FoHP : History 3 : To 1897 (NH)

 

Henrietta Park
(To Jubilee Day 22nd June 1897)

During the early Georgian Period Bathwick had more in common with the Middle Ages than the rapidly developing city across the River Avon. Direct access to the small village was via two ferries: a passenger ferry close to where Cleveland Bridge is today and a horse ferry above Pulteney Weir. The water meadows to the south of the village, which habitually flooded in winter, were used for grazing stock and as a picnic site for Bathonians in the summer.

The urbanisation of Bathwick started in 1774 when William Johnson Pulteney completed the bridge over to his proposed ‘new town’. For a decade the scheme stagnated, money was in short supply and the roadways on the Bathwick side of the river were nothing more than rutted tracks that were impassable in winter. The first Bathwick Estate houses started to appear in 1784 and the foundation stone for Laura Place was laid by Henrietta Laura Pulteney in 1788.

Under the guidance of Thomas Baldwin, the City Surveyor and Architect, construction of Great Pulteney and Henrietta Streets rapidly followed. A formal square, to be named ‘Frances’ after Henrietta Laura’s mother, was to be created just behind Great Pulteney Street. The financial crisis of 1792/3 destroyed this elaborate plan and Frances Square was to remain unbuilt.

This thirteen acre tract of land had traditionally been called Bathwick Meadows or Mead. As the nineteenth century progressed it gradually it became a park, either Bathwick or Henrietta. Half was laid out as open pasture; the remainder, behind the future Daniel Street, contained allotments and small-holdings. In the north east corner grew a huge, ancient Mulberry tree. Reputed to have been planted in the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1st, it was showing its age with the decaying boughs having to be supported by large baulks of timber. It was still extant in 1944 in the garden of No 18 Daniel Street.

By 1840 Henrietta Road had been built as an extension to Henrietta Street and a series of imposing villas soon followed. They were completed by 1844, he residents electing to live adjacent to ‘Henrietta’ Park. Contemporary drawings show it to be open, unfenced and with a central gravel path leading to Great Pulteney Street. This was to change in 1850 when: ‘a great improvement has been made in Henrietta Road by the substitution of a wire fence for the hedge which previously divided it from Bathwick Park. It would add much to the beauty of many parts of our city if, when practicable, wire fences were to replace unsightly walls and hedges.’

Over subsequent years the park was subjected to petty crime of which the following is a selection:

1858—A man named James Baker was charged with being drunk and incapable of taking care of himself. A police officer stated that at a quarter to nine o’clock the previous night he found the prisoner lying drunk in Henrietta Park behind Pulteney Street. The prisoner said that he had come from Stanton Prior to sell some potatoes and got a little too much beer. He was discharged.

1859—George Davidson, a lad about twelve years of age was charged with being drunk and incapable in Bathwick Park. It appeared that a police officer found him lying in Bathwick Park in a state of helpless intoxication and conveyed him to the police station. The Magistrates inflicted a penalty of 5s and costs.

1859— John Butcher summoned for obstructing the thoroughfare in Henrietta Park by leaving a heap of manure on the footway therefor two and a quarter hours. Fined 2s-6d and costs, or seven days imprisonment.

1862—Elizabeth Wood was charged with begging in Bathwick Park at three o’clock on Monday afternoon. The prisoner was dismissed on promising to to leave the town immediately.

1866—A boy named Coxson was fined 1s and costs for throwing stones in Bathwick Park. P. C. James stated that the defendant with several other boys threw stones at a walnut tree, and some ladies could not walk along the path in consequence.

1880—Alfred Newman, a boy aged eleven years living in Milk Street was charged with having wandered abroad in Henrietta Park and not being under proper guardianship. Prisoner, a very small boy, went to a house in Henrietta Park and asked if they had any bones or grease for sale. He was told no and ordered off; upon this he commenced using filthy language. The Bench discharged the lad, handing him over to his mother.

1881—William Nott of 2 Abbey Street was summoned for having been at such a distance from a horse and cart of which he had the care as to have no control over it. The defendant’s horse was wandering about in Henrietta Park on Monday. A fine of 7s-6d and costs was inflicted.

