AN ILLUSTRATED HISTORY OF ROUNDHAY PARK
How to Develop the Park?
Now the park was officially open the Council had a duty to ratepayers to speedily sell off the surplus land. They urgently needed a master plan that identified the areas for villa development but ensured that these did not impinge on the beauties of the park. Moreover, the grounds themselves needed attention. More roads, footpaths and rustic bridges, besides new features like bandstands, croquet lawns and summerhouses were required to create a modern Victorian park.100 What to do with the Mansion itself? Some suggested it should be a museum, others an official residence for the mayor, the legal establishment favoured its use for Her Majesty's Judges of Assize, while the Temperance Party insisted that if it became a hotel, alcohol should not be served. Professional advice had to be obtained. As so often happened in such circumstances the Council decided to hold a competition with a first prize of £500.101
George Corson's plan was deemed to be the most imaginative. His ambitious plans, dated 1873, included boathouses, refreshment rooms, lodges, a swimming bath and cricket ground. This he felt could be achieved for around £36,000. However, the park had already cost a fortune and none of this work could be undertaken without the sale of the surplus land.
Corson's plan identified two large areas for development. The first centred on Spring Wood to the south east, the other along the western boundary, beyond Old Park Road. More controversial was the laying out of Park Avenue, leading from Oakwood towards Waterloo Lake, and West Avenue along the hill. Land sales were held at intervals but building restrictions, including the use of stone and the prohibition of any noisy or offensive trade, were scrupulously enforced. This ensured that it would be an area of quality housing,
The land sales were crucial to the success of the Council's strategy and they went to extraordinary lengths to interest potential buyers in the auction sales. They even hired an artist to sit on the roof of the Mansion and create an artist's impression of what the area would look like if the villa development went ahead as envisaged.102 Unfortunately, the long distance from town and the complete lack of reliable public transport meant that the Council had few takers. Auction sales in 1876 and 1877 disposed of about sixty acres, but many lots were withdrawn. No sales at all were made in1879 and, much to their embarrassment, large swathes of land were to remain unsold for years.103
Yet again the Barran family acted as a shining example to other members of the middle class élite and in 1883 a large house called Parcmont was constructed near the lake for John Barran II. Though other substantial houses were built, the overall strategy proved to be a disaster.104
The park had cost the ratepayers of Leeds a fortune.
100. Douglas Taylor, West Riding Amusement Parks and Gardens, Yorkshire
Archaeological Journal, Vol. 58 (Leeds, 1986) pp.179-184.
101. George Corson, Roundhay Park as proposed to be laid out and adapted - an illustrated plan, Leeds Local and Family History Library - QLR 76 (712).
102. WYAS, Leeds, AM Sale Particulars (Series 1) 665.
103. Barber pp.78-80.
104. Thoresby Society Sale Particulars:1911 - Parcmont.