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Spaces apart: public parks and the differentiation of space in Leeds, 1850–1914

  • Nathan Booth (a1), David Churchill (a2), Anna Barker (a3) and Adam Crawford (a4)

Abstract

While the Victorian ideal of the public park is well understood, we know less of how local governors sought to realize this ideal in practice. This article is concerned with park-making as a process – contingent, unstable, open – rather than with parks as outcomes – determined, settled, closed. It details how local governors bounded, designed and regulated park spaces to differentiate them as ‘spaces apart’ within the city, and how this programme of spatial governance was obstructed, frustrated and diverted by political, environmental and social forces. The article also uses this historical analysis to provide a new perspective on the future prospects of urban parks today.

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Copyright

This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Corresponding author

*Corresponding author. Email: D.Churchill@leeds.ac.uk

Footnotes

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This article arises from an Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funded research project entitled: ‘The future prospects of urban parks: the life, times and social order of Victorian public parks as places of social mixing’ (Ref: AH/N001788/2), on which the authors collaborated. All named authors contributed significantly to the intellectual development of the article and approved the final version published. The first two named authors took the lead role in interpreting the data and in writing.

Footnotes

References

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1 Conway, H., People's Parks: The Design and Development of Victorian Parks in Britain (Cambridge, 1991), 11.

2 There is obviously a very sizeable body of literature on this theme: Gunn, S., ‘The spatial turn: changing histories of space and place’, in Gunn, S. and Morris, R.J. (eds.), Identities in Space: Contested Terrains in the Western City since 1850 (Aldershot, 2001), 114, remains a helpful point of reference.

3 Cf. Cannadine, D., ‘Residential differentiation in nineteenth-century towns: from shapes on the ground to shapes in society’, in Johnson, J.H. and Pooley, C.G. (eds.), The Structure of Nineteenth-Century Cities (London, 1982), 235–51.

4 See Pred, A., ‘Place as historically contingent process: structuration and the time-geography of becoming places’, Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 74 (1984), 279–97; Lefebvre, H., The Production of Space, trans. Nicholson-Smith, D. (Oxford, 1991); Abbott, A., Processual Sociology (Chicago, 2016), especially ch. 6.

5 Massey, D., For Space (London, 2005), 9.

6 Conway, People's Parks, 7.

7 Koselleck, R., Futures Past: On the Semantics of Historical Time (New York, 2004), ch. 14. See also Churchill, D., Crawford, A. and Barker, A., ‘Thinking forward through the past: prospecting for urban order in (Victorian) public parks’, Theoretical Criminology, 22 (2018), 523–44.

8 See also K. Loughran, ‘Urban parks and urban problems: an historical perspective on green space development as a cultural fix’, Urban Studies, forthcoming, available from https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0042098018763555?journalCode=usja.

9 See Conway, People's Parks, ch. 2; O'Reilly, C., The Greening of the City: Urban Parks and Public Leisure, 1840–1939 (Abingdon, 2019), 46–8; N. Booth, D. Churchill, A. Barker and A. Crawford, ‘Experience, expectation and the evolving concept of the “people's park” in Leeds, c. 1850–1914’, unpublished paper.

10 Conway, People's Parks, ch. 2; Wyborn, T., ‘Parks for the people: the development of public parks in Victorian Manchester’, Manchester Region History Review, 9 (1995), 45; Hickman, C., ‘“To brighten the aspect of our streets and increase the health and enjoyment of our city”: the National Health Society and urban green space in late-nineteenth century London’, Landscape and Urban Planning, 118 (2013), 114–16; Jones, K.R., ‘“The lungs of the city”: green space, public health and bodily metaphor in the landscape of urban park history’, Environment and History, 24 (2018), 3958; Churchill et al., ‘Urban order’, 529–31.

11 See for example Harrison, J.F.C., Living and Learning 1790–1960: A Study in the History of the English Adult Education Movement (London, 1961), ch. 1.

