Park Keepers in Rowntree Park are firm characters in many people’s memories. Especially the infamous “Parkie Bell”, the first park keeper. The information here is from a mix from our archives, the book ‘Walk in the park’ by Christine and John Dowell, and also snippets passed on by the general public and The Press.
James Bell was Rowntree Park’s first Park Keeper from 1921-45. The Park Keeper lived in the lodge (above the cafe) with his family: Edith and Jim and their daughters Eileen, Yvonne and Jean, and their son Jimmy. ‘Parkie Bell’ wore a navy blue uniform, with brass buttons and a peaked cap. The park-keeper spent some of the day in the ticket kiosk just inside the main gate near the bowling greens and tennis courts.
“Parkie Bell’ was a character. He would blow his whistle when anyone misbehaved. He rang a bell when everyone expected to leave the park. His wife, Edith, was often helping youngsters get dry after falling in the pond, mending buttons, or patching up cuts for local children. His daughter Jean remembered that the first time park flooded in 1931, her father had to row a boat around the park to the aviary to feed the birds
“You couldn’t bat an eyelid in there; I was told off for catching tiddlers in the lake! He also opened and closed the gates promptly, so you had to do as you were told.”
“In the park, when he blew his whistle everybody stood still. He had total, complete control of the park.”
“He was very strict. I remember once, I didn’t realise what I was doing, pulling leaves off a bush. And he came and said, ‘did you do that?’ He said: ‘Out you go!’”
Our records show the following park keepers and years – please correct if you know more info/different names:
James Bell – 1921-45
Jim Anderson late 1950s-1968
Eric Woodmansay 1984-1992
David Brown (worked in the park initially, then Park Keeper 1973-2017)