The Sunderland park which almost had a completely different name - and location

The opening day at Barnes Park, Sunderland.
The opening day at Barnes Park, Sunderland.
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More than 100 years ago, a brand new park opened in Sunderland and it almost had a completely different name to the one it is known by today.

Barnes Park was declared open on Friday, August 6 1909.

Thomas Reed. The Park was almost named after him.

Thomas Reed. The Park was almost named after him.

The ceremony was performed by Colonel Thomas Reed, Chairman of the Parks Committee and a well-known printer and publisher within the town.

But behind the scenes, there was a story of negotiation, hard work and lots of skill.

Chris Cordner reports with the excellent help of Philip Curtis and the Sunderland Antiquarian Society.

A campaign had gone on for twenty years for a park to be created in the west end of Sunderland.

Colonel Reed was contacted by a former school friend, a Mr Punshon. He indicated that he had a suitable area of land for a park for sale at £10,000. But the Colonel was a shrewd man and he offered £8,500.

Philip Curtis, Sunderland Antiquarian Society

Initially, a site at Ford Hall was favoured because it was felt that this would better serve the residents of Pallion and Deptford.

Eventually, though, the land at Barnes was finally decided upon.

It had been a process of negotiation between friends on how much should be paid for the site.

As chairman of the Parks Committee, Colonel Reed was contacted by a former school friend, a Mr Punshon.

The Barnes Park fountain pictured in April 1953.

The Barnes Park fountain pictured in April 1953.

He indicated that he had a suitable area of land for a park for sale at £10,000.

But the Colonel was a shrewd man and he offered £8,500. The deal was completed in 1904, by which time Punshon had died.

Once the land was acquired, 2,798 unemployed local men were taken on as well as skilled gardeners to start converting the land.

There was a suggestion that it should be called Reed Park after the Colonel but eventually the name Barnes was agreed upon.

There were few trees in the park when it first opened.

There were few trees in the park when it first opened.

The new park’s principal features were two bowling greens, tennis courts and a café at the elevated west end.

There was a lake, timber bridges and a timber open bandstand as well.

The ceremony took place during what was then Sunderland’s most popular holiday period - shipyard fortnight.

Come the day itself, the people of Sunderland woke to sunny weather and that ensured a huge crowd turned out. Most wanted to see the new leisure facility that they would soon be using for themselves.

Almost four years later, on Wednesday, April 30 1913, a new bowling pavilion was officially opened within the park.

Coun Dixon Jeffrey, the new Chairman of the Parks Committee, did the honours.

The  cannon from the 1640s which was dredged from the Wear and placed in the park.

The cannon from the 1640s which was dredged from the Wear and placed in the park.

By then Barnes Park had become a popular venue and, as the 20th century progressed, so the benefits of the 1909 programme of tree planting became increasingly evident as the park matured.

It was not until 1952 that the park was extended. The aim was to create a green corridor from the edge of the town to the Eden Vale area.

It is not documented as to whether Colonel Reed was disappointed when the name of Barnes was chosen instead of his.

But he did have the honour of opening what became and still is one of the most important leisure areas of Sunderland.

Another shot of the park's opening day in August 1909.

Another shot of the park's opening day in August 1909.

The park's old coach house.

The park's old coach house.

The park's recreation hut for men over 65, being used in the 1940s.

The park's recreation hut for men over 65, being used in the 1940s.

A new bandstand eventually replaced the first wooden one.

A new bandstand eventually replaced the first wooden one.

The Barnes Park bowls pavilion.

The Barnes Park bowls pavilion.