In December 1853 a more serious incident occurred when the body of a newly born female infant was found in the park’s shrubbery. She was taken the to Guildhall where a post mortem examination took place. It was found that she had been born alive. The mother was never traced, although it is likely she came from the Grove Street slums not two hundred yards away. Until the mid 1890’s, when Francis Forester agreed to have them cleared out, Grove Street rivalled the Dolemeads for poverty.

In 1878 Somersetshire College, a boys school located in The Circus, began to use the park as a rugby field. Cricket and athletics were to follow the following year. The park at this point was reported to be somewhat neglected ‘with the wire fence is still in a most dangerous state for pedestrians after dark, the path is still in holes causing large pools to collect after every storm and the uprooted tree still lies in the position it has been in for some weeks past’. The wire fence to the south of the gravel path was replaced with spiked railings which, in 1883, impaled a ten year old boy in the thigh when he played on them.

In November 1882 the park was inflicted with severe flooding which resulted in eighteen sheep being drowned. The residents of Henrietta Villas were especially affected, a butcher named Marshman said that ‘he had hardly anything left in the world except what he stood up in’. Although the flood subsided the park was now reported to be water logged and causing a nuisance, a blocked drain suspected of being the cause. The paths had also been washed away. There was now a stand-off between Frederick Farwell of the Bathwick Estate Office and the City Surveyor over who was going to pay for the repairs. It was resolved the following July when Farwell offered a contribution of £30, an offer that was accepted.

The Dukes of Cleveland managed Bathwick’s affairs through a succession of solicitors, the incumbent in 1882 being the thirty eight year old Frederick George Farwell. Born in Bushbury, Staffordshire he was the son of Frederick Cooper Farwell, a Devon solicitor of substantial means. F. G. Farwell followed his father into the legal profession and began acting for the 4th Duke of Cleveland in respect to the Wrington Estate. When William Thompson retired in 1880 he was appointed Bathwick Estate Land Agent. The Chronicle noted that ‘it may be said that he was a hereditary land agent, for his father and grandfather before him were Agents for the Duke of Cleveland’. In October 1883 Farwell agreed to be nominated as an independent candidate for the vacant Bathwick ward; he was elected with nearly 50% of the vote. When he died in 1906 his son was appointed his successor.

During the 1880’s the park had become Somersetshire College’s regular cricket ground, to the extent that they had their own club house. In October 1884 two boys, Sydney Fletcher and William Hawkins, aged twelve and thirteen respectively, broke in and stole two footballs, two woollen jerseys, two caps and a waist belt. Hawkins was later arrested when he was seen in a field near the Warminster Road kicking one of the football’s around whilst wearing the stolen clothing! At the trial Fletcher was stated to be ‘an incorrigible lad who would shortly have to be sent to an Industrial school’. The Bench ordered ‘the prisoners to be imprisoned for one day and to receive six strokes each of the birch’.

In 1888 the following report appeared in the Bath Chronicle:

AN OBJECTIONABLE SEAT

Mr. F.G. Farwell wrote to the Council complaining of the nuisance caused by a seat at the back of the balustrade in Sunderland Street. It was thought that it would be a convenience to invalids and other walking in Henrietta Park. However, it was the resort of all the children in the neighbourhood, who use it as a means for climbing on the balustrade and doing damage; part of the balustrade was knocked down and destroyed last week. The occupiers of the adjoining houses complained of the nuisance and he asked if the seat might be removed to some other place.

When Francis ‘Frank’ Forester inherited the Bathwick Estate in 1891 the ‘Truth’ noted ‘it is hoped that he will prove to be a better landlord than his predecessor’. Unfortunately, this was not to be; Forester’s visits became scarcer as time went on. However, in the early years he and his wife Aline made an attempt to integrate themselves into Bath society. He became President of the Eastern Dispensary whilst Aline supported St. Mary’s Church. Forester’s early philanthropy was to let on favourable terms the North Parade and Recreation grounds to Bath’s cricket and rugby clubs respectively.

