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IN 48 PAGES and more than 50 original pen and ink illustrations, Richard Bell's new book brings to life the history and folklore of Wakefield's Clarence, Holmfield and Thornes Parks. He takes the reader on a short circular walk through a hundred acres of parkland and a thousand years of history.
These familiar parks are full of surprises and mystery. Clarence Park, for instance, was named after the Duke of Clarence, a grandson of Queen Victoria, who planted a chestnut tree here. In film, novel and television programmes he is put forward as the most famous (but one of the least likely) suspects in Jack the Ripper conspiracy theories.
The history of the park goes back well before his visit; ridge and furrow markings may be the traces of medieval fields of Thornes village. The walled garden was once the kitchen garden of the Georgian Thornes House, which burnt down under mysterious circumstances in 1951.
Lowe Hill in the centre of the park had attracted legends as long ago Tudor times when a visitor to Wakefield wrote; 'some say that one of the Earls Warren began to build, and as fast as he builded violence of wind defaced the work.' A dig in the 1950s revealed that there had been a castle here, probably timber built and never permanently occupied.
Richard Bell's previous book Waterton's Park attracted wide interest; it is now on sale both at Waterton Park, Walton, England, and Waterton Lakes National Park in Canada. As well as writing and illustrating books, Richard has compiled a Wild West Yorkshire web site which focuses on local wildlife.
The book is approximately A6 in format and is available from local bookshops, or from the author (for details e-mail me below). Until the ISBN is registered it will be impossible to order from bookshops, my apologies. Price £2.95, postage etc. 70 pence.