Friends of Middleton Park

Friends of Middleton Park

1920 The Beginnings of a Public Park ...



Introduction ...

2020 is the 100th Anniversary of Middleton Park. In 1920 the land came into the ownership of Wade's Charity. They then leased it to the then Leeds Corporation for 999 years at a peppercorn rent on £1 per year, the land to be used as a public park and open space for the people of the city. Below are four articles from 1920's about the park's beginnings ...


Presentation of Middleton Park to the Leeds Corporation ...


General Arrangements

12:00 noon - The City Council and other Guests will assemble at the Town Hall.

12:15pm - PROCEED TO MIDDLETON PARK by Conveyance from Calverley Street entrance to Town Hall




After Luncheon, A. COPSON PEAKE, Esquire, Chairman of the Trustees of Wade's Charity will formerly hand over the Park to the Corporation.

The LORD MAYOR will accept the gift on behalf of the Corporation and in the name of the City thank the Donors.

Councillor Leslie Owen, Chairman of the Parks Committee, will present a Souvenir of the Occasion to each of the Trustees of Wade's Charity.

After Luncheon, the Park will be open to the public.

The R.A.M.C. Comrades Military Band (Conductor, Mr. R.S. Kitchen) will play in the Parkbetween 12 noon and 1 p.m., 3 p.m. and 5 p.m., and 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. also on Saturday, 24th July between the hours of 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. and 9 p.m.

Charity of Thomas Wade and others.

The following gentlemen are the present Trustees of Wade's Charity:-

  THE RT. HON. THE LORD MAYOR       (Thomas Beveridge Duncan, J.P.).
  Ald. C. F. TETLEY, J.P.   The Hon. R. D. KITSON, J.P.
  A. COPSON PEAKE       (Rev. B. O. F. Heywood, M.A.)
  F. M. LUPTON, J.P.   Ald. W. H. CLARK, J.P.
  H. I. BOWRING, J.P.   Coun. J. CLARK, J.P.
  Clerk: J. C. ATKINSON   Receiver: G. W. ATKINSON

The Trust was originated nearly four hundred years ago, for the purpose of administering the Charity of Thomas Wade, arising under his will, dated 4th February, 1530, of Alice Lodge, who died in 1638, Henry Ambler and others, and Richard Simpson.

It was formerly managed by a Committee known as "The Committee of Pious Uses." The Trustees were in receipt of income from real property originally bequeathed for the purpose of making reparation of the Highways in and near Leeds, and also income from stock arising from the investment of unapplied income. The Trustees from time to time made liberal grants to the Corporation towards carrying out improvements and the Trustees themselves repeatedly initiated and carried out important improvements in the City, notably in upper Head Row, Land Lane and Call Lane.

By an Order of the High Court of Justice (Chancery Division), dated the 16th December 1893, a new Scheme was made for the regulation and management of the Charity. Under this Scheme it was directed that the capital and income of the Trust should be applied in providing and maintaining open spaces in the City for the recreation of the inhabitants, particularly in those districts where the streets are narrow and the houses small. Since that date the Charity has been known as "The Charity of Thomas Wade and Others."

Under the Scheme land has been acquired and enclosed by the Trustees for use as open spaces and handed over to the Corporation for control and maintenance. The following is a list of the principal open spaces handed over:-

  a r   p [*]
Woodhouse Square0229
Clarence Road2128
Smithes Garth2338¼
Jack Lane, Holbeck0216
Beckett Park4000
Marsh Lane and York Street       204
Meadow Road016
Raincliffe Road2126½

[*] a acres, r roods, p perches

Middleton Park

The park is about three miles from the centre of the City, on the south-eastern boundary standing in a fine elevation and commanding an extensive view of the surrounding district. The area of the Park is 316 acres, including about 110 acres of grass land which is suitable for recreative purposes.

In the early part of the eighteenth century, the Estate was owned by the late Charles John Brandling, Esq., M.P. for Northumberland, whose principal seat was at Gosforth House, near Newcastle-on-Tyne. The Estate was used as the Yorkshire residence of the Brandling family for over a century.

In "Middleton Lodge" there is a cock pit, one of the few surviving relics of an old sport which became a fashionable amusement in the reign of Edward III.

The Estate is well wooded and traversed by pleasant walks.