At the Town Council Meeting on the 8th October 1895 the Mayor, W. C. Jolly, read a letter that he had received from Farwell:

11 Laura Place,
Bath Sept 10th 1895

Dear Mr. Mayor,
I am instructed by Captain Forester to write to ask you whether the Corporation will be prepared to accept from him as a gift to the City the piece of land in Bathwick called Henrietta Park and containing about seven acres with the idea that the same should be dedicated to the public and laid out as ornamental grounds.
In the event of the Council accepting Captain Forester’s offer I would suggest that the various details should be left to the Pleasure Gardens Committee in conjunction with myself to formulate and arrange.
I am, Dear Mr. Mayor,
Yours Faithfully,
Fred. G. Farwell.

Some of the credit for Forester’s offer must go to Farwell. His 1906 obituary in the Chronicle included the lines: ‘it was by his good offices that Henrietta Park was presented to the City by Captain Forester. So completely was he trusted that any recommendations he made were acted upon, especially by the present owner, who had the most entire confidence in Mr. Farwell’s sagacity and foresight’.

The Mayor ‘thought it was a very generous and very welcome offer on behalf of Captain Forester. He would suggest the matter be referred to the Pleasure Grounds Committee, and asked Mr. Farwell to attend in order that conditions acceptable to Captain Forester might be agreed before the the offer was practically accepted. The Mayor moved that the offer be acknowledged with sincere thanks (applause).’

The Chronicle guardedly approved:

‘The generous offer of Captain Forester to present Henrietta Park to the City will be appreciated by citizens of all classes. The hand of the builder is busy on every side, and it is satisfactory at any rate to know that Henrietta Park will escape his clutches. As a public park I presume the grounds will be placed under the care of a custodian. Much complaint comes from the householders in Henrietta Park of the conduct and language of some who frequent the park now; when the park is made public it may be assumed that this conduct will become more pronounced unless some responsible custodian is placed in charge to remedy it’.

If anyone thought that the Chronicle was scaremongering it only took two months to prove them wrong:

Sir,—Pray grant me a small space in your valuable newspaper, in order to enquiry how long the reign of anarchy is to exist in that ‘No Man’s Land’, formally known as Henrietta Park. I fail to see why, because matches are played there on certain days it should, at other times, form a rendezvous for gangs of loafers of the lowest sort, men and boys who could only be kept out of mischief by being forced to work, and who pass the time in yelling, fighting and destroying whatever they can lay their idle hands on. If any peace loving individual ventures to remonstrate with these young anarchists, they have their answer ready “The Park’s free now. It’s ourn, and ‘taint no business o’ yourn”. Now, sir, as this piece of land is neither in the Wild West nor in South Africa, it must belong to some person or persons, whose duty it is to see that it is not given up to a set of ‘raiders’ who make the day hideous by their howlings and disturb the slumbers or studies of the peace loving inhabitants. The favourite formula to riotous children in the days of my youth was “run up to the nursery and be as noisy as you like” and apparently someone has said to the roughs of Bath “Go down to Henrietta Park and make as much row as you please, making use of all the foul language you know”.
Hoping that someone will kindly give me the information I desire,
REQUIESCAMUS

The day after the Mayor’s announcement the council’s Bathwick ward met and Forester’s offer was on the agenda. Farwell’s opinion was ‘land in that position would fetch £500 an acre or more and he thought it a liberal and handsome offer (applause). It was sheltered and when laid out as ornamental grounds would be a pleasant resort for individuals and others’. Discussions concerning the park’s design continued into November. Mr. Joseph Morris, a botanist from the Park Committee, ‘had gone over the ground with Mr. Farwell and ascertained from him precisely what his ideas were. He said as far as he could grasp they were left practically carte blanche to do what they might think necessary’. Answering a question about tennis courts Morris said ‘it was distinctly laid down by Mr. Farwell that the park was not to be utilised in any sense as a playground. He thought that might be better carried on at the Recreation Ground on the opposite side.’

When the Pleasure Grounds Committee met on the 20th January 1896 Councillor Morris ‘undertook to confer with Mr. Milburn, the custodian of the Botanic Gardens in the Royal Victoria Park who had had much experience in such matters, and to prepare a plan for laying out Henrietta Park’. On the 17th February Morris produced his plans and an initial estimate: £280.

