PARKS are a magnet for people of all ages.

Whether to walk the dog, go jogging, let the kids run around or simply sit and watch the world go by, they are prized green spaces within our towns and cities.

Parks have served this purpose for decades, in particular since the Industrial Revolution when it became important to have natural spaces in which to relax.

The collection of Francis Frith, the eminent Victorian photographer and founder of the world-famous photographic archive The Francis Frith Collection contains many images of people at leisure.

We are taking a look at a selection from Around Bradford, one of many books in the collection containing photographs taken in towns and cities across Britain. Written by Clive Hardy, it includes a section on Bradford’s parks.

The popularity of parks in in no doubt - just take a look at the image of a packed Lister Park, taken in 1923.

To the rear of Cartwright hall, a fine ornamental stone bandstand was built at a cost of more than £600. ‘A guidebook of the 1920s by Joseph Bentley, reports that ‘here on Sundays, Wednesdays and Saturdays, first-class military and other bands dispense music of the highest order, classical and popular, to the delight of thousands of sitters and promenaders,’ writes Hardy.

With the First World War still fresh in their memories, people are clearly relaxed and making the most of their time off.

Taken during the same period, there’s a wonderful photograph of Lister Park Boating Lake, with two gentlemen heading out on a rowing boat. Their attire is of its time: suit and tie, usually topped off with a hat, although the passenger in the boat goes without one. Women wore smart midi- length dresses and hats.

In 1926 boating was leased to Mr Fred Falkingham, who maintained a trim fleet of rowing boats for visitors as well as a motor-launch.

‘Townspeople visiting Lister Park could enjoy the exotic delights of the Botanical Garden, swim in an open-air pool, play bowls and enjoy games of tennis and putting,’ writes Hardy.

Bradford’s first public park was Peel Park, opening in 1863 and named in honour of Sir Robert Peel, who had been instrumental in the abolition of the Corn Laws - tariffs and other trade restrictions on imported food and grain that kept prices high.

‘At Whitsun the park was packed with people enjoying the entertainment of the Great West Riding Galas, which were promoted by the Bradford Hospital and Convalescent Fund,’ writes Hardy.

Historically, parks evolved from English deer parks used by the aristocracy in medieval times for game hunting. These had walls or thick hedges around them to keep game animals such as stags in and people out. It was strictly forbidden for commoners to hunt animals in these deer parks.

These game preserves evolved into landscaped parks set around mansions and country houses from the sixteenth century onwards

Early opportunities for the creation of urban parks in both Europe and the USA grew out of the medieval practice to secure pasture lands within the safe confines of villages and towns. With the Industrial Revolution parks took on a new meaning as areas set aside to preserve a sense of nature in cities and towns.

The caption for an 1897 picture of Peel Park refers to the Victorian desire to maintain order. ‘Municipal-style, regimental planting was a natural product of the 19th century, reflecting the Victorian desire for social control.

‘The city parks were playgrounds for the working man, and the city fathers considered it important that he be presented with a model symbolising organised society.’

A blissful scene is captured iin 1909 in Roberts Park, Saltaire, of two smartly-dressed women sitting on a park bench, watching over a baby in a pram.

Roberts Park was opened in July 1871 by Sir Titus Salt. A statue of his on his podium can be seen on the picture, overlooking the bandstand.

‘The park was planted with exotics and specimen trees and shrubs: it conjured up a very different world from that associated with the grime of factory life,’ writes Hardy. ‘At weekends Salt’s employees gathered in their hundreds around the bandstand to enjoy concerts.’

He goes on to point out that here, as well as in Salt’s model village next door, no spitting, stone throwing, gambling, begging or drinking was permitted.

The idyllic scene at Shipley Glen from 1909, has not changed much over the last century. It is still a much-visited local beauty spot. Similarly, the landscape at Druids’ Altar - the massive millstone grit boulders on a hillside - remains the same. It is said that the cobbled way running from the Brown Cow pub in Bingley towards the site is an old processional route walked by druids.

Francis Frith has published more than 1,100 similar local history books illustrated with historical photos from its archive. Information about all the titles available can be found at, from where they can be ordered.

Books can be personalised with a message printed on the title page at no extra cost, making them ideal gifts.