The predominating trees are oak and beech, the "King of the Forest" being a magnificent beech tree near the "Keeper's Cottage," and well worth seeing.

The Estate is also rich with bracken and fern, and in the springtime the profusion of wild Hyacinths greatly enhances the beauty of the woods.

In spite of the close proximity to the industrial portion of the City, the Park is remarkable for animal and bird life. Although game preserving has been discontinued during the past through years, there are still a good number of pheasants and partridges in and about the Woods. Woodcocks, wild duck and wild geese often alight in the course of their migration. Owls and sparrow hawks also nest in the woods year by year, and find a hunting ground there.

There is a small lake on the Estate - about one acre in size - which is admirably suitable for curling and skating.

There are also several springs in the Park, and the contour of the ground lends itself to the making of a series of cascades.

In the near future visitors to the Park will be afforded quick transit by tramway which is about to be constructed. The tramway will traverse a portion of the Woods, and terminate on a site adjoining the Park which has been acquired by the Corporation for Housing purposes.

At present the Estate can be approached by the following tram routes:-

Balm Road Terminus Then about 10 minutes' walk along "The Run."

Dewsbury Road Terminus - Then about 15 minutes' walk along Gypsy Lane.

This handsome Park is the second largest in the City, and will undoubtedly prove a popular resort for the residents in the thickly populated area on the southern side of the river.

[The original document, with photograph, can be found in the Leeds City Council Reference Library]


Gift of a New Park to Leeds ...

From the Leeds Mercury July 1920 ...


Officials at the opening of Middleton Park

NEW PARK FOR LEEDS - Middleton Park, covering 316 acres, was formally handed over to the citizens of Leeds yesterday by Mr. Copson Peake, acting on behalf of the Trustees of Wade's Charity. The picture shows Mr. Leslie Owen, the Parks chairman) presenting Mr. Peake with a souvenir of the occasion. From left: - Mr. Owen, Mr. C.F. Tetley, Mr. Copson Peake, the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress, Mrs. Owen and Mr. J. C. Atkinson.


NEW PARK FOR LEEDS - Middleton Park, covering 316 acres, was formally handed over to the citizens of Leeds yesterday by Mr. Copson Peake, acting on behalf of the Trustees of Wade's Charity. The picture shows Mr. Leslie Owen, the Parks chairman) presenting Mr. Peake with a souvenir of the occasion. From left: - Mr. Owen, Mr. C.F. Tetley, Mr. Copson Peake, the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress, Mrs. Owen and Mr. J. C. Atkinson.


The city of Leeds will be endowed with a very valuable addition to its many parks and recreation grounds on Friday, July 23, when Mr. A. Copson Peake, chairman of the body known as "Wade's Trustees," formally hands over to the Lord Mayor the fine estate of Middleton Woods as a gift for the citizens. The incident is a reminder that Leeds has its roots deep in the historic past. Thomas Wade was a citizen of Leeds in the days of King Henry the Eighth, and at his death in 1530 it was found that he had left considerable estates, the income of which was to be devoted to the improvement of the local roads. Leeds was beginning to be a busy commercial centre, and then, as now, transport was the vital problem of commerce. So, through the centuries the "Committee of Pious Uses" as the committee administering the charity was entitled, was an important organisation in the town. It is a pity that the old and pleasant name has been suffered to disappear in favour of a proper legal reference. But the Charity Commissioners have no imagination. In recent times the care of the roads has been assumed by public authorities, liberating for other purposes the funds of the charity, and two or three years ago the trustees, finding themselves with money in hand, decided to spend £15,000 in the purchase of the Middleton Woods, and their preparation as a park for South Leeds. The estate extends to 316 acres - about half the expanse of Roundhay, which, with its playing fields, gardens, parkland, and lake extends to 648 acres.

When the scheme was first projected the Middleton township was not then within the city, but it was evident that the decision to save the estate came not a moment too soon. By general consent an extension of the city boundary to include the district was carried out last year , and the urgency of this step was recognised as the greater when it was resolved that Middleton - toward the southern of the new park - should be the site of one the great housing schemes of the municipality. Already the northern end of the park has assumed a severely industrial aspect. Coal mines elbow the patch of greenery to left and to right, and one reaches the lodge at the entrance through an avenue of pit head gear, railway waggons, volcano slopes of smoking tip from the furnaces of ironworks and brickworks, and amid an atmosphere of black smoke, grey smoke, yellow smoke and snowy steam, each cloud with its special significance to the industrial eye. As an example of what the well-known American artist, Joseph Pennell, is so found of picturing as "The Wonder of Work" it is really impressive and quite good material for the artist. To the tired town-dweller the instant contrast on passing the gates and entering the sweet seclusion of the woodland is the more delicious for such an approach.

