A BELOVED Altrincham park is turning 100 – and celebrations abound.

The Friends of John Leigh Park (FoJLP) have arranged a special Centenary Big Lunch on Sunday June 4.

Fifty years since Sergeant Pepper, it is 100 years since John Leigh bought the land of Oldfield Hall and gave it to the people of Altrincham.

This year’s Big Lunch will replicate some of the activities which celebrated the park at the end of the First World War.

Cadets and scouts will march from near Chapel Street, accompanied by the Cadishead Marching Band, and supported by the police.

They will march up Regents Road and Hartley Road to reach the park by 12 noon, where they will be greeted by Graham Brady, and by members of Sir John Leigh’s family. This replicates a march conducted in 1919.

Messenger Newspapers: Friends of John Leigh Park hold successful Big Lunch event

Visitors enjoy the Big Lunch at John Leigh Park

A day of entertainment and fun is arranged from 11.30am to 3.30pm on the park and visitors are invited to bring a picnic as well as wear dress from your favourite decade of this 100 years.

There will be music from Stretford band (Brass), Besozzi trio, Jamming on the park and the Altrincham Choral Society. There are fun games and crafts for young people, demonstrations of dance and keep fit and fun exercises.

Messenger Newspapers: Families enjoy the Big Lunch event at John Leigh Park

Visitors enjoy the Big Lunch at John Leigh Park

A marquee will host the vote for South Trafford Community grants, as well as gazebos showcasing the work of Leonard Cheshire, the Sea Cadets, Wood turners, classic cars, city of trees.

Friends of John Leigh Park and the Manchester and Lancashire Family History Society will also showcase some of their work and launch a new history of the park researched by one of the Friends.

John Leigh Park – A history 1917-2017

In order to mark this special occasion, the FoJLP decided that they would like to learn more about the history of the park to share with the community in time for the Big Centenary Lunch.

By looking at historical documents, photographs, maps, newspapers and also speaking to residents, the Friends have been able to build up a picture of the history of the century-old park.

The origins of Oldfield Hall begin in Elizabethan time, with the first owners by the name of Parker. In fact, a living reminder of this time still remains in the guise of a Pedunculate Oak, dated to be approximately 400 years old.

Perhaps planted in an act of defiance against Cromwell by a member of the Meredith family, the second owners of the Hall who were loyal supporters of the Crown.

Messenger Newspapers:

The Pedunculate Oak at John Leigh Park, which was planted around 400 years ago

Leslie Turner, of The Friends of John Leigh Park, said: “During the research process the lives of these people began to unfold and we were able to rejoice and share in their success or feel their grief and loss during difficult times.

"Of course, reminders of these people and their stories remain with us today in a tangible form. There are memorial windows left by family members and graves located at three local churches. Some of the owners of Oldfield Hall were 'Manchester Men' whose significant contributions helped to build the burgeoning manufacturing industry in Manchester.”

The Oldfield Hall Estate changed hands seven times before finally being purchased by Cotton Industrialist John Leigh (later Sir John Leigh), thus breaking a long debate in the local press about the suitability of the Estate as "Home for Heroes" to provide quality homes for those men returning from the Great War or to be developed as a public park.

The debate raged for some time before being broken by Sir John Leigh who purchased the property.

Messenger Newspapers: John Leigh Park at the height of Summer.

John Leigh Park has been cherished by generations of Altrincham families

Lady Stamford, the widow of William Grey, the 10th Earl of Stamford proved her worth and also donated land to the community of equal value and size in order to provide four hundred houses for working class people.

This area, built on 'garden city lines' is the Oldfield Brow Estate.

“Of course, all of us will have our own history associated with John Leigh Park, said Leslie.

“Who amongst us has not run up and down the sloping paths during a cross country gala or perhaps just enjoyed the cathedral like quality created by the historic trees at the top of the park?"

Read the full account of John Leigh Park in the booklet available for sale at the Big Centenary Lunch on June 4 and view additional historical research by visiting The Friends of John Leigh Park website at johnleighpark.org.uk.