
The line of trees along the main tarmac path through the park were planted in 1937 for the Coronation of King George V.
The old golf club house was bought for £45 and turned into dressing rooms, but soon the building was in a dangerous condition and it was demolished for scrap. Plans were made for a refreshment pavilion and for a replacement dressing room but then the war loomed and all plans were put on hold.
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 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.
Although the park was officially opened in 1920, there was still a lot of work to do to change it from farming land to a park. The council started to mow the meadow and created the two sets of allotments you can see today. In 1922 the council took over the farmhouse (by the bowling greens in the quarry) and the last farming tenant left. Also that year Northcliffe Golf Club leased the top field on condition they would let the public play on the new course and the links ran all the way down the current meadow to near to the back of the houses on Lynton Drive.
A children's playground was built in the top field near to the boundary wall with Old Spring Wood, there was a huge slide and other equipment; (see photo) you can still see the concrete bases today. The land in the park was drained and cricket, ladies hockey and football pitches were laid out and rented to 5 ladies hockey clubs and 6 football teams. Then the council made a pond in the woods and built a bandstand for summer concerts which ran ever week in the summer. Many bands came and played, they couldn't charge admission and often complained that people didn't donate very much. The park was used by groups such as the League of Nations and the Windhill Industrial Co-Op held it children's gala on the playing fields and many churches used the woods and meadows. The main gates were put in and included a bust of Sir Norman Rae, but they had to move a kiosk to get the main entrance sorted. Towards the end of the decade the golf club wanted to stop the public using the links and asked to put up barbed wire fences. The council refused and agreed to terminate their lease.