Heritage Category:
Park and Garden
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Statutory Address:
THORNES PARK, Denby Dale Road, Wakefield, West Yorkshire


Ordnance survey map of THORNES PARK
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Statutory Address:
THORNES PARK, Denby Dale Road, Wakefield, West Yorkshire

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Wakefield (Metropolitan Authority)
Non Civil Parish
National Grid Reference:


Thornes Park is a public park consisting of three historically distinct areas of landscaping, the earliest dating from the later C18. The public park was opened in 1891, with additions in 1919 and 1924.

Reasons for Designation

Thornes Park, Wakefield, is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons: * Survival: It is a good example of an urban municipal park of the late C19 and early C20 where the layout survives almost intact * Historic Interest: it has added interest in the incorporation of a late C18 landscape possibly designed by John Carr, as well as a scheduled medieval motte and bailey castle earthwork


Thornes Park: James Milnes, a Wakefield cloth merchant, bought land at Thornes in 1778 and in the subsequent year work began on Thornes House. The house was designed by John Carr and built in 1779-81, and stood on a ridge with views to north and south. It seems probable that emparkment took place alongside the construction of the house, encompassing the area subsequently known as Thornes Park and covering over 100 acres. The areas to the east, which would later form the core of the current park area, were then farmland.

The Thornes House estate included a stable block, a lake with island, constructed and fed from the Gill Syke Beck, home farm, hothouse, entrance lodges and tree planting to provide vistas. According to information supplied with the application, it was described in the 1790s as "backed by a pretty declining lawn, bordering on each side with the greatest variety of flowering shrubs perhaps ever collected in one spot. A fine view extends into the country from a bow window, executed in the modern taste by Mr Carr of York; and the greenhouses and other buildings combine to make this one of the completest town-houses in this county". In 1920 the Wakefield Corporation acquired the entire Thornes estate, with 92 acres added to the public park in 1924, and the house itself with 20 acres becoming a grammar school.

Clarence Park: The area of Clarence Park remained in agricultural use until 1890. In that year, the owner of the Thornes estate, C.G. Milnes Gaskell, offered land including Lowe Hill, site of a motte and bailey castle, to form a public park. Initially in the hands of trustees, the project was formally inaugurated by the Duke of Clarence in 1891 and the park opened in 1893. The designer is unknown, but the Duke of Clarence is said to have planted the first tree, a white chestnut. Early landscaping included the erection of a bandstand on Lowe Hill and the creation of a duckpond in the moat. A formal walkway lined with 108 chestnut trees, Chestnut Walk, was laid out across the park, echoing a similar path through the Thornes estate, and lodges were built at opposing ends with formal iron gates at the southern end. A fountain (listed Grade II) dedicated to Joseph Barker was erected in Clarence Park near the entrance to Holmfield.

Holmfield Park: The Holme Field estate was established in 1807 by Thomas Foljambe, a Wakefield lawyer and speculator. The house was built in 1833 and the estate built up gradually. House and estate were bought in 1864 by Joseph Barker, worsted manufacturer, who enlarged the house in the 1870s, adding stable block, entrance lodge and boundary wall, and created gardens and parkland. In 1919 Wakefield Corporation acquired the 14 acre Holme Field estate from its then owner, Alderman W H Kingswell, and it was incorporated into the public park. The house became a museum upstairs and tea-room downstairs.

The combined Park: The inclusion of the Thornes estate gave the Park its current outline and subsequent developments extended across the three elements. By 1932, the OS 1:2500 map shows a crown bowling green at the southern end of Holmfield park and another in the south-east corner of Thornes, with tennis courts and a putting green also at the southern end of Thornes. Lavatories had been built at the edge of Holmfield, and the Lowe Hill bandstand was replaced in 1926 by a building near the eastern edge of Clarence Park. A meteorological station at the northern end of Clarence Park was later moved to the nursery gardens at Thornes. Further landscaping included the formation of a formal rose garden in the former kitchen garden of Thornes, to the west of the house, in 1934.

In 1951 the school housed in Thornes House burnt down and the original house was destroyed apart from part of a wall and some balustrade. The school was housed temporarily in Holme Field, and new buildings constructed on the site, now part of Wakefield College.

Later changes have included the sale of Holme Field House in the 1990s, now a private hotel and restaurant, the Holmfield Arms. The lodge and gates at the southern end of Chestnut Walk have gone. A children's play area, Sports Centre with running track, miniature railway and a skate park, have all been added at the northern end of Thornes.


