Take flight!

November marks the launch of the 2009 Archive Awareness campaign. The theme this year is “take flight!”

On the theme of flight here is a short article by Tish at our Bradford office about some interesting entertainments in Peel Park, Bradford. The images are from Bradford Borough Council, Town Clerk, papers regarding Peel Park, 1D82.

Advertisement for acrobatic entertainer Signor Farinelli enclosed with letter dated 31 May 1856 from Charles Henry Brown explaining that Mr Coxwell will not be able to make an ascent from Bradford and that William Stewart could make the ascent with a new balloon, and suggesting an ascent by Madame Rossini or Signor Farinelli. West Yorkshire Archive Service, Bradford: 1D82/3/4

Peel Park was the first publicly owned park in Bradford. Sir Robert Peel died in 1850 and a meeting was held in Bradford to discuss how he could be commemorated; it was agreed that a park would be a fitting memorial. A Central Committee of the Bradford Public Park Movement was set up which in turn organised District Committees. Land for the park was purchased during the 1850s but it took twelve years to pay off the debts incurred in buying the land and laying it out as a park. A donation of £1,500 was made by the Government and donations of £1,000 were received from Milligan, Forbes and Company and from Titus Salt. There were also numerous private subscriptions and some of the documents in this collection refer to the need to canvass for subscriptions.

In addition galas were held at the Park to raise money for the Park Fund; various attractions were ‘hired’ by the Committee and some of the letters and agreements in this collection refer to entertainers and to a proposed balloon ascent by Mr Coxwell. The agreements also made provision for indoor venues in case of inclement weather (poor summers are obviously nothing new!).


Newspaper advertisement for Madam Rossini’s act enclosed with a letter from Charles H Brown dated 2 Jun 1856 regarding Madam Rossini's performance at Peel Park. West Yorkshire Archive Service, Bradford: 1D82/3/5

Firework displays were also a feature of the galas; unfortunately in 1863 the promised “Eruption of Mount Vesuvius and Fall of Herculaneum” was a great disappointment and produced very little light. As the park had a lake there were also aquatic displays and one entertainer was pulled across the lake in a washtub drawn by geese. He also arranged for some nymphs to be pulled across the lake by swans but apparently the accompanying fireworks smoked so much that the nymphs could not be seen (one of the letter books in this collection contains a reference to a request for two swans).

The profits from the gala held in 1863 finally wiped out all the debts and the park was handed over to the Bradford Corporation. However the galas continued to be held (profits were given to Bradford Hospitals) and some of the letters in this collection refer to negotiations with railway companies for excursion trains and special fares for visitors to the galas. The final gala was held in1936; by that time people were able to travel further afield for their entertainment.

You can find out more about the archive awareness campaign at http://www.archiveawareness.com/


One thought on “Take flight!

  1. vivien concannon says:

    Fascinated to find a poster advertising my grt(2) grandmother Madame Rossini (rope walker) performing at Peel Park. Understand she later went on to have a serious accident there in 1859.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s