The following report was written by Mike Darke
Mytholmroyd Historical Society met on Friday evening the 14th January in St Michael’s Church Hall at 7.30 pm for the 5th of their Winter programme of lectures. Just over 50 people attended to hear an interesting illustrated talk by Mr David Glover titled Halifax Zoo and Amusement Park.
Halifax Zoo and Amusement Park was on the plateau at Chevin Edge, Siddal, more or less where the Siddal Rugby League ground is now and opened in May 1909 but closed in 1916. Although its existence was relatively short lived it was at the time quite exciting and on the first Whitsuntide weekend it had 40,000 visitors . During the few years of its existence it had numerous exciting events particularly regarding parachuting from air balloons by the Spencer Brothers and also the more famous Edith Cook and even witnessed a short aviation flight over it from Halifax Racecourse ( where the West End Golf Course is now ) to West Vale,although given its fragile nature it arrived all crated up.
The Zoo was intended originally to be at Roundhay in North Leeds by Alfred Mackill, who had a camel but Charles Spencer who was enterprising and who later became Mayor of Halifax was approached by Mackill and the Zoo, as it became and Amusement Park opened in 1909 as more animals had arrived. The star attraction was the elephant which came from the closed down Glasgow Zoo, it was also a major marketing tool and engaged in numerous parades through Halifax but also had a mind of its own and on one occasion down the steep road towards the bottom of Salterhebble Hill bolted causing chaos to bandsmen and all those around.
The Zoo had not only the elephant but also a lion, grizzly bear, camel, birds etc, which at the time was a unique attraction to view as most of the population had never seen exotic animals. The Amusement Park contained a roller skating rink, a wooden roller coaster and a miniature railway and some of its remains are just about visible and a planned Concert Hall. However, it did have one of the very first Electric Cinemas, some believe the first outside London.
Siddal as an area developed in the mid to late Victorian period but development of the Zoo and Amusement park in the late Edwardian period gave Siddal a boost but sadly its decline and closure came with the the oncoming fear of World War 1 and the need for manpower, the attraction of the much bigger, glamourous attraction of Manchester’s Belle Vue Zoo and Amusement Park and the attraction of the rise of the nearby local Sunningvale Park
The Vote of thanks was given by Mr Stuart Greenwood who stated it was a most interesting talk a fact endorsed by a member of the audience who stated that he found the aerial section of the talk very interesting and that he had had a close relative who flew with the Royal Flying Corp, ( forerunner of the RAF ), in WWI over German lines but unlike the German flyers they were not provided with parachutes.
Mytholmroyd Historical Society meets the second Friday of each month at 7.30pm from September to April, for the Winter lecture programme, in St Michael’s Church Hall, New Road, Mytholmroyd. Covid permitting there will be two evening visits to somewhere of interest in the local area and the annual day excursion which this year will be either Friday or Saturday at the moment to Paradise Silk Mill, Macclesfield and Buxton. Details of this planned excursion will be announced later. The price will be £25 including a £10 non returnable deposit unless the trip is cancelled due to Covid. All members & non members are welcome as they are to our regular Winter programme of lectures but there is a charge of £3.00 for each lecture of the Winter programme or for those who wish to become a member of the Society there is a £!0.00 subscription.
A summary of each Winter lecture is provided on the Mytholmroyd Historical Society website