When the country was in its primitive condition, two little streams, head-waters probably of the Hunslet Beck, cut deeply into the coal measures, trenches which were confluent at the northern end. When the country was settled the coal miners worked the "bassett-edge" of the coal seams exposed in the beck sides, and later still the coal was reached by a great number of bell pits. It was the primitive manner of mining to sink a shaft to a bed of coal or iron, and to remove the mineral by widening the bottom of the shaft till the excavation assumed a bell shape. When the roof fell in to a dangerous extent, work was abandoned, and another shaft was sunk a dozen yards or so distant, and the process renewed. Through much of the Middleton Park, especially upon the west side, great numbers of these bell-pits still exist. They have, of course, completely fallen in, and are now ferny hallows, overgrown with bushes. Sir Walter Scott was want to say that old quarry tips made the most picturesque land for planting with trees - and forestry was a science he studied and practised - but this coal measure country, diversified with rows of bell-pits, is not far behind quarry tips in adaptability to the purpose. And, indeed, it was the general custom, for a long time to plant trees in such broken land, where agriculture was impossible. Such, it is evident, was the origin of the woodland as it stands. The planting was done judiciously, pleasant avenues being maintained, and there is a good deal of fine timber of a varied character - mainly elm, birch, and oak - including many fine grown Turkey oaks. Is it against the Defence of the Realm Act to remark, even though we are at war with Turkey - that the Turkey Oak, with its fine, straight, sweeping branches, is a much more picturesque tree in a woodland than our own hill-country species of English oak? In the eastern portion of the park, where apparently the coal lies too deep to be reached extensively by bell-pits, it has been mined by more modern methods, and there is at least one great deserted shaft, safeguarded with a wall of some antiquity, set amid the leafage. It is doubtless the mining operations beneath and on both sides which have left both beck-courses through the wood without a stream.

The two arms of the woodland enclose a space of grassland much more level in character and extending to 110 acres. This will be available for recreation purposes. Much of it is on a pleasant slope to the west, but it should not be very difficult to find room here for excellent cricket and football grounds, tennis courts, and the like. They will be presently much more easily accessible than now, for a tramway is to be carried through the district to the new garden village of Middleton.


The New South Leeds Park ...

From the Yorkshire Weekly Post 31st July 1920 ...


It was, indeed, a happy thought which came to the trustees of Thomas Wade's charity to purchase the beautiful domain of Middleton, which rises to such a commanding elevation south of Hunslet, Holbeck and Beeston, with its embosoming fromlage and emerald meads; and make a present of it (on a 999 years' lease) to the city for yet another public park.

The estate covers above 300 acres, about half the size of Roundhay, and comprises beauty in variety - lovely glade, stately avenues, sunlit grassy slopes, and ferny hollows, with umbrageous undergrowth on every hand abounding.

Although a quantity of the heaviest timber was felled a century or more ago, and again in 1865-67, a further clearance of the more ancient oaks took place in the "old wood" between Middleton and Hunslet. Yet still a great number of fine hard-wood trees fling out their gaunt and alas "chemick'd" limbs to the changeful breezes, that alone by substitution preserve life in the oak, wych-elm, rowan-tree, silver birch and beech, of which this silva chiefly consists.

Middleton and its wood find record in the Domesday Survey. Dr. Whitaker in his "Loidis and Elmete" writes of the great extent of "native wood" in his day and this he calls the "old silva pasture" - wooded fields.

We will enter this middle town of old from the dingy cinder-pathed hamlet of "Belle Isle," either very much misnamed or vastly changed in character within a century or so. From here we pass into the woods, and up the drive beneath leafy arcades still trending gradually upwards, with the scent of elder-blossom and aromatic herbage from plant and undergrowth in our nostrils. Here and there are bush-smothered old coal workings, the remains of surface trenching, and "bell" pits more or less lost now in living green.

