A hundred years ago, the First World War had just finished and the world could start to think about planning for a better future. After so much loss, many hoped that the League of Nations (founded 1920, mentioned on the plaque in the lych gate) would help promote peace. Meanwhile, across the UK, those who had suffered were commemorated and remembered in various ways, including war memorials, memorial halls and parks.
During 1919, Rowntree and Company Ltd bought several parcels of land which would eventually go together to make the area we now know as Rowntree Park. The park was to be a tribute to the Company’s workers who had suffered in the war. The largest section of land was Nun Ings, bought from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners for England (now known as the Church Commissioners), and this image from the conveyance of 31st December 1919 shows the fields that made up this area, bounded by Clementhorpe Beck, to the west and south. The drawing must have been based on a map done some time previously, as it doesn’t show Norfolk St, St Clements Grove and Aldreth Grove all of which were already laid-out and partially built by 1919; it does show some fish and a cute (but archaic) sailing ship!
Rowntrees paid £1500 for Nun Ings together with at least another £1100 for other parcels of land, and they then also paid for the creation of the park, before handing it over in 1921 as a free gift to the ‘Corporation’ (i.e. the Lord Mayor, Aldermen and Citizens of the City of York). The various legal documents of 1919 show that the Rowntree family wanted the park to be “for ever hereafter be kept up and maintained as a public park, public pleasure ground, public playing fields or other like purposes of public recreation, and that proper and adequate attendance and service shall be for ever hereafter provided for the purposes aforesaid.”
More information about the park’s early history can be found in this recent post by Kate Davy