Diving into the history of Hall Leys

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It’s at the very centre of Matlock, but how much do you really know about the history of Hall Leys? Reporter Paul Harvey takes us on a journey into the dim and distant past...

In Matlock’s very early days, the flat area by the river now occupied by Hall Leys Park would have been a water meadow in winter and good growing land for root vegetables in summer.

The area came to be known as the Haw Lees and was made up of two fields on the east bank of the River Derwent between Matlock Bridge and Matlock Green. A long established footpath linking the two settlements ran through the fields.

The strip of land known as Haw Lees was acquired by Matlock Urban District Council from Henry Knowles in 1898 and the Broadwalk was formed along the route of the riverside footpath.

In 1908 the remainder of the two fields, one of which was still in use as Matlock Town’s football pitch, was bought from Mr Perry, of Manchester, for £3,750.

Local architect John Nuttall provided a design for the park and Hall Leys Park was officially opened on June 23, 1911. The opening coincided with the celebrations for the coronation of King George V.

The town’s war memorial and a wishing well stand at the Crown Square end of the park. Beside these is the shelter from the former cable tramway which was moved to the park when the tramway ceased to operate in 1927, still complete with the clock. The clock presented a challenge to anyone who thought they could run from Crown Square to Matlock Green in the time that the clock took to strike 12. This was only achieved once, by a Mr WR Bradbury and friend before the First World War.

Two floods are commemorated at the end of the footbridge from Old English Road to the park, with a marker showing how high the flood waters reached. These floods occurred on consecutive dates, with an interval of five years: Sunday, December 8, 1960 and Thursday, December 9, 1965.

In 2004–2005 the park underwent major regeneration, with a complete overhaul of the children’s playground at the far end of the park and the replacement of the old tennis courts with a skateboard park.

The park was again recognised as one of the country’s best green spaces just last year with a third consecutive Green Flag Award in July 2010.