Cutting and stacking turf £20-0s-0d
Excavating 657 sq. yds. of ground to an average depth of 8” £27-0s-6d
Excavating twelve cesspits £1-16s-0d
Hard rubble base to paths and cesspits £51-11s-0d
Excavate gravel from site, wheel in barrows and lay to a depth of 3ӣ20-12s-0d
Remove existing path £40-0s-0d
Iron Fencing £40-0s-0d
Bandstand, foundations in stone £20-0s-0d
Work to wall in Henrietta Street £10-0s-0d
Gardener’s tool house, urinal, drains etc £30-0s-0d
Unforeseen incidentals £20-0s-0d
total, rough estimate, say £280

Although well received, the Committee asked for additional estimates for unclimbable fencing, yellow gravel paths and shrubs before they would submit the scheme to a full Council Meeting.

This occurred on the 23rd March and was a fraught affair; the the Mayor was highly skeptic and thought £20 for a bandstand was far too low bearing in mind the one in Hedgemead Park cost £100. He thought that the total cost would come closer to £500. Neither did the estimate include for maintenance which Councillor Brickmann thought would cost in excess of £100 per year. Brickmann said he was under the impression ‘that the ground had been formally taken over by the Council. When he first heard of it it struck him that to take over the park was a rather serious matter. It was casting a burden upon the city without equivalent. It was a swampy piece of ground and under water a part of the year. If it had been offered to him he would have said “thank you very much, but you keep it in order yourself”.
Councillor Chivers was in agreement and said that ‘he didn’t think it was going to entail such a large expense as it evidently would. He should have said ‘I am very much obliged for the offer, but I beg to decline’.
Alderman Sturges ‘thought that to spend £500 laying out the park and £100 per year in maintenance was un-necessary’.
Councillor Ricketts ‘thought that the Committee were inconsistent. They ignored the claims of Widcombe and Larkhall and proposed to spend a large sum on a back street like Henrietta Park. To spend such a sum on it was preposterous’.
Councillor Good said that ‘although his residence would be benefitted by carrying out the scheme he would not support the proposal to spend such an enormous sum of money on such a ragged and troublesome place’.
Councillor Hunt said ‘the plan to do away with the central path was a great mistake’.

An exasperated Farwell countered ‘there was no covenant preventing building on the land. The owner had a perfect right to let it tomorrow for building’, to which Alderman Tuckett replied ‘and spoil the whole of one side of Pulteney Street’.

The meeting concluded with the Pleasure Grounds Committee being ‘instructed to bring up a less expensive scheme for laying out the park’.

This next met on the 31st March 1896 and Farwell was in a combative mood. He confessed he was surprised at the tone of several Council members who apparently regarded the park as a ‘back street’. At one point he had been tempted ‘to ask the Mayor to adjourn the discussion in order that he might refer to Captain Forester, and take his instructions, whether he wished to proceed. If they did not think fit to go on with it he would tell Captain Forester. He wished that the gift was accepted in the spirit in which it was given, or not at all’.

The Chairman was full of apologies; the gift had been accepted in good faith, it was only a minority of the Council who held these views, it was an exceedingly generous offer, it would be a great public improvement, they were only worried about the cost etc., etc. Farwell repeated that before Forester would sign any transfer documents he needed to be assured that the park was properly laid out, maintained and locked at night. The meeting agreed to form a sub Committee of Councillors Davis, Farwell, Morris and Vincent who would re-examine the costs.

A month later the Council chamber wrangling continued; a number of Councillors wanted the park to remain a recreation ground, with rugby and cricket pitches, a proposal that was ruled inadmissible. Others opposed closing the park at night on the premise that the central path was a public right of way. A vote to defer the decision until next spring was defeated, although a motion to accept the Pleasure Ground Minutes was passed.

In May the the sub Committee made its recommendations; if £500 was too excessive, maybe £375 would be more acceptable:

Fencing £40-0s-6d
Forming Paths £161-7s-0d
Work to wall in Henrietta Street and extra railings £10-0s-0d
Architects Commissions £15-0s-0d
Seats and lawn mower £25-0s-0d
Planting £100-0s-0d
Contingencies £13-13s-0d
Total. £375

Maintenance £75 annually

On the 8th June the Town Clerk reported that ‘agreement with Captain Forester with respect to Henrietta Park’ had been signed. Securing the park was now a high priority and shortly afterwards the Chronicle reported that ‘the tender of Messrs. Mariner, West and Tyler, for fencing Henrietta Park, at £45, was accepted.’ The redundant Henrietta Park railings were given to the Victoria Park Committee.