In half a mile or so we reach the lodge, which faces upon an open space of turf of 100 acres or more. Behind the house is the West Wood, spreading down and towards Dewsbury Road. From here a magnificent vista of the industrial West Riding unfolds itself, to be understood it must be seen.

In the days of the Norman Kings and long afterwards, the woods of Middleton and Beeston joined, and many a wild thing now extinct here had its habitat in this vastness, and its dim recesses. Early in the 13th century a long and bitter dispute raged between the rival lords of Beeston and Middleton, the trouble being over the right of possession of the wood lying about midway between the respective "tons." Sometime previously, the wood had been adjudicated as belonging to Adam-de-Beeston. This William Grammary, Lord of Middleton disputed, and having caught one of the Beeston foresters hunting in the wood, took him and imprisoned him. After bitter and fruitless altercations, the two "lords" agreed to decide the dispute by the sword. A duel was arranged and fought (*) ; the result is not on record; but the wood in question shortly after came in the full "fee" of Adam-de-Beeston. This incidence took place early in the 13th century, but where the Manor hall of the early Lord of Middleton stood we are unable to state.

(*) - not true, see this article for more information on the boundary dispute.

The ivy-clad lodges, once the home of the Brandlings, who have left their name and mark deeply imprinted in the locality, and, later, the Maudes, is not of any architectural importance; and, to all appearances cannot date beyond the opening years of the 18th century. Possibly it may stand on the site of an earlier hall. The old garden of it is a vision of loveliness; and in it are the remains of two large oaks, whose years doubtless reach back nine or ten centuries.

The house included a cockpit, what time cockfighting was accounted a sport a circular saucer-like depression was excavated in the soil, on the rim of which were tiers of platforms whereupon the spectators could view the fight, the highest of all being a gallery or balcony at the top of the house itself, the glass room of which still remains. The lodge is situated on the west of a spacious clearing, now grass-land, semi-enclosed by the two crescent horns of the wood, and is 400 feet or so above sea level.

The darker rim of the enclosing wood makes a sweet contrast to the beautiful emerald pastureland. Outwardly the land falls into an environing depression where-through flow the Aire river and many a stream; further away rises and stretches an amphitheatre of undulating eminence melting away into the far distant horizon.

The outpouring of smoke and gassy fumes from the Belle Isle Works is to a large extent, happily, hidden by intervening wood and leafage. Yonder, in the open, towards Hunslet, is Middleton Grange, a structure of some pretention, locally known as "Poverty Hall"; and nearer Windy Hill and its ancient windmill (an old landmark), where in the old days on the magic air of spring was borne the almondy scent of hawthorne blossom and the perfume of golden gorse and wild flowers.

What a change! Now, alas! that belching breath from forge mouth and chemical works has made of vegetation havoc pitifully in evidence hereabouts. By the Wakefield road stands "Ebor" House, perhaps one of the oldest in Middleton, at one time (18th century) the home of the Fentons. Nearer the village, on the east side of the township is the "New" Hall of old heavily fortified. But the ancient hall has gone the way of most medieval things, and the place reeks little of its pristine importance. In the 16th and 17th centuries it was the residence of the Gascoigne's, descended of the great Lord Chief Justice, of Gawthorpe. Here dwelt William Gascoigne, a scholar, Astronomer, and mathematician, killed during the Civil War while fighting in the cause of Charles I.

Middleton village contains several picturesque features and ancient houses, some still showing the original string and plinth courses. The Hall, standing by the village street nye the church, is older than the Lodge, and bares signs of early Georgian days, albeit deface by alteration and enlargement. According to the Rev. Norman Waugh, a Roman Catholic priest was maintained here by the resident family from 1730 - 1780; and in the hall was a "priest's room" and chapel. The Leighs or "Leyghs" were for century's resident here, and were a family of some note, described as Esquires, and in one or two instances as Knights. Anne Legh, a daughter of John Legh, married Ralph Brandling, of Morpeth, he becoming a convert to the Roman Catholic faith. Years afterwards the owners reverted, and one, father Antony Hatton, was expelled from his retreat. He, however, found another refuge, at Ebor House with the Fentons, before mentioned. A few years later a Mass House was erected near Hunslet Bar, known as Stourton Lodge Chapel; and to this the Catholics off Leeds and district were wont to repair to hear mass. Middleton Church, erected in 1846, is in the early English style, its spire springing from a tower making a conspicuous mark in the landscape.