12 Meller, H., Leisure and the Changing City, 1870–1914 (London, 1976), 99.

13 On ‘improvement’ and municipal government, see Joyce, P., The Rule of Freedom: Liberalism and the Modern City (London, 2003); and Otter, C., The Victorian Eye: A Political History of Light and Vision in Britain, 1800–1910 (Chicago, 2008). For the connection between improvement, civic culture and the urban aesthetic, see Layton-Jones, K., Beyond the Metropolis: The Changing Image of Urban Britain, 1780–1880 (Manchester, 2016).

14 See, among others, MacMaster, N., ‘The battle for Mousehold Heath 1857–1884: “popular politics” and the Victorian public park’, Past & Present, 127 (1990), 117–54; Marne, P., ‘Whose public space was it anyway? Class, gender and ethnicity in the creation of the Sefton and Stanley Parks, Liverpool: 1858–1872’, Social & Cultural Geography, 2 (2001), 421–43; Elliott, P., ‘The Derby Arboretum (1840): the first specially designed municipal public park in Britain’, Midland History, 26 (2001), 144–76; Strohmayer, U., ‘Urban design and civic spaces: nature at the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont in Paris’, Cultural Studies, 13 (2006), 557–76.

15 This draws on the broad conceptualization of ‘resistance’ in recent historiography: see Joyce, P., ‘What is the social in social history?’, Past & Present, 206 (2010), 213–48; Pearson, C., ‘Beyond “resistance”: rethinking nonhuman agency for a “more-than-human” world’, European Revue of History: Revue européenne d'histoire, 22 (2015), 709–25. While concerned to illustrate resistance to park-making, this article does so largely ‘from above’ (from the viewpoint of local governors) rather than ‘from below’.

16 Dimensions are taken from Yorkshire Post (YP), 1 Aug. 1911, 9.

17 See for example Wyborn, ‘Parks for the people’, 3–14; Marne, ‘Public space’; Layton-Jones, K. and Lee, R., Places of Health and Amusement: Liverpool's Historic Parks and Gardens (Swindon, 2008); O'Reilly, C., ‘From “the people” to “the citizen”: the emergence of the Edwardian municipal park in Manchester, 1902–1912’, Urban History, 40 (2013), 136–55.

18 See Layton-Jones and Lee, Liverpool's Historic Parks, 25–7.

19 Hennock, E.P., Fit and Proper Persons: Ideal and Reality in Nineteenth-Century Urban Government (London, 1973), book 2, chs. 1–2; Barber, B., ‘Municipal government in Leeds, 1835–1914’, in Fraser, D. (ed.), Municipal Reform and the Industrial City (Leicester, 1982), 61110. On the political composition of the council, see Fraser, D., ‘Politics and society in the nineteenth century’, in Fraser, D. (ed.), A History of Modern Leeds (Manchester, 1980), 283.

20 Higher than Bradford, Manchester, Birmingham and Liverpool: Conway, People's Parks, 73.

21 Searches were conducted using the British Newspaper Archive (www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/). Keywords were ‘Woodhouse Moor’, ‘Roundhay Park’ and ‘Cross Flatts’, each searched as a complete phrase.

22 See for example Leeds Times (LT), 21 Oct. 1854, 1; Leeds Intelligencer (LI), 3 Jul. 1855, 2; Leeds Mercury (LM), 9 Aug. 1855, 2.

23 LI, 29 Sep. 1871, 2.

24 LI, 28 Oct. 1854, 9–10; LT, 28 Oct. 1854, 3; LM, 29 Sep. 1871, 4; LI, 29 Sep. 1871, 2; LM, 1 Sep. 1888, 3. On Manchester, see Wyborn, ‘Parks for the people’, 6.

25 LM, 23 Jun. 1855, 5; LI, 3 Jul. 1855, 3.

26 See Conway, People's Parks, 71.

27 The initial purchase cost the four councillors an astonishing £139,000: see LM, 30 Sep. 1871, 5; LI, 5 Oct. 1871, 7; LT , 2 Dec. 1871, 3.

28 LI, 11 Aug. 1855, 7.

29 West Yorkshire Archive Service (WYAS), Parliamentary Committee minutes LLC2/1/2, 6 Feb. 1856, 29 Feb. 1856.

30 Permissive powers were awarded to other townships to purchase moors out of local rates: LT, 19 Apr. 1856, 5. See also Branston, G., The Commons, Waste Lands and Urban Moors of Leeds (Leeds, 2005), 28.

