Local History Talk: A Postcard from Sunny Bunce's
Thursday, 5 December 2013
From an extensive collection of Edwardian postcards and publicity materials Chris Helme, local historian and writer, reconstructed the glory days of Sunny Vale Pleasure Gardens, universally known as Sunny Bunce's. Members of Hebden Bridge Local History Society heard how the Bunce family, landscape gardeners with an eye for opportunity, transformed a popular beauty spot in the valley between Southowram and Hove Edge, into a destination that became known as the playground of the north.
Visitors in the late nineteenth century would have been drawn by the gardens and lake set in the natural beauty of the valley, but as the new century progressed, the lake became a focus of spectacular re-enactments, and offered pedalos in summer and skating in winter.
A fully sprung open air dance floor was installed, and a bandstand hosted all the great brass bands of the age. Tea rooms, including an innovative 'automatic café', catered for up to 50,000 over a bank holiday weekend.
Children could enjoy rides on donkeys or the miniature railway, and for the more adventurous there were white knuckle rides such as the aerial glide and the glacier slide – a terrifying descent sitting on a coconut mat!
Right into the mid twentieth century people from all over Yorkshire flocked to see the entertainments, including Mildred Crossley's Concert Parties, where Roy Castle made his professional debut.
Eventually though, the popularity of the place declined, and it went through various incarnations as a go-cart and stock car venue in the 1950s and 1960s before these too petered out. Now the place has returned to nature, with hollies and rhododendrons hinting at the old paths, but its noisy boisterous heyday is preserved in Chris Helme's book and in the stories he has gathered.
The next meeting of the Hebden Bridge Local History Society will be on Wednesday December 11th at the Methodist Hall, starting at 7.30, when Anne Kirker will talk about Sam Hill of Making Place.
Details from the Local History website
Previously, on the HebWeb
Local History talk on Witchcraft in the Upper Calder Valley: As make-believe witches come knocking on our doors John Billingsley, folklorist and author of many books on the subject, told members of the Local History Society that to our ancestors witchcraft was very real indeed. More info (27 Oct)
Local History talk on Mytholmroyd's Moderna: Joan Laprell spoke to the Hebden Bridge Local History Society where she recalled the village within a village that was the Moderna Blanket Factory in Mytholmroyd, where she worked for ten years. More info (12 Oct)
Local History talk on maps: The first meeting of the new season of lectures for the Hebden Bridge Local History Society was launched by Tony Morris speaking about the history of maps and map-making as well as cartographic crime. More info (30 Sept)
Bridge Mill: History on our doorstep. Justine Wyatt, with the support of the mill's current owner David Fletcher, has uncovered more of the story of the building, and gave a fascinating talk to the Hebden Bridge Local History Society. Read more (3 April)
Working from home in 1825; Working from home is not a new concept, Malcolm Heywood told members of the Hebden Bridge Local History Society. William Greenwood's described his several different occupations. Read more (20 March)
The Grave of Robin Hood: mysterious goings-on in Calderdale. Kai Roberts told the local history society about Robin Hood in Calderdale and especially the monument known as Robin Hood’s Grave. Read more (11 March)
Todmorden Weavers and the Great War. Alan Fowler, former lecturer in Economic and Social History, told a meeting of the Hebden Bridge Local History Society that the local Weavers’ Association had 4000 members at its peak. Read more (19 Feb)
Untold Stories: A glimpse into the lives of local people - Tony Wright has for the past ten years been collecting personal life stories on film and audio tape. Read more (18 Jan)
City in the Hills - Corinne McDonald and Ann Kilbey told a meeting of the Local History Society of Dawson City, the building of the Walshaw Dean Reservoirs and the publication of a new book. Read more (16 Dec)
Clubhouses: self help and co-operation - A small row of houses in Old Town, called Clubhouses, encapsulates some of the history and spirit of the Calder Valley explains Julie Cockburn. (30 October 2012)
Small Town Saturday Night - The story of a love affair with rock 'n roll at its peak in the 1950s and 60s from speaker Trevor Simpson.
The world of Cornelius Ashworth, speaker Alan Petford, Local History talk of 10 October 2012