In Defence of Our Old East End Park.

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In Defence of Our Old East End Park

In the next couple of month’s the champions of our Old East Leeds will be replying on this site to a circulating book with the title: Urban Grimshaw and the Shed Crew by Bernard Hare. The author portrays our area in the 1990s as a very dark place filled with crime and drug abuse – and the resident ‘Easties’  are describes in the credits by Christopher Cleave of the Sunday Telegraph as,

‘A true story of a terrifying joyride through Britain’s hell-bound underclasses.  

 

Was this the legacy we set down for them in the 1940s/50s? Were we ever an ‘underclass’? Whatever happened between the fifties and nineties? Read it and weep – or better still leap to its defence with your comments as I hope our champions across the world who enjoy this site will strive to do in the coming months.

 

In the meantime here are a couple of tales of East End Park in better times. Stan Pickles sets the scene in the 20s and 30s and Eric Sanderson in the 40s and 50s.And I take a nostalgic Sunday afternoon stroll around the park today.

 

 

 

Remembering East End Park in the 20s and 30s

By Stan Pickles

East End Park  had a little duck pond with railing around it, which was so attractive with mothers and young children throwing titbits for the swans and ducks to dart after. The flower gardens, the grass with its neatly cut verges and the lovely landscaped floral arrangements all combined to make the park a delight for everyone. All presided over by Dolphus, the ‘Parkie’ who kept a lookout for any mischief-makers and woe betide any troublemakers.  You will note I didn’t say ‘vandals’. There were no such people in that day and age.

Recollections of the ‘monkey walks’ in the 20s and 30s when young men and girls paraded up and down in innocent flirtation come to mind. Our walks began in East End Park on Sunday afternoons, when we paraded up and down the main drive past the little duck pond and beautiful landscaped flower gardens. The park was always a picture with its newly painted forms in a lovely green and the lawns a ‘sight to behold’. Always on the lookout for our favourite girls strolling by, we would sit around talking of the films we had seen the previous night at the Shaftsbury, Princess or Regent cinemas or in noisy argument about the rugby match at Headingley on Saturday afternoon. Of course, when the girls came round the conversation changed and there were other things on our minds.

Often we would make for the big area of grass near the bandstand to join the crowd lounging about and listening to the band rendering overtures from: The Maid of the Mountains, The Desert Song, The Merry Widow and all the rest of the popular music of the times. Just before we left to go home for tea we would have the last half-hour enjoying an ice cream or a bottle of pop with the girls and our last chat. On leaving the park our parting words were usually: ‘See you up the Beck tonight.’ For the ‘Monkey Walk up Killingbeck was our Sunday night rendezvous. It was always well packed on the paths between the Melbourne and the Lion and Lamb, boys and girls chatting up within the range of the old gas- lamps. All though our teenage years we looked forward to being: ‘Up the Beck’.

 

Remembering East End Park in the 40s and 50s

  East End Park- a Neighbourhood Gem.                                  By Eric Sanderson.

Those familiar with East End Park will be remember its extent and facilities – always very well maintained by a team of groundsmen and patrolled by a very strict “Parkie”.

From the wide, sweeping lawns, well used tennis courts, bowling greens and beautiful Rose garden to the extensive football pitches, garden allotments and large children’s playground complete with paddling pool/model boating pond, it was a paradise. There was even good train spotting facilities for those so interested as the Neville Hill sidings ran alongside the southern edge of the park.

A wide tree lined avenue crossed the park fromEast Park  Parade Railway Bridge to link up withVictoria Avenue at the other end. At each end was a huge set of wrought iron gates which were always locked & I never saw any traffic passing through. Indeed, it was prohibited to ride your bike within the park boundaries in those days.

During the late forties & early fifties, it was even forbidden to walk on the grass and the lawns were littered with signs enforcing this.

Of course , these two prohibitions provided endless opportunities for a bit of harmless fun & to tease the Parkie, who as I remember was a feisty little chap who always carried a stout stick with which he could whack any errant youth who happened to cross his path. In those days, he would think nothing of such treatment & most parents felt he was fully justified in exerting such discipline.

We would run across the lawn, shouting from a safe distance, to attract his attention and then disappear into the hills before he could catch up with us.

These “hills” were another attractive feature with winding, foliage lined footpaths through perhaps a couple of acres of elevated landscape giving fine panoramic views over south Leeds & beyond.

At other times, we would sweep along the avenue on our bikes, much to the parkie’s rage but he could never catch us until one day, he managed to put a savage & final stop to this particular piece of sport.