31 The council ultimately acquired these in 1879 and 1900 respectively.

32 LM, 29 Sep. 1871, 2.

33 See LM, 20 Feb. 1872, 7; LT, 9 Mar. 1872, 4.

34 WYAS, council minutes LL2/1/9, 28 Sep. 1855, 175.

35 LT, 22 Dec. 1855, 3, 8.

36 The contrasting visions of the Moor at play here are analysed in Booth et al., ‘People's park’.

37 WYAS, municipal report books LL7/1/4, 19 Mar. 1858, 251–2, 253–4.

38 WYAS, Repairs Committee minutes (RC) LLC16/1/2, 24 Jun. 1859.

39 LM, 11 Aug. 1859, 3.

40 LM, 15 May 1869, 5; LM, 18 May 1869, 3; LM, 21 May 1869, 3; LM, 25 May 1869, 7.

41 See LM, 1 Aug. 1877, 8.

42 LM, 9 Jan. 1888, 8; LT, 21 Jan. 1888, 3; LT, 26 Jan. 1888, 7.

43 WYAS, Roundhay Park Committee minutes (RPC) LLC 29/4/1, 17 Sep. 1874; WYAS/RPC LLC 29/4/2, 20 Apr. 1876, 1 May 1879.

44 WYAS/RPC LLC29/4/3, 2 Dec. 1897; Ordnance Survey maps, accessed via www.digimap.edina.ac.uk.

45 LI, 19 Sep. 1874, 5. See also LM, 5 Jan. 1881, 2; LT, 8 Jan. 1881, 5. Note that retrenching instincts on the council were especially strong at this time: Hennock, Fit and Proper Persons, 222–3.

46 WYAS, Corporate Property (Recreation Grounds) Committee minutes (CPRGC) LLC 29/5/2, 19 Aug. 1892, 24 Aug. 1892.

47 WYAS/CPRGC LLC 29/5/3, 16 May 1894, 19 Dec. 1894, 20 Jun. 1895.

48 WYAS/CPRGC LLC 29/5/1, 10 Nov. 1876.

49 WYAS/CPRGC LLC 29/5/2, 15 Jan. 1878.

50 See for example Conway, People's Parks, ch. 5.

51 Borsay, P., ‘Nature, the past and the English town: a counter-cultural history’, Urban History, 44 (2017), 30–1.

52 WYAS/RC LLC16/1/2, 26 Aug. 1859, 29 Apr. 1860.

53 WYAS, Improvement Amendment Bill (1865) QE20/1/1865/12; Branston, Urban Moors, 28.

54 LM, 29 Sep. 1868. (The authors are grateful to Bill McKinnon for bringing this article to their attention.) On Sefton Park, see Conway, People's Parks, 97–100.

55 See further Booth et al., ‘People's park’.

56 Advertisements for sale of lots from the original estate noted their ‘park-like’ enclosures and the ‘richly-wooded landscape unsullied by the smoke of the town’: LM, 27 Aug. 1870, 2; LM, 8 Apr. 1871, 2.

57 LI, 6 Sep. 1873, 5. See also LM, 25 Sep. 1873, 3; LM, 4 Dec. 1873, 8; LI, 6 Dec. 1873, 6.

58 LI, 30 Jan. 1874, 4.

59 LM, 30 Sep. 1871, 5; Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer (YPLI), 18 May 1881, 2.

60 See LM, 21 Nov. 1871, 7; WYAS/CPRGC LLC 29/5/1, 19 Feb. 1885; LT, 9 May 1891, 5.

61 See especially Conway, People's Parks.

62 By 1889, the council had acquired 13 parks: YP, 1 Aug. 1911, 9.

63 LT, 27 Sep. 1890, 5.

64 LT, 27 Sep. 1890, 5.

65 LT, 27 Jun. 1891, 5.

66 O'Reilly, C., ‘“We have gone recreation mad”: the consumption of leisure and popular entertainment in municipal public parks in early twentieth-century Britain’, International Journal of Regional and Local History, 8 (2013), 112–28.

