Rowntree Park over the years
If you look at Rowntree Park from above, you will see the symmetry. The gardens were inspired by Scarborough gardens where Joseph Rowntree spent time. In the early days of the park, a lot of time and investment was put into the upkeep. In addition to the resident park keeper, in the early days there were 12 gardeners who focused on looking after the gardens. There were areas such as rose pergola and lupin gardens. George Russell from Southbank in York, became famous for the new types of lupins he developed. Rowntree Park displayed Russell’s lupins. During WW2 vegetables were grown in the park such as potatoes, cabbages and carrots as part of the ‘dig for victory’ project.
Over the years the gardens have changed a lot. The gardening team reduced and certain features have been removed/replaced. In the 1950s, the sun shelter and the wading pool had been removed as had hedges to the rose garden. Original features like sundial and stone lady overlooking goldfish pool are lost. The original Statue of Mercury was presented by JB Morrell in 1939, but disappeared in 1953. A heritage lottery grant in 2000 helped restore and improve Rowntree Park. Features like a new pergola walkway were added and a new status of Mercury. Also, the sculptures in the park were added (horse, helmet and totem pole). The grant means we try to maintain as many historic features/look of the park as we can – including symmetry!
Our current volunteer gardening team have been trying to find plans from the past and aim to restore certain plants/themes in the park. For example, we hope to get more lupins in the long borders.
There are now no permanent council staff based in Rowntree Park. In 2017 the last Park Keeper was made redundant due to council budget cuts. This was a massive loss to the park and community. The Friends of Rowntree Park have taken on responsibility for gardening in specific areas of the park – the Long Borders, and the two railed gardens (the sensory garden to the left and the Friends picnic garden to the right). In 2019 The Friends of Rowntree Park helped add the Labyrinth on an old bowling green and also plant around the lychgate. A travelling team of council workers come from time to time to do basic maintenance such as grass and huge cutting, tree felling and so on.
Sadly the council no longer plant in the park. Therefore, the Friends of Rowntree Park raise money to pay for plants and add colour to the park! Although not as pristine as the park once was, it can still look very beautiful in the summer when the longer borders burst into bloom!