Finding Lost Norton Park

This article describes the recent National Lottery Heritage Fund project at Norton Park. The article has been submitted by Caroline Dewar, Chair of Friends of Graves Park.

Review of the Project

Part of the Project Team

Part of the Project Team

Our celebration event for the Friends’ National Lottery Heritage Fund project “Finding Lost Norton Park” was a great success. Over 60 people visited Mount View Methodist Church Hall during the course of the day and everyone was extremely complimentary. Visitors were astounded at how much information and evidence we had collected. The talks were well supported, with “standing room only” for some of them! Visitors could view displays of research results and talks by the experts. Of particular interest were the maps, which showed the exact locations of features surveyed by volunteers.

We are immensely grateful to the National Lottery Heritage Fund and the people who support this, because they provided the grant to make all of this possible. The Friends are currently collating everything. We will periodically put photos and articles on our Facebook page: Friends of Graves Park: Finding Lost Norton Park.

Ancient Woodland and Ecology

Marsh Marigold

Marsh Marigold

The Ancient Woodland Indicator plant volunteers have been regularly mapping and recording with GPS devices and photos, following the seasons to record evidence of the ancient woodland in the park. Volunteers found wild garlic, native bluebells, dog’s mercury, wood anemone, pignut, marsh marigold, yellow archangel and wild honeysuckle.

The next project would look at the fauna of Graves Park, particularly birds and insects. We also need to survey the fungi in the park, as our field visits suggested that there are some rare and interesting examples in Graves Park’s woods.

Recording and Mapping Park Features

The Historic Landscape followers spent several interesting days (usually but not always in the rain) finding coppice trees, charcoal hearths and possible prehistoric earthworks, which again are now carefully mapped, surveyed and recorded.

On-going field work by volunteers is beginning to piece together the many old boundaries, trackways and other features which criss-cross the modern park’s landscape. The mapping of these features continues, with data being added to the project ‘master map’. The project is producing many interesting results and fascinating insights into the ‘Lost’Norton Park and the modern Graves Park’s history. We still need to explore the coppice woods in Graves Park and identify all the charcoal hearths.

Researching the Archives

Coppiced oak?

Coppiced oak?

Those volunteers who prefer the dry comfort of a library looked into various historic records, including the family histories of people who lived and worked the fields. Others visited archives and spent time tracking down old documents and maps. From these, we discovered that the ponds in Graves Park certainly date from the early 1700s, when there used to be formal gardens, ornamental ponds and an orchard where the fields by the arboretum are now.

One area in which we were not as successful was the visits to archives. We still need to pursue the records in Derbyshire and our searches in Sheffield revealed other documents which we did not have time to research properly. We were also on a bit of a steep learning curve! Now that we know what we are looking for, we intend to help future volunteers to find out how to search archives online before an archive visit, which will be one focus of the next project.

Interviewing Locals for memories of the past

Summerhouse oak

Summerhouse oak

Local history buffs interviewed local people and recorded their memories of Graves Park, from childhood onwards. A recent call for information in the local press resulted in a number of contacts being made regarding the Summer House in the park. The few photos that have been found indicate a tower at one corner of the building and this is where the park bell used to be rung to indicate the gates were closing. The Friends’ Group have collected these and other memories to add to the timeline, adding further insight into the rapidly vanishing recent history of Graves Park.

In addition, the Greenhill Village History Society matched up the field numbers within Norton Park from the rental ledgers in the Fairbank Collection, with the names of the people who lived and worked there. They have produced an annotated map and cross-referenced their findings. This has produced some very interesting links with people who still live in the area.

The Friends also intend to continue the collection of memories of Graves Park, which eventually will be available online.

The results of all this collated work will be used to produce a report, written by Professor Ian Rotherham, which the Friends hope will identify the significance of Norton Park, now Graves Park, so that it can be protected and recognised as being of national importance.