67 Ordnance Survey maps, accessed via www.digimap.edina.ac.uk.

68 LM, 28 Sep. 1871, 6.

69 LT, 25 Jul. 1891, 5.

70 LM, 30 Mar. 1881, 5.

71 LM, 23 May 1872, 8; YPLI, 18 May 1881, 2.

72 LM, 23 Jul. 1881, 7; LT, 30 Jul. 1881, 4; LT, 24 Sep. 1881 5. See also LM, 20 Apr. 1888, 7.

73 WYAS/CPRGC LLC 29/5/1, 29 Nov. 1881.

74 British Parliamentary Papers, Report from the Select Committee on Public Walks (1833), 8.

75 See also Marne, ‘Public space’, 432.

76 Leeds Local and Family History Library (LLFHL), local by-laws (LBL) LP 352.681 L517 (1871), 4, 3. On Manchester, see O'Reilly, Urban Parks, 59–60.

77 A popular bat-and-ball game played in the West Riding of Yorkshire; the object was to hit the ‘knor’ (a small ball) as far as possible with a stick (‘spell’). See: http://woodhousemooronline.com/?p=1352.

78 LLFHL/LBL LP 352.681 L517 (1871), 6. See also WYAS/CPRGC LLC 29/5/1, 13 May 1878.

79 LLFHL/LBL LP 352.681 L517 (1906), 12.

80 LT, 2 May 1874, 5; LI, 16 May 1874, 5; Yorkshire Evening Post (YEP), 29 Jun. 1891, 3; YEP, 28 Jul. 1891, 4; YEP, 19 Aug. 1891, 3.

81 WYAS/CPRGC LLC 29/5/1, 27 Jun. 1879, 9 Jul. 1880. See also LI, 6 Jun. 1873, 1; WYAS/CPRGC LLC 29/5/7, 14 Sep. 1908.

82 On the patchwork of urban law-enforcement generally, see Churchill, D., Crime Control and Everyday Life in the Victorian City: The Police and the Public (Oxford, 2017).

83 Leeds Daily News, 8 Apr. 1882; LT, 11 Jul. 1885, 3. Unsurprisingly, rangers sometimes exceeded their duty in dealing with drunken visitors: see LM, 6 July 1881, 2; LM, 4 Aug. 1881, 3.

84 WYAS/RC LLC16/1/2, 11 Dec. 1857.

85 Application by the Chief Constable for Additional Men for the City Police Force (Leeds, 1902), 11.

86 West Yorkshire police records database (2014), register of applicants, Leeds Police, available from: www.ancestry.com; WYAS, Watch Committee minutes LLC5/1/14, 23 Jul. 1886, 359. On Manchester, see Wyborn, ‘Parks for the people’, 8; on Liverpool, see Marne, ‘Public space’, 436.

87 LT, 30 Mar. 1872, 5.

88 WYAS/CPRGC LLC 29/5/3, 7 Sep. 1893; WYAS/CPRGC LLC 29/5/4, 15 Jan. 1897; WYAS/CPRGC LLC 29/5/6, 17 Feb. 1904. See also Strohmayer, ‘Parc des Buttes-Chaumont’, 564–5; Loughran, ‘Cultural fix’, 10–11.

89 WYAS/CPRGC LLC 29/5/1, 9 Jul. 1880. See also WYAS/CPRGC LLC29/5/6, 14 Apr. 1902.

90 WYAS/CPRGC LLC 29/5/2, 21 Feb. 1888, 13 Jul. 1888; LT, 14 Jul. 1888, 3. Swings were similarly locked in Manchester's parks: Wyborn, ‘Parks for the people’, 10.

91 See for example WYAS/CPRGC LLC 29/5/2, 16 May 1890.

92 By-laws laid down in 1906 proscribed entrance to or exit from parks except through the gates, wickets or passages provided: LLFHL/LBL LP 352.681 L517 (1906), 6. In 1895, a palisade was fixed around a gate at the southern end of Cross Flatts Park specifically to exclude cattle: WYAS/CPRGC LLC 29/5/3, 18 Dec. 1895.

