Social space in Leeds - Woodhouse Moor Park
Map of Woodhouse Moor
Woodhouse Moor 1906
Woodhouse moor, sometimes called Hyde Park, was the first public park in Leeds. The council purchased it in 1857 for use as a recreational space for the growing population of the area. It was formally designed and landscaped in the 1870’s with a vision of it being ‘the most healthy open space in the township of Leeds’. It consisted of open green spaces with diagonal tree lined paths leading to the centre, where stood a bandstand and a fountain with clock turret. It was used by hundreds of people who would stroll around the paths of the park and sit listening to bands and concerts at the bandstand. Although it was extensively used by the local people, it was apparent due to the lack of lighting that it could only be used during the daylight hours and so in 1902 it was enhanced with iron archways and gas lights to ‘facilitate evening promenading’ extending it’s use even further. It was the epitome of the Victorian’s ideology of a social recreational space.
In the present day it is also still used as a public park and boasts it is the most intensively used green space in Leeds. It is large, open grassland, multi recreational family friendly space. 26 hectares in size it contains, among other things, a children’s play area, Skateboard Park, multi use games area, tennis courts and bowling greens.
However the location of the park and its layout mean it is not always used as intended. Based in a heavily populated student area of the city it attracts a lot of young people who use the park as a place to hang out, often drinking alcohol, creating noise and leaving litter. There are also many disputes with local residents concerned with the amount of fires and barbecues on the park.
When the paths were laid out over 100 years ago they were intended for people to stroll around the park at their leisure, they were a way of controlling where peopled walked to keep order and preserve the grass. Now the paths are in a bad state of repair and due to the way people use the park, are not always followed. The park has become more of a cut through to other areas and often people veer away from the allocated pathways and find their own way across the grass, taking shortcuts to their destination. This is apparent in the areas of bald, muddy paths where the grass has died through heavy footfall.
The park was intended to be a family friendly space but due to anti social behaviour and concerns regarding health and safety this is not altogether true. Poor visibility and lighting are contributing factors towards the high rate of crime in the area.
There are ornamental gardens and statues in the park for people to enjoy, however these are often vandalised and fall into a state of disrepair due to lack of general upkeep.
The vision of the way the park is intended to be used in the present day is one of a family friendly, easily accessible, multi use sports and general recreational space intended to bring the community together. However in reality it is actually an untidy, unsafe and non-family friendly place, which is prone to vandalism and crime.