Bob Horne has recently written a book on the story of the Stray as a memorial to those who died in the World Wars. Below is a brief summary of a talk that he gave in September 2023. For further details of this and other publications, click on 'Our Publications'.
The Memorial Stray
The 11½ acres which became the Hipperholme & Lightcliffe Memorial Stray had once been in the ownership of the Walker family of Crow Nest. The last of these was Evan Charles Sutherland Walker, who had inherited in 1854 on the death of his aunt, Ann Walker. He sold the land almost twenty years later to the Smithson brothers, Joshua and Joseph. Joseph’s sons inherited from both their father and uncle, so that by 1910 the pasture land that had become known as Smithson Park was in the possession of Charles and Joseph jnr. An attempt in 1907 to auction off the entire area for housing had fallen through when there were no bidders.
After the First World War the Hipperholme U.D.C. sought a suitable memorial for the 110 local people whose lives had been lost. Other possibilities were considered before the chairman of the council, Algernon Denham, and its clerk, Francis Horner, negotiated with the Smithson brothers for the purchase of their park. An initial asking price of £4-5,000 was reduced to £2,000. This money was raised by public subscription, 132 people contributing amounts from 10s. 0d. to £200.
The Memorial Stray was opened on 9 September 1923 by J. H. Whitley, M.P. for Halifax and Speaker of the House of Commons. Two to three thousand attended the ceremony. Floral tributes and messages were laid on the semi-circular seating in front of the memorial. Trees were planted on each side of the main path by Whitley, the Smithson brothers, Private Jim Sucksmith, representing the ex-servicemen of the district, and Alice Denham, wife of Algernon.
The early years were a period of great activity as the Stray was developed into an attractive open space. Shrubs, hedges and flower beds were planted around the memorial and more trees were added alongside the paths. In 1925 a shelter was opened at the bottom of the ‘avenue’, and two years later public conveniences were provided adjacent to Wakefield Road.
Byelaws were passed, which presumably still apply. It is worth knowing that ‘A person shall not, in any part of the stray, hang, spread, or deposit any linen or other fabric for the purpose of drying or bleaching.’ And it goes without saying that ‘A person shall not in the stray use any indecent or obscene language to the annoyance of any person.’ Riding a bicycle on the Stray incurred a fine of 5 shillings.
It is hoped that those who had lost family members or friends during the war, and this would really have been everyone in the community, gained solace from walking through the Stray and pausing at the granite obelisk. It’s a pity there is not an inscription of the 110 names.