Park History from the beginnings to the present day
The park was originally a limestone quarry. In June 1902, it was decided by a Council Committee, that £250 should be spent to carry out improvements to the area. This included the sloping of the quarry walls, the construction of a teahouse, and the building of a bandstand and toilets. The toilets were to be the sort that took “1d in the slot”. All this was to be in place by August Bank Holiday. It was hoped that “The Flatts” would become a tourist attraction.
The “Doncaster Gazette” a local paper at the time quoted,
“Hexthorpe Flatts was a great attraction for local holidaymakers. The Temperance Band played there during the day, and visitors numbered several thousand”
As this opening proved to be very successful, many trees were planted, towards the end of the year, including scots pine, chestnut, willow, birch and lime, all of which can still be seen today. Due to this success, the Committee decided that The Flatts was a viable venture.
During the Edwardian era more developments took place. A Mrs Anderson was granted a contract to supply boats for hire on the River Don, and Tuby’s, a local(and still) fairground family were rented land for Bank Holidays. The original boathouse is still used by Doncaster Rowing Club today. Brass bands were really popular, and wooden floors were constructed around the bandstand for dancing. Unfortunately, the original bandstand burnt down in July 1909.
At this time working families did not travel far, and there were three main attractions in the area to visit during their free time, Askern Spa, Sandall Beat, and Hexthorpe Flatts. Hexthorpe was very advantageous to a large proportion of the population as it was close to town, and had numerous attractions, such as boating on the river, dancing, brass bands, room for picnics, running, climbing and sometimes swimming. Even in 1904 there was vandalism, as there is mention of plants being damaged in the Council Minutes.
In 1927, more plans were drawn up, this time to put in more tennis courts and bowling greens, all of which remain today. It was not until 1924 that Hexthorpe Flatts officially became a park. At this time even more improvements occurred, or were planned. A windmill was built to pump water around The Dell, the name given to the large quarry space. It was developed into a local beauty spot, with many trees, shrubs and flower displays and beds being planted.
It was officially opened in April 1929. The first floodlighting of The Dell was in 1933, and in the 1950’s these “Illuminations” brought coach loads of visitors to Hexthorpe, some on mystery trips from Bridlington. The second quarry in the park was used during the Second World War as a rifle practice range for the Home Guard. This was later used in the 1970’s as the original BMX track. More parts of the original quarry site were developed and converted into football pitches and a miniature golf course, (now the new BMX track).
The present park is now one of Doncaster’s most popular parks, providing sporting facilities for local football teams, bowling and rowing clubs, a growing band of BMX riders, tennis players, nature lovers, and people from all walks of life and nationalities who come to enjoy the amenities, especially the aviaries, which are a big “draw” to young and old alike.