LOCATION, AREA, BOUNDARIES, SETTING Thornes Park is located c.1.3 km south-west of the centre of Wakefield on land that slopes gently in all directions from Lowe Hill near the centre of the park. It is approximately 60 hectares in area and is roughly rectangular in shape. The B6475 Thornes Road forms the southern boundary and the A636 Denby Dale Road the eastern. Much of the southern boundary is defined by a high brick wall with stone coping, part of the estate wall of the Thornes estate, interrupted near the eastern end by the grounds of a private house, to the east of which the wall is much lower and topped by a hedge. The south-eastern corner and east boundary are largely open with some hedging. To the north smaller roads edge the park which is bounded by a hedge and trees on the northern edge of Clarence Park and by a low brick wall with stone copings on the boundary of Thornes Park, the remains of the boundary of the Thornes estate. To the west this wall continues, separating the park from the Gill Syke Road and the A642 Horbury Road.

ENTRANCES AND APPROACHES There are two main vehicular approaches to the park, both relating in origin to the C18 landscape and predating the public park. To the south from Thornes Road a short drive leads past a lodge building on the right (east) to a car park to the left (west). The single storey lodge, dating probably to the late C18, is constructed of coursed dressed sandstone with a deeply overhanging hipped grey slate roof. It is square with a projecting gabled porch entrance to the west facing the drive, and now operates as a tea-room. Beyond the car park the drive continues (closed to vehicular traffic) to sweep northwards, dipping west towards the college buildings in the centre then curving north-west to the north entrance.

The north entrance is flanked by C18 low square piers with later stone caps. To either side are taller walls with cornices blocking courses, pilasters and recessed panels in stone architraves; lower sections curve out to the pavement edge and to the east there is a continuation for a short straight section. To the west, this wall descends in height to ground level at the pavement edge. The entrance is listed at Grade II. Much of the eastern side of the park is open to the road, and another walkway, Chestnut Walk, dating to the creation of Clarence Park in the late C19, enters the park on the eastern side to run diagonally across to a lodge on the north side.

There are separate entrances to the nursery gardens and Gardener's House near the west end of the southern boundary; one is a simple break in the wall while the other, adapted from an original entrance, is set back with modern wrought iron gates and piers flanked by original curved walls.

The main approach to the Wakefield college site in the centre of Thornes is from the north, and a separate car park on the north side of the college buildings serves it. The Holmfield Arms hotel and restaurant has a separate drive running from the east side off Denby Dale Road, and this is not accessible from within the park.

PRINCIPAL STRUCTURES The principal house that originally stood at the centre of Thornes was lost to fire in 1951 and has been replaced by a group of utilitarian buildings housing a branch of Wakefield College. A main T-shaped block of three and four storeys in red brick, glass and steel is surrounded by lower buildings including a single storey H-shaped block to the north in red brick. Some fragments of walling from the gardens around the original house remain to the south-west of the college buildings.

The house at the centre of the former Holmfield estate is no longer part of the park and is not included.

PARK The former landscape of the Thornes Estate survives in part in the western half of the current park, though the principal house has been lost. Surviving features include a sinuous fishpond, formed from the Gill Syke beck, at the southern end of the park, the Gardener's House and the double walled gardens towards the south-west. The driveway through the park from south to north-west also dates from the late C18, with its lodge at the southern end. Parts of the estate wall survive to the north and south-west. Some elements of the planting scheme from the C18 are visible, including tree belts around the edges of the estate and woodland to the west, south and east of the site of Thornes House defining and surrounding open spaces and sheltering the house and gardens from the home farm area.

GARDENS AND PLEASURE GROUNDS The current Thornes Park is composed of three historically separate elements; Thornes Park, Holmfield Park and Clarence Park, each with a distinct history prior to its inclusion in the public park as well as developments since. Although now one park, the elements are still separately discernable, radiating round the core of Lowe Hill, a former motte and bailey castle of which only earthworks remain (Scheduled Monument). Thornes, the largest section, stretches to the west of Lowe Hill, Clarence to the north east and Holmfield to the south east. The Holmfield Arms, situated near the south-east corner of the park, is in separate ownership and is not included in the area of the park.