93 WYAS/CPRGC LLC 29/5/4, 12 Mar. 1897, 28 Mar. 1898.

94 WYAS/CPRGC LLC 29/5/3, 26 Apr. 1894; WYAS/CPRGC LLC 29/5/2, 26 May 1892, 235; LI, 4 Sep. 1893, p. 6.

95 See also discussion of zoning and the ‘variegated park’ in A. Barker, A. Crawford, N. Booth and D. Churchill, ‘Park futures: excavating images of tomorrow's urban green spaces’, Urban Studies, forthcoming, available from https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0042098019875405.

96 LLFHL/LBL LP 352.681 L517 (1882), 4–5.

97 WYAS/RC LLC16/1/2, 26 May 1859. The game was prohibited outright in 1867: see Churchill et al., ‘Urban order’, 532.

98 WYAS/CPRGC LLC 29/5/1, 14 Mar. 1878, 1 Jul. 1884.

99 See for example LM, 10 Oct. 1863, 7; LM, 6 Aug. 1864, 9; LT, 21 May 1881, 5; LM 20 Apr. 1888, 7; YEP, 11 Jan. 1901, 3.

100 YEP, 26 Feb. 1901, 3.

101 On sexual misconduct, see LT, 15 Aug. 1885, 5; YEP, 19 Oct. 1911, 5; YEP, 29 May 1913, 3. On ‘hooliganism’, see YEP, 11 Jan. 1901, 3; YEP, 17 Jul. 1901, 3; YEP, 13 Sep. 1911, 3; LM, 7 Sep. 1907, 7. For similar problems in Liverpool, see Marne, ‘Public space’, 435–6.

102 LM, 24 Aug. 1863, 3; LM, 12 Jan. 1881, 2; YEP, 22 Sep. 1891, 4; YEP, 2 Oct. 1908, 4; WYAS/CPRGC LLC 29/5/7, 26 Jul. 1911.

103 For a more general analysis of ‘possible futures’ for UK urban parks, see Barker et al., ‘Park futures’.

104 On the rise of urban planning, see Meller, H., Towns, Plans and Society in Modern Britain (Cambridge, 1997).

105 On parks and wastes, see MacMaster, ‘Mousehold Heath’, 120–1.

106 See Conway, H., ‘Everyday landscapes: public parks from 1930 to 2000’, Garden History, 28 (2000), 118–19; O'Reilly, ‘Edwardian municipal park’, 145–6, 150–3; O'Reilly, ‘Recreation mad’.

107 See Churchill et al., ‘Urban order’, 534–6.

108 Conway, ‘Everyday landscapes’, 117–34.

109 See also Loughran, ‘Cultural fix’.

110 Layton-Jones, K., Uncertain Prospects: Public Parks in the New Age of Austerity (London, 2016), 2.

111 Data from www.centreforcities.org/data-tool. More widely, see Layton-Jones, Uncertain Prospects, 15–16.

112 This underlying pressure is compounded by specific demands of contemporary policy-makers that parks make more, wider-ranging and better-evidenced contributions to public goods: see Barker et al., ‘Park futures’.

113 See also discussion of the ‘theme park’ in Barker et al., ‘Park futures’.

114 Indeed, some scholars advocate marginal green spaces in preference to parks, on grounds of social and environmental justice: Wolch, J.R., Byrne, J. and Newell, J.P., ‘Urban green space, public health, and environmental justice: the challenge of making cities “just green enough”’, Landscape and Urban Planning, 125 (2014), 234–44.

115 On pop-up parks, see https://www.popupparks.org.uk/.

116 O'Reilly, ‘Edwardian municipal park’, 139–40.

117 Layton-Jones, Uncertain Prospects, 12.

This article arises from an Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funded research project entitled: ‘The future prospects of urban parks: the life, times and social order of Victorian public parks as places of social mixing’ (Ref: AH/N001788/2), on which the authors collaborated. All named authors contributed significantly to the intellectual development of the article and approved the final version published. The first two named authors took the lead role in interpreting the data and in writing.

Spaces apart: public parks and the differentiation of space in Leeds, 1850–1914

  • Nathan Booth (a1), David Churchill (a2), Anna Barker (a3) and Adam Crawford (a4)

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