"Holden Park? Never heard of it! Where's that then?"
Holden Park is also known locally as Oakworth Park and many villagers refer to it as such although it has never been 'officially' named Oakworth Park. There are also some rumours of it being called Oakworth Recreation Ground a long time ago.
There is a record of a quarry where the grottoes stand today and this is mentioned on an old map as being called Lidget Quarry, although this has been difficult to confirm beyond this one reference.
The park is the former grounds of the estate of Sir Isaac Holden.
A house belonging to Sarah Sugden stood where the bowling green is today. Sarah married Isaac Holden and her house was gradually converted by him into Oakworth House. Local rumour has it that he did it rather stealthily by telling her sections were condemned and in need of replacement. We cannot confirm that for sure, but we do know that the house took ten years to build between 1865 and 1875 at a cost of £80,000, with the grottoes, mosaic floors and the huge glasshouses and dome costing a further £120,000 to build. Sir Isaac used French and Italian craftsmen to build these features, some of which, along with the bowling club building, summerhouse and portico, are all that remains of his magnificent creation. Sir Isaac also had a Turkish bath and a Billiards Room where the children's playground now resides.
Sir Isaac Holden died in 1897 at the age of 90.
Oakworth House was seriously damaged by a fire in 1906 and subsequently demolished, leaving the stone portico as a reminder of it's former opulence. After some local opposition and no small controversy over the use of public money to create a park, Holden Park was eventually opened on 25th May 1925 by Sir Isaac Holden's Grandson, Francis Holden Illingworth who made the original generous gift of the land for this amenity.
The land was in the care of Oakworth Urban District Council until 1938, then by Keighley Borough Council and eventually Bradford District Council.
Here's the text taken from the Keighley News report from the time, showing how there was opposition to the use of public money on a park and that when the park was about to open, just about everyone came around to the idea and agreed that it was a worthwhile cause for Oakworth:
Keighley News dated Saturday 30th May 1925
Changed Opinions at Oakworth
From some of the remarks dropped at the Holden Park opening ceremonies last Saturday, it would appear that even Oakworth has not been altogether free from the Worth Valley spirit of contentiousness and opposition in connection with its latest provision for the public weal. Mr Waterhouse recalled the objections that were raised in one or two quarters when a recreation-ground scheme was first mooted, but was able to add that those who had begun by expressing doubts and crtiticisms have ended by giving their whole-hearted support to the movement and frankly acknowledging the beauty and value of the place that has been provided. The Mayor of Keighley, who, in the days when the Oakworth Council was faced with a certain amount of opposition, encouraged Mr Waterhouse and the Council members to "push on" with their scheme, complimented on Saturday those Oakworth people who have thought better of the proposal, and remarked that, surely, to-day people should not begrudge spending a little money on things that are going to be for the benefit of the children. It may be asserted with confidence that practically no one in Oakworth to-day questions the wisdom of the decision that was taken to "push on" with the project, but that all are delighted with the splendid result of the effort made to meet the recreational needs of the village.
Park Opening Congratulations
Saturday's opening was indeed an occasion of all-round congratulations. Everyone was delighted with the appearance of the park, and no one was more congratulatory in referring to the way in which the site has been laid out and utilised than Mr Francis Holden Illingworth, to whose generosity in making a free gift of the ground Oakworth is chiefly indebted for the present realisation of a long-cherished desire. The Oakworth people manifested their appreciation on Saturday, not only of the gift but also of the manner in which Mr. and Mrs. Illingworth have shown their interest by coming over for what may fairly be termed the christening, as well as the opening, ceremony in connection with the park. There is no question that they will respect the wish of the donor of the site that his grandfather's name may be permanently associated with this latest addition to the amenities of the village, and they will look forward with interest to the erection of the memorial which he has offered to put up in the grounds to the "grand old man" who did so much for Oakworth, as well as for the general industrial development of his country. Sir Isaac Holden's name is little likely to be forgotten in Oakworth in any case. But the Holden Park will be an additional reminder of his interest in the village, and of the fine spirit which characterised him throughout his long and strenuous career.