As one group whizzed through and passed him standing in the middle of the avenue, he jabbed his aforementioned stick into the wheel of one of his tormentors. This brought the offending cyclist to a sudden halt and accompanied by a hefty cuff around the head brought the practice to an immediate & abrupt end.

            The undulating terrain of the park provided many grassy embankments and slopes & many’s the time we were laid back, taking in the sun & gossiping whilst watching Skelton Grange Power Station being erected.

Yes,East End Parkwas truly a gem in those days and many an idyllic summer day was whiled away within its treasured grounds.

A Stroll around East End Park Today

By Pete Wood.

I am happy to relate thatEast EndParkhas lately had a spruce up and is now looking in fine fettle. The children’s play area has had a make over as have thebowling greenfacilities and the tennis courts’

I love a wander around the old district on a quiet Sunday afternoon.  I park as near as I can to the site of oldSnake Lane. There is a beautiful new rugby pitch on the site of ‘the top pitch’ all level, railed and well grassed – far superior to that of our old ‘Snake-pit’ days. If it’s the rugby season the East Leeds Rugby Club may be playing a game on here that I can stop and watch for a while, or if it’s summer perhaps East Leeds Cricket Club will be playing at home. Well done East Leeds CC – top in the longevity league amongst the East Leeds Institutions – still batting away after all these years.

Continuing my walk I find the Copperfields standing much as always but the line to the coal staithe has gone along with the ‘MonkeyBridge’ and the ginnel. Daredevil lads still scale the precipitous navvy but now with the aid of ropes. Several of the streets in the Cross Green’s and St Hilda’s have been removed leaving grassed spaces in between giving a less cluttered look and the housing stock has been renovated. The Charlton’s, Glensdale’s, Londesbro’s and Garton’s are tidy but metal grating door securities are much in evidence.

The ‘watering holes’ have been severely culled. The Bridge field, Black Dog,Waterlooand Prospect pubs are down. The Cross Green, Hampton, and Fish Hut are closed.  The Spring Close and Cavalier are open but ‘to let’ and the slip is a supermarket leaving the Shepherd and the Yew Tree to stagger on alone. The old school buildings of St Hilda’s,Ellerby Laneand Victoria are no more. TheEast EndParkSpecialNeedsSchoolis ‘last old school building standing’ but put to a different use. I believe there are bits of old Mount St Mary’s Primary School in the old Victoria School yard and bits of old Victoria Primary on the Shaftsbury playing fields. There is a modern All Saints Primary School near toYork Roadand a Richmond Hill Primary near to the site of the old Zion Chapel. Mount St Mary’s still flourishes as a major college. The Easy Road Picture House of course is long gone; the Princess is a fish and chip shop, the Regent a tile warehouse the Star a health gym and the Shaftsbury a shell.     

            So I wander onto the park itself. The Parkie’s House remains unchanged. Sometimes there is a bowls match in progress, I set myself down in the bowling-green and watch for a while. Better still if there is a brass/silver band playing near the tennis courts. I settle myself down beside a tree and listen to the band and let my mind drift back to a time when the park had a proper band-stand or when we chased the girls on here, diced with death on the mighty long-boat on the way to Cleggy’s woodwork department at Victoria School on Friday afternoons, or perhaps the times we played tennis, sometimes with the hell of having only one ball, or played football a hundred a side on one of the three football pictures near to the railway on Sunday afternoons. I remember on one occasion when the referee did not turn up for a formal match that I had to referee the game myself – timing the game by the clock on the old engine shed in lieu of a watch and waving a handkerchief in lieu of a whistle.

My life unfolds before me and I’m thankful to have spent some of the best bits of it here on good oldEast EndPark.

               Brass band near tennis courts                                 Parkie’s house still stands

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3 Responses to “In Defence of Our Old East End Park.”

  1. Eric Sanderson Says:

    Enjoyed Stan Pickles’ reminiscences of the Park & activities a little before my time.

    Pete’s update is encouraging that all is not lost.

    I hope Pete’s invitation to comment on “Urban Grimshaw” produces some lively contributions. I’ve already given my opinion to Pete, as I believe one or two others have.Should make for good future reading

  2. Audrey Sanderson Says:

    Hoping Pete’s invitation to comment on “Urban Grimshaw” sparks a reality check on communities to make sure inner cities do not become an Urban Jungle. Cities and towns are bricks and concrete, it’s the people who live in them that give them heart. Speak to your neighbours, a smile costs nothing but can mean so much if someone is lonely or just having bad day.

  3. marlene Egan Says:

    Enjoyed Eric’s tale l spent many happy hours on East End park in the 50s and 60s l remember two park keepers . We called them Bill and Ben ,a nickname we gave them ,they chased us around that park for walking on the grass ,happy memories

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