It arose out of the carnage of the First World War - and it has provided innocent pleasure for generations of children ever since.

The Rowntree family, who had lost so many of their factory workers in the battlefields of France and Belgium, wanted to create a memorial to those who "fell and suffered".

So in 1919 they bought 19 acres of land alongside the River Ouse from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, the York Corporation bought an additional five acres, and architect Fred Rowntree started designing a public park for use by all the people of York.

Rowntree Park opened on July 16, 1921, and it became an immediate hit with the children of that time.

Mischief-makers were kept in check by park-keeper James "Parkie" Bell, a well-known and fondly regarded character who policed the park until his death in 1945. Many a naughty child heard him blow his whistle, shake his walking stick and shout at him to "clear orf."

In those days, the park had many exotic features which have gradually been lost over the years, many of which will now be revived through the lottery-funded restoration scheme.

But one feature which is not coming back is an aviary full of exotic birds, which used to be very popular. As was the small pond, decorated with a statue of Eros, which has long gone. No one knows what happened to the statue.

No one knows the park like Jean Tattersfield, the daughter of Parkie Bell.

She was born in the park-keeper's house, as were her brother John and sister Yvonne. Her eldest sister Eileen, who loved the park, died in 1994.

Mrs Tattersfield recalled a childhood in which she imagined their family home was a stately home and the park was its grounds. At that time there were at least ten staff tending the gardens and looking after the animals.

Any youngsters who got wet or hurt themselves would go and see her mother, Edith, at their house in the park and be bandaged up.

During the Second World War, the Government encouraged a Holidays At Home scheme. Rowntree park was one of the venues and special events were organised to take people's minds off the hardship. Donkeys were even brought along to give children rides.

"Some of the ruffians from Clementhorpe got in and tried to let the donkeys out," said Mrs Tattersfield. Together with her mother she foiled the raid.

"It was a special childhood. We had the privilege of being there on the spot to enjoy it all," she said.

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