Omega Street, New Park
Take yourself to the northern side of Harrogate where the two main thoroughfares of Skipton and Ripon Road cross and you are in what used to be an independent community, still known as New Park. Arising from the formation of the Harrogate Gas company in 1845, it grew to have 52 amenities by 1932.
Should you be walking from these crossroads in New Park towards town, take time to look to your left and take in the view of Omega Street, stretching back up New Park hill. At the top is the school, perched on the hill like a medieval castle, peering down sharply upon the village below. In the community, streets were frequently named with connections to the Gas Company, as it was the very reason for New Park’s existence. Although there is no ‘Alpha Street’, one wonders whether ‘Omega’ signifies the last of the housing considered necessary for the housing of the Company’s workers. Initially it was the right hand side of the street that was built, with the left hand side coming later. However with the complete street in mind, it holds many fine examples of the communal spirit to be found in this independent area.
School Class, 1911
At the top left, on the corner was a small bakers and during the breaks and lunchtimes of the school, the owners would sell their produce to the children through the school railings. One house down, on this left side, lived Mrs. Black who visited the Centre with a photograph of her sister at the school in 1911. The class, along with two teachers, is at a time when the school was still considered to be part of Bilton. It did not become New Park Council School until 1925. To the left is Miss Mountcastle who must have spent her entire career at the school. She lived on Elm Street, next to St. John’s Church. In front of her stands Mary Wood, the sister to Mrs. Black. The other teacher is Miss Fisher.
Gas Works retort house
Directly opposite Mrs. Woods house, lived the Cracknell Family whose connections were very much tied to the Gas Company. Alf Cracknell, worked in the retort house where he fed the coal into the ovens, releasing the gas.
May Queen Parade
His wife, Martha, was very active in community events. At an early age, she can be seen, third from the right, preparing for a May Queen Parade. This photo was taken in the lower school playground next to Omega Street. Indeed, the school playgrounds were where the children of Omega St. often played out of school hours.
New Park Beauty Queen
In later years Alf and Martha can be seen 3rd and 4th from the right in this celebration of the New Park Beauty Queen.
New Park Ladies Football Team
Martha can also be seen in this photo, 6th from the left when she played in the New Park ladies football team. During the matches in WWII, the ladies with collecting tins raised money for the men when they returned home. Each was given a packet of cigarettes and a couple of pounds for a drink. This was distributed from the school.
Today, further down the same side of the street lives Fred, caretaker to the school. He remarks that it was possibly Martha who told him something of the history of his house. Although a terrace, in the earlier days the house was inhabited by two separate families; one downstairs and one up, for at that time such as bathrooms and toilets were not included.
Life in New Park was basic, but from these few residents of Omega Street it is clear that it was a hardworking and giving existence and definitely not without its enjoyable side.
Should you wish to know more about the community you might like to contact us through the website: www.newparkheritagecentre.co.uk.
A heritage trail and brochure will also be available soon from the Harrogate Tourist Office.
All photos with permission of New Park Heritage Centre.