The predominant character of the park is that of gardens and pleasure grounds. The main structural elements are the driveway through Thornes Park from south to north-west which curves in towards the site of Thornes House, now Wakefield College, and Chestnut Walk through Clarence Park from south-east to north, as well as Lowe Hill near the centre. A broad path leads from the south entrance around the perimeter east to the Clarence walkway and west to the Rose Garden. At the northern extent of Clarence Park is a small red brick lodge, erected between 1893 and 1907 as part of the landscaping of the new Park. It has one and a half storeys with a steeply pitched roof and a gable facing into the park. The upper floor wall projects and is tile hung with dentils below, and the apex of the gable is timber framed. The building is boarded up and unused.

The bandstand, situated near the eastern boundary of Clarence Park, was constructed in 1926. It has a red brick base with a stone plinth and a stone band separating it from a mock-Tudor timber framed superstructure with a deeply overhanging, red tiled hipped roof. It has an open front with a wide arch framed by half-timbered pillars under a hipped roof with a shaped blind gablet in the centre. The sides have half-timbered gables and blocked windows in the brick basement level. To the rear are two doorways with stone architraves. In the front (west) is a rectangular hardstanding of concrete. Two small open fronted shelters on the eastern boundary of Clarence Park are of similar date and in similar style: they stand at either end of a walkway that runs parallel to the road to the east.

Near the entrance to the driveway running across Clarence Park are two drinking fountains, both listed at Grade II. One is dated to 1893 and is dedicated to Major Barker by the workers of Thornes Mill; it is in sandstone and granite and is an octagonal structure in classical style. The other is a raised red granite trough dedicated by the RSPCA to Anne Clarkson in 1888.

Open ground is interspersed with areas of woodland, with more scattered tree planting in some parts. Most of the woodland is in the south and east of the park, though most of the boundaries have tree belts. Formal flower beds and shrubberies are almost entirely confined to the southern part of the park. The area of Clarence Park, and much of Thornes, contains a number of White Chestnut trees, adding to the tree planted by the Duke of Clarence at the park's opening. Trees line both the main drive through Thornes and the walkway through Clarence which is known as Chestnut Walk. A tree belt divides open space to the north of Wakefield College from the skate park, sports centre and running track in the north-west corner of the park.

The south-west quadrant of the park is occupied by nursery gardens, not open to the public, and the former walled gardens of Thornes House, bounded by high red brick walls with stone copings. The northern walled garden is filled with modern greenhouses, while the southern is laid out as a Rose Garden with a fountain feature at the centre. A row of modern greenhouses occupies most of the south facing wall at the north end, but traces of former buildings and heating systems are visible on this wall. The gates to the Rose Garden on its southern side are modern wrought iron. To the south, in front of Gardener's House, are formal flower beds with annual planting.

The 'Gardener's House' also probably dates to the late C18. It is situated towards the south-west corner of the park, adjacent to the former kitchen gardens of Thornes House and is said to have been the home farm house. It is constructed of red brick with a grey slate hipped roof and stacks at each side (one rebuilt) and one to the rear. The three bay symmetrical front elevation has a central six-panel door with a six-light overlight and flat gauged brick arch. To either side are six-over-six hornless vertical sash windows with stone cills and flat gauged brick arches, and above are three six-light windows. A small extension to the right (north) is single storey with two windows and a lean-to roof. A high brick wall runs north from the house to form the west side of the rose garden and enclosed greenhouse area (former walled gardens).

Open space to the centre north of the park, east of the main drive, is laid out as sports pitches, and the north-west quadrant is occupied by a large sports stadium and running track with a skate park and children's play area to the east and a miniature railway track running through woodland to the north-east. The north-east corner of the park is a slightly sunken area functioning as an arena for outdoor events, with terraced stone seating on its south-west side. To the south of this, and ranged along the eastern and southern sides of the park, are the bandstand with its hardstanding, two crown bowling greens, a putting green, a mini-golf course and six tennis courts. These facilities are situated off a path running parallel to the road with borders of perennial and annual planting schemes, shrubs and privet hedges. Wooden bench seating is provided at intervals. The mini-golf course has scattered trees, mainly smaller varieties, throughout its extent which runs from the main drive in the west to the boundary of the Holmfield Arms in the east, and north towards Lowe Hill.

MAPS OS 1:10560 published 1854 OS 1:2500 published 1893 OS 1:2500 published 1907 OS 1:2500 published 1932


Clarence Holmfield and Thornes Park, accessed from
J. Goodchild, Wakefield Parks, n.d.,


This garden or other land is registered under the Historic Buildings and Ancient Monuments Act 1953 within the Register of Historic Parks and Gardens by Historic England for its special historic interest.

End of official listing

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