Belle Isle, a drab, cindery-pathed murky settlement lies at the north extremity of the park, and the stream flowing here rises on the higher lands of Middleton. It emerges from the earth near the Hall, and below, by the wood, forms a small lake which can easily be enlarged, if thought fit, by the Corporation park planners. From the lake it percolates or "sipes" (to use the local term) its way subterraneously through the shaley coal-bord soil and strata, to emerge again at Belle Isle, a hurrying beck and after a course of less than three miles enters the river Aire near to Thwaite Gate. This little stream was named "the Fleet" by Anglians and though "Writ in water" it has left the legacy of its life in our town place name of Hunslet. The word is Anglo-Saxon, from flootan - to float, varied to flow and in the word flood; and thence was derived Hun's-fleet, or, perhaps, Hunna's-fleet, modern Hunslet!


A Boon from the "Dead Hand" ...

From a suppliment of The Yorkshire Post - Published in Connection with the Leeds Tercentenary Celebrations July 8th-17th 1926 ...


Another park, of the possession of which Leeds is pardonably proud, is that of Middleton. This is a lovely bit of woodland of over 316 acres in extent, lying to the south of the town, on the outskirts of a densely populated industrial district. It boasts wide expanses of grass land devoted to tennis and cricket, a lake and promenade, and a large well-timbered area - a typical bit of coal measures woodland, in spring an exquisite picture when the bluebells cover the slopes with a sheet of azure, and at all times a place of repose and refreshment of spirit for busy workaday folk.

Historically the area is not of interest to compare with the other municipal domains which are under notice here. It was till recently the private domain of Middleton Lodge, a residence of no great antiquity, but the original manor house, to which it was once attached, can be traced back as early as 1202, when the owners of the manors of Middleton and Beeston fought a duel (*) ; to determine claims made by both to a strip of the woodland lying on the borders of the two estates. In much later times it was the home of the Brandling family, members of which go down in history as pioneers in railway enterprise, as is related in another chapter.

(*) - not true, see this article for more information on the boundary dispute.

The principal interest of the park is the manner of its acquisition by the citizens of Leeds. It is a virtual gift - actually a grant to the Corporation on lease of 999 years at a rent of £1 a year - from a body called Wade's Trustees. Reference has been made in the chapter on the story of the development of Leeds roads to the prescience of one of the citizens named Thomas Wade. That worthy in his will dated 1530, mentioned expressly, "All my lands which I purchased of Peter Bell of the Head Row" and declares his desire that they shall "remain and go to the use of mending the highways about Leeds after the discretion and minds of the church-wardens for the time."

The Committee of Pious Uses.

Trustees were appointed to administer the property and such is the continuity of English institutions that now, after close on to 400 years, "Wade's Trustees" still manage that self-same property. For a time, the body drew to itself so many other of the benefactions made to the town that it became known as "The Committee of Pious Uses" - a pleasant name, which one is sorry to see disappear. But one by one as these various charities have "grown up" into important institutions, they have been given autonomy. The oversight of the Grammar School, for instance, was one of the functions of the old Committee of Pious Uses, but it is too big now to be subsidiary to any other institution. So, as these various "pious uses" have been given schemes of self-government the old title - "Wade's Trustees" - has been reverted to.

The benefaction has not had an altogether unchequered career. Older than the principles of modern representative government in local affairs, the body is what is known as a "close corporation." Its members are elected for life by co-optation - a method too productive of abuses in kindred bodies to have escaped without suspicion in the fever for open elections - and many of them - which marked the Nineteenth Century. But the honesty of the administration has never been in doubt.

Wade was before his time, but the whole community has been forced to a sense of the importance of roads, and their maintenance is now a duty of the ratepayers. A private fortune many times greater than Wade's, might soon be swallowed up in the vast duty of repairing the roads of a modern town. And so the actual terms of the benefaction have, with the assent of the Court of Chancery, been varied in administration and the proceeds of Wade's property is expended in providing street improvements and open spaces for the citizens. A considerable number of smaller recreational grounds in various parts of the city came to the citizens in a similar way, one of the principal being a part of Beckett's Park, Headingley, where an area of 40 acres was provided by Wade's Trustees.

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