The amphitheatre in Clarence Park is an outdoor arena for public events. Together with a flat, well drained area for performances, the amphitheatre is bounded to the south by an embankment and seating terraces affording good views of the arena. The Arena is a popular venue for Galas and events throughout the summer months.
Thornes Park is the home of Wakefield Council’s Thornes Park Stadium. There are Indoor and outdoor tracks, a sports hall and fitness facilities.
Clubs based at the stadium include: Wakefield Gymnastics Club, Wakefield Junior Triathlon Club, Wakefield Harriers, the Grange Park Bowls Club and the Thornes Park Jogging Club.
More information about the facilities available at the Thornes Park Stadium and details about how to make a booking can be found at:
The old Aviary in Thornes Park was rebuilt in 2010 as a joint project between Friends of CHaT Parks and Wakefield Council with the help from Howarth Timber of Doncaster Road and B & Q of Cathedral Retail Park. This new aviary shows birds from around the world in their many sizes, shapes and colours. This facility is maintained and supported by Wakefield Council and our Friends Group; it is free of charge and open during normal park opening hours. All the birds in the aviary have been donated, including donations from Mount School.
The original bandstand on Lowe Hill was built in 1893 and concerts held at it attracted upto 2,000 people. However it was felt to be too restricted in size with the danger of crowds being jostled down the slope. In 1926 a new bandstand was built at the bottom of Lowe Hill and has been the home of brass band concerts and was designed as an open air theatre, with good sound projection onto a large spectator area on the slope up to Lowe Hill.
In 2013 the Bandstand underwent major refurbishments and was unveiled in May 2014. The newly refurbished Bandstand, while used for band concerts is also suitable for a whole range of performance events. This facility which is owned by Wakefield MDC is managed by the Wakefield Music Collective. It is the base for the annual Clarence Music Festival. Please contact Wakefield Music Collective with your ideas.
Thornes Park has two crown green bowling greens.
Bowls prices (2015) including season tickets:
Adult season ticket (Winter) £40
Adult season ticket (Summer) £40
Adult, Junior / OAP season ticket (Winter) £18.50
Adult, Junior / OAP season ticket (Summer) £18.50
Adult per session £2.60 Standard / £2.20 Activate
Junior per session £1.50
Match prices £9.20
Bowls hire is included in the price per session
The Chestnut Walk is the magnificent avenue of more than 100 trees through Clarence Park, originally planted in the 1890s. Some of the old Horse Chestnut trees in this avenue are in decline and several have already had to be removed after being killed off by disease, further losses are anticipated over the next few years. The Friends of CHaT Parks would like to replace the losses with a more disease- resistant variety of Horse Chestnut which will look almost the same. Further measures can also be taken to improve the health of the remaining trees so Chestnut walk could continue into the next century.
There is a large children’s play area in Thornes Park with slides, climbing frames, swings and see-saws for children to enjoy. There is also a smaller area for under 5s to enjoy play designed for them with small slides and rocking figures.
There is a large car park adjacent to the playground.
Inside the Rose Garden belonging to Thornes House is a large glass conservatory which featured an array of plants, separated into three climactic zones - tropical, temperate and desert. The fifty year old building was closed in 2012 with structural problems but the Friends of Clarence, Holmfield and Thornes Parks (CHaT) group has received a grant from Waste Recycling Environmental (WREN) to restore the building and work began in late 2014. The Conservatory is currently open during weekdays.
The drinking fountain in Clarence Park was erected in 1893 as a memorial to Major Joseph Barker. Major Barker lived in Holmfield House and was a local magistrate owner of Thornes Mill and after his death the workpeople subscribed to the fountain.[Photo courtesy of David Neary, Friends of CHaT Parks photo competition}
Near to the drinking fountain is a granite water trough commemorating Ann Clarkson who lived at Westgate Bridge and was a lifelong supporter of animal causes. Her friends and members of the RSPCA raised the money for the trough and it was erected in 1888 on Westgate and is inscribed with a verse from “The Ancient Mariner” by Coleridge:
“He prayeth well who loveth well both man and bird and beast. He prayeth best who loveth best, all things both great and small for the dear God who loveth us He made and loveth all”.
The formal flower beds are a well-known and well-loved feature of the Park. They have provided the backdrop to many a collection of wedding photographs and other memorable occasions.
The Gardener’s House was lived in by John Wilson, the head gardener to the Gaskell family of Thornes House, in 1913. Further landscaping included the formation of a formal rose garden in the former kitchen garden of Thornes, to the west of the house, in 1934.
The idea of a public park in Wakefield to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee was firstsuggested in 1887 and In 1890 Mr Charles Milne-Gaskell JP, who lived in Thornes House, offered land, including Lowe Hill and the surrounding agricultural land, to form a public park. Bought by public subscription and guided by a group of trustees the park began to take shape and on July 6 1893 the park was formally opened.
Holmfield House was built in 1833 by Thomas Foljambe, a Wakefield lawyer who had been acquiring land at Thornes. In 1863 the house and land were sold to Major Joseph Barker, worsted manufacturer, who enlarged the house in the 1870s with a stable block, entrance lodge, boundary wall, carriage drive and an avenue of chestnut trees. After Major Barker’s death in 1892 the house was first let and then sold to Alderman W.H. Kingswell, who like Major Barker had been one of the original Park Trustees. In 1918 Wakefield Corporation purchased the house and the surrounding 14 acres and on July 19th 1919 – national Peace Day marking the conclusion of the First World War – Holmfield Park was dedicated by the Mayor, Councillor George Blakey. From 1923, the upper part of the house was used as the first City Museum and the ground floor held a tea room.
