Nostalgia with Margaret Watson: Crow Nest Park’s treasures

Our historical artefacts must be preserved.

Sunday, 13th June 2021, 6:30 pm
CROW NEST PARK: The beautiful fountain before it was moved in 1924.

Rarely does a week go by without something of interest catching my eye as I look through old Reporter files. One such story was one referring to the history of the attractive stone fountain which once stood in Crow Nest Park.

It is there no longer because it was removed in 1924 to make way for the erection of the cenotaph commemorating those killed in World War One.

The fountain was moved to another part of the park, just under the trees opposite the crematorium, where the children’s paddling pool used to be.

This attractive stone edifice had not always been situated in the park, but had once been sited elsewhere. Its first home had been in Market Place, Dewsbury just opposite Yorkshire Bank, where it had stood for 44 years.

Paid for by public subscription it commemorated the marriage of the Prince of Wales, later to become King Edward VII, and Princess Alexandra of Denmark, in 1863.

The inscription carved on it – “Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again, but whosoever drinketh the water I shall give him shall never thirst” - is taken from the Gospel according to St John 4:13.

Sadly, over the years, this beautiful fountain became subject to misuse by the market traders who began washing their fruit and vegetables in it. This abuse was added to by the youths taking impromptu showers in it when the weather was warm.

Many saw this as the vandalism of a monument which was sacred to them and they called for it to be removed and sited elsewhere. The council eventually took heed of their demands, and in 1907 it was moved and stored in the town depot until a better site was found.

It was cleaned and renovated and the following year was re-erected in Crow Nest Park, looking just as beautiful as when it had been first erected all those years earlier. The gleaming pink and white granite fountain was opened by the Mayor, Alderman J A Parr, who had been at the forefront of those calling for it to be re-sited.

But only a few years later, the fountain was to be re-sited again, and moved to its present location in a part of the park which visitors seldom walk past. There it stands, tucked away, forgotten and neglected, just beneath the trees opposite the crematorium.

How I wish a campaign could be started for it to be re-sited once again, back to where it belongs in the centre of town.

For, at the moment, this monument, constructed in pink and white granite and Normandy Caen stone, is seen by only a few.

But, at least we can be grateful that it was saved, unlike the bandstand which once stood in Crow Nest Park and which had a sorry end.

Many will remember how this much-loved bandstand was dismantled some 60 years ago and put in safe-keeping to be repaired and restored. It was stored in the old fire station on Longcauseway and re-discovered only when the station moved to new headquarters in Scout Hill.

When it was found, lying in a corner, it was just a pile of old iron which no-one knew anything about, from where it had come or of the glory it had once seen.

I’m afraid other historic artefacts and buildings have suffered a similar unhappy ending, including the centuries-old Moot Hall in Church Street, Dewsbury. Despite a powerful campaign to save it, the hall was demolished as part of a road widening scheme in the 1950s.

It was one of the oldest buildings of its kind in the world and many historians and academics still cannot believe it was pulled down.

The demise of buildings like Moot Hall and the Empire Theatre, all occurred in the early 1950s when the world was changing for everyone.

The war was over and people were looking forward to a better life, wanting all things modern, and nothing was allowed to stand in the way.

I suppose this could happen again if we are not vigilant, not so much through demolition as from neglect.

The old Co-op building, for instance, could so easily have been demolished 40 years ago, but for a last minute preservation order being placed on it.

But look at it now, completely restored and refurbished at a cost of millions and converted into a new college, a place of learning for our young people.

I fear that more historic buildings are in danger of being lost through neglect because so many are in need of repair.

There are artefacts in Crow Nest Park falling into disrepair, the worst being “The Temple”, an unusually shaped building, situated at the bottom end of the park.

It stands near the Boothroyd entrance to the park, unloved and uncared for, and the last time I saw it, boarded up.

People may think that Crow Nest Park hasn’t changed much over the last hundred years but it has. There used to be a second fountain in the middle of the lake, the workings of which I believe are still there. There was also a park lodge at the Temple Road entrance which has disappeared. And a lovely arched bridge, which people could walk over to reach the island in the middle of the park lake, has also disappeared.

We have to keep vigilant to ensure such historic artefacts like the fountain, pictured above, are preserved. Once gone, they are gone forever.

In this week’s featured photograph you can see the fountain in Crow Nest Park, Dewsbury, which was moved in 1924 to be replaced by the cenotaph. The fountain was previously located in Market Place, Dewsbury. It now stands at the bottom end of the park where few passersby can see it.

■ Grateful thanks to local historian Stuart Hartley for providing some material for this article.

■ You can email your recollections of Dewsbury in years gone by to: [email protected]