On the 6th July Morris was instructed to prepare plans incorporating the modifications. These were formally agreed on the 27th July. It was decided that small portions of the work would be performed by the Council’s own men, the remainder, ‘turf cutting, excavating, forming paths and embankments’ would be put out to tender. The meeting ‘resolved that an advertisement be inserted in the Chronicle Journal and Herald for tenders for carrying out the work in accordance therewith’.

The seven sealed bids were opened on the 17th August. With £375 authorised and £45 already spent, £330 was the most that could be afforded. Fortunately, the lowest tender, that from Mr. E. Stockman of Englishcombe Lane, was for £260 10s. This allowed £70 for planting shrubs and trees etc. Stockman was given the contract on the understanding that he completed the work within five weeks from September 1st. He had hardly started work when the protests came in: he had removed several lamp posts and was proposing to remove two more. What was worse, he had closed the central path and was actively engaged in digging it up. The controversy raged all through October. Eventually Pleasure Grounds Committee issued a report deeming the path was neither a highway nor a public right of way and therefore could be closed at will. In fact, they discovered that for the past fourteen or fifteen years it had been locked at night by the local inhabitants.

Stockman was paid £242-10s-0d on account for his work. His final payment, that of £22-2s-0d, was made in July the following year. It can be assumed that Morris was impressed with his contractor’s performance because the overspend of £4-2s-0d was not challenged.

In December Morris was given permission to purchase trees and shrubs as he thought fit. The sub Committee was re-elected in January. On the 18th January 1897 two tenders were received for constructing a workman’s W/C in the arch under Henrietta Street; Messr. A. Wills and Sons were awarded the contract for £6-3s-0d. During February the ownership and intended position of the flagpole was determined.

March brought the financial reconciliation for the previous year’s expenditure; £337-19s. Morris reported that if the park was to be opened in the spring then an extra eight men employed for four weeks at 18s each per week would be needed for sowing and planting. Outstanding items included £50 earmarked for tools, seats and contingencies. Issues still to be addressed were lavatories, cloak rooms and ornamental shelters. He particularly hoped that funds could be made available for a band stand once public opinion had changed in favour of the park. Councillor Silcock proposed that £100 should be added to the budget for a ladies retiring room with a penny in the slot lavatory, ‘there being a want which had been felt in the city’. After a 50-50 split the proposal was voted down by the Chairman’s casting vote.

The Committee met again in April. Morris reported an underspend of 1s-6d in his £70 budget for plants, trees and shrubs. Three residents of Henrietta Street had each offered to fund a park bench, an offer that was grateful received. Morris was awarded a further £15 for extra seating plus an additional amount for a lawn mower. However, if the park was to be shortly opened to the public the men who had been employed the previous month would have to be retained. May brought a change of plan; the park’s opening would now be delayed until Jubilee Day, 22nd June, when it would be opened by the Mayor.

The Chronicle described the event:

‘The first impression given to one by a view of Henrietta Park is that of a pleasing expanse of slightly undulating lawn surrounded by a belt of shrubs and dotted here and there with shady trees. The general plan of the ground designed by Mr. J.W. Morris (who by the way has given much time and thought to this business) somewhat resembles that of the Institution Gardens. In the centre is a large circle of lawn, in the middle of which is erected the Jubilee Flagstaff. The circle has been surrounded by series of paths the total length of which is about half a mile. The park is entered by four gates, one opposite the steps from Pulteney Street, two in Henrietta Road and one at the corner of Sutton and Daniel Streets. A slight alteration has been made at the corner of Daniel Street opposite the east end of the park to give a better approach. The whole area of the park is six and a half acres. Seats have been placed around one or two of the larger trees and in various parts of the grounds.

