AN ILLUSTRATED HISTORY OF ROUNDHAY PARK
A Prince Comes A-calling
As soon as the Act had been obtained the council arranged for the purchase of the property and began to make arrangements for the formal opening of the park. Prince Arthur, Queen Victoria's third son, agreed to perform the task. John Barran, Mayor of the town, was placed in charge of the arrangements with a budget of one thousand pounds.96 This proved woefully inadequate and he was forced to ask for a further thousand. At this point a member of the opposition suggested that it would be cheaper if Barran opened it himself, adding that it was his park anyway! Throughout the bitter campaign opponents had accused Barran of buying the park in order to become 'Sir John', after all, when Queen Victoria came to open the Town Hall in 1858, a highlight of that visit had been the bestowing of a knighthood on the Mayor, Peter Fairbairn!97 If this had been one of Barran's motives he was to be bitterly disappointed.
On 18th September 1872 Prince Arthur travelled to Leeds and stayed at Harewood House. The following day the Prince's party made a triumphant entrance into the town and arrived at the Town Hall for eleven thirty, where he was greeted by the Mayor. After a short reception in the Town Hall the Prince, escorted by the Yorkshire Hussars, and followed by a long train of civic dignitaries, made his way to the park.
He was shown the Mansion and then taken on a short walk to view the Upper Lake, before following the path down to the Old Castle. The party then returned and took their places on the specially erected platform. After a short speech Barran invited the Prince to declare the park officially open, after which the party retired to the marquee to enjoy a special luncheon, served with 'great elegance' by Mr Powolny of Commercial Street, Leeds.98
There were great celebrations in the town and cheap mementoes of the event were either given away or sold by shopkeepers and street venders. However, it was John Middlebrook, in the Bramley Almanac, who accurately foretold the future:
Hurrah for Barran! what d'ye think abaght wer Mayor nah?
Three cheers for Barran! upwi t'cap an shaat ageaan hurrah
He's gam is t'lad! Come what's to think be what he's dun t'day
Wah, it dussant matter much to me bud - somb'dy'll hev to pay!
It's t'grandest place - thah never saw, owd lad, a place so nice!
Thah shak's thi head it's true, I knaw, its a longish price;
But then it's nowt for Leeds - they can rise it onny day
Can they? Well its reight to me, bud - sumb'dy'll hev to pay!
Hey up for Leeds! I dunnot care hah big is t'debt at's on!
We've gotton a rattlin paairk at last, - all thanks to thee, Sir John
It can't be bet all England throo - at least so judges say
An it isn't all that can't be bet! - there's a rattlin debt to pay! -
They were prophetic words!99
96. Charles Goodall, Illustrated Royal Handbook (Leeds, 1872) pp. 4-5.
97. Dorothy Payne, The Queen's Visit to Leeds, 1858 (Leeds, n.d.).
98. Illustrated London News, 28 Sept,1872 p.307.
99. John Middlebrook, Bramley Almanac for 1872 (Leeds, 1872)