Holmfield House is now the The Holmfield public house and restaurant.
When the parkland of the Thornes estate was opened to the public in 1924 it included two lakes with a number of islands on them. There was a smaller lake upstream of the present lake which extended almost as far as the Gardener’s House and this was filled in around 1970. A boathouse stood at the lower end of the large lake until about 1960. Now Canada Geese, mallards and moorhens are the main birds to be seen on the lake. On the larger island in the lake once stood a statue of Pandora in a small temple which was eventually destroyed in severe weather in 1970.
Lowe Hill in Clarence Park is the site of a motte and bailey castle probably constructed around 1150. It has extensive areas of ridge and furrow on the slopes of the hill which are clearly visible. In 1953 excavations were carried out on the hill and medieval pottery was found. At the present, the Friends of CHaT Parks are applying for funding to carry out archaeological investigations on Lowe Hill.
A local name for Lowe Hill is “Cannonball Hill” and in the 1850s a brass cannon did indeed stand at the top of Lowe Hill. This cannon had been seized from the Russians at the fall of Sebastapol and was actually fired in 1858 whilst Queen Victoria was travelling by train through Wakefield on her way to the opening of Leeds Town Hall. The cannon was apparently taken for scrap metal during World War II.
The miniature railway is situated by the children’s playground near the Athletics Stadium in Thornes Park. It is run by the Wakefield Society of Model and Experimental Engineers and was first operated in June 1958. The track runs for about half a mile and is open during the summer months.
The newly refurbished Bandstand, opened in 2014 is used for a whole range of performance events. This facility while owned by Wakefield MDC is managed by the Wakefield Music Collective and is the base for the annual Clarence Music Festival. Wakefield Music Collective is a non-profit-making community organisation run by music-loving volunteers for the city of Wakefield, UK. Formed in 1991, the aim was to promote local live music as well as providing help, advice and information for both established and new bands looking for a break, whether on a local level or nationally. There are brass band concerts at the Clarence Park Bandstand throughout the year, featuring the region’s best brass bands in a 2-hour concert on occasional Sunday afternoons.
More information can be found on the Music Collective website: http://www.themusiccollective.co.uk/
The pet cemetery in Thornes Park lies to the left of the path going behind the Aviary. This was where the Gaskell family laid their family pets to rest in the grounds of Thornes House. The largest of the headstones is engraved to “My Mouse” and there are smaller headstones to the family dogs commemorating “Geordie” (1868-1882), “Jack” (1896-1910) and “Sin” (died 1910). The inscription on Geordie’s headstone is in Latin and here's an idea of the translation of this "ever mindful dog":
"He rests among beloved seats of love,
To whom the Fates granted to enjoy nearly thrice times five years.
Having been snatched away in venerable old age he leaves this dear place to us,
Nor did his heart lack faith, ever mindful dog".
The rhubarb sculpture was carved in locally grown oak by Handspring Design of Sheffield to mark the start of the Sustrans cycle route to Horbury Junction, which opened in 2005.
In 1934, the Rose Garden was created in the former kitchen garden of Thornes House. Since then it has become a major attraction of the Park's gardens with fragrant beds and climbing roses.
In the 1990s, when the Rockery at Holmfield House was demolished before the extension to the hotel, the pinnacle and the Doric pillar were removed to the garden of the Art Gallery on Wentworth Terrace. It is thought that the pinnacle came from Wakefield Cathedral. The Doric column was part of the 170 Market Cross that stood in Cross Square. When the cross was sold in 1866, the other pillars went to Clarke Hall and Alverthorpe Hall. The pinnacle and the column were placed in the Secret Garden in 2012.
In Thornes Park, next to the Athletics Centre is a gravity build concrete skatepark which features rail, driveway, jumpbox, roll-in, bank and bowl.
Source: Experience Wakefield http://www.experiencewakefield.co.uk/
There are three tennis courts in Thornes Park near to the entrance from Denby Dale Road which are available to hire throughout the year.
The charges for the courts (2015) are:
Adult (per court) £4.10 Standard / £3.20 Activate
Junior (per court) £2.30 Standard
£2 refundable deposit is required for tennis racquets.
The Thornes Park gate lodge was built in 1842 and was lived in by estate workers. In Victorian times the lodge had a small square garden beside it which was divided neatly up by diagonal paths. It is now home to the Stork Lodge Café. There were originally two metal storks on the gateposts at the park entrance by the lodge. These are from the crest of the Gaskell family who lived in Thornes House. The storks now flank the entrance to the Rose Garden and were recast from the originals in 1999.
Groundwork Wakefield, in partnership with the South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust’s Bretton and Newhaven units and Thornes Park Nursery, provides a range of supported services to service users with mental health and learning disability conditions. The activities take place on Groundwork’s own site at Fieldhead, Wakefield, and at Thornes Park Nursery.
The walled garden in Thornes Park now contains the Flower Garden by the Gardener’s House, the Rose Garden and the Conservatory. It was originally the kitchen garden for Thornes House. Exotic fruits such as peaches, nectarines, pineapples and grapes were grown in a number of greenhouses and figs, pears and Morello cherries grew out of doors. Nearer to Thornes House glasshouses contained carnations, orchids and camellias.
Now the Flower Garden features a dazzling display of bedding plants in the summer months and the Rose Garden contains a number of rose beds with a pergola of climbing roses giving shade and fragrance in the summer. The Rose Garden also contains a fountain which was restored in 1998 and has been renovated in 2014.