For a very long time before the civic procession was due at Henrietta Park people began to congregate without the railings eager to obtain the best possible position from which to observe the opening ceremony. In such numbers did they come that, by eleven o’clock, a dense mass of citizens surrounded the park while the Bath Military Band played several selections under the direction of Mr. W.C.F. Schottler. Never before, we suppose, has there been a mighty concourse of people in Henrietta Park, and looking at the proportions of the crowd they were especially orderly and good humoured. After eleven o’clock everyone is on the tiptoe of expectation for the arrival of the procession, and listening for the strains of the band in the distance, which shall herald the approach of His Worship and the civic dignitaries. The pealing of bells from the various church steeples and the occasional boom of a gun somewhere in the distance renders this ‘catching of the strains’ no easy matter. Meanwhile, the already vast assemblage is being constantly reinforced until it would seem that nearly all of Bath and his wife must be congregated in Bathwick. Anon, a murmur comes from the crowd near Sunderland Street. Music is borne upon the breeze; what is more it becomes momentarily more distinct; we can make out now “Rule Britannia” and the National Anthem in march time. The procession is nearing the park. As if to dispel any doubt on the point more crowds, which have headed the procession, pour down Sutton Street, and some gleaming helmets reveal the presence of the members of the Fire Brigade in full regalia. A minute or two more and His Worship enters the park, and Mr. Schottler’s band strikes up ”God Save the Queen”, a sentiment which finds, without a shadow of a doubt, an echo in the hearts of the thousands present. The procession moves across the lawn and the gates being opened, in rush the public pell mell and make for the scene of the speech making, which is “under a spreading chestnut tree”, at least if it wasn’t a chestnut tree it was a good spreading one, which agreeably protected the principle actors in the scene from the rays of the sun’.

Assembled here no time was lost. The Mayor at once called upon Mr. Councillor Farwell who said “Mr. Mayor, ladies and gentlemen. It will be within the recollections of the Council that two years ago, during the Mayoralty of Mr. Alderman Jolly, I was instructed by Captain Forester to make an offer to the City of the land on which we now stand and generally known as Henrietta Park, provided that certain conditions were complied with so that it should be dedicated and laid out as a public park (hear, hear). Captain Forester, in making this offer, was actuated by a desire that the land should always remain as an open space (hear, hear), and never built upon. Open spaces are like the lungs of a human being, the very essence of life. The more breathing space a town can secure the healthier it must be, and this is all important in a city like ours, the resort of visitors and invalids alike (applause). The conditions made by Captain Forester have all been complied with and the grounds, thanks to the unceasing care and labour of Mr. Morris, for he has spared neither time nor labour (applause), have been admirably laid out. You, Mr. Mayor, could not have selected a more appropriate day to throw them open to the public. A day of holiday and rejoicing, gives the citizens every opportunity of attending and judging for themselves of the value of this gift to the city (applause). It only remains for me to hand over the deed of gift and express Captain Forester’s regret that he was unable to be present himself, and request that you would open the park and declare it open to the citizens.

The Company, headed by the Mayor’s officers and mace-bearers, slowly proceeded to the site of the oak which was to be planted, on the lawn to the south east of the spot where these speeches had been made. The Police and Fire Brigade kept a clear space around the tree, already placed by Mr. Riddle (the Committee’s Head Gardener) in position and here his Worship, once more doffing his three cornered hat, made a brief speech, in which he expressed his very great pleasure in planting the oak. He said he trusted that it would long survive them all and be a witness to future citizens of Bath of the generosity of Captain Forester and of the great and glorious occasion upon which it was planted (applause). He hoped the tree would survive and prosper (renewed applause).

His Worship afterwards threw two or three shovels of earth around the tree, the remainder being quickly filled in by the workmen, and the crowd heartily cheered the Mayor again and again, a considerable number singing “For he’s a jolly good fellow”.

But the Mayor had not finished yet. He had still to declare the park “open to the use of the public for ever” which he did in a few clear words, and he once more reminded the people of the generous donor to whom they were indebted for it.

Afterwards the procession was reformed, and, preceded by the Fire Brigade and the Mayor’s officers, trod the newly rolled paths in leisurely state. Pausing at the inscription on the west wall, which stated the particulars of this gift to the city, Mr. Morris, with a few remarks, took off the covering, and the long procession passed out through the gate at the west side, leading into Henrietta Street.