3 July 2006
I remember this place from childhood – mainly because of its surprising statue of Queen Victoria. I remember it from later visits for its tunnel of climbing roses. But I haven’t been through here for years, so on my wander through Acomb I called in, as I heard it had had a revamp, and that Queen Victoria had a new nose.
I called one summer evening. There were plenty of people of all ages wandering through, or playing sport. No one sitting on the numerous benches, though they looked like good places from which to contemplate the view – or indeed the many views, as this park has several different areas. Some fairly formal, and some more woodland-like.
I would have sat down myself, but I was so weary from my long wander through Acomb, I thought I might fall asleep if I stopped. So I carried on walking, and took a few photos.
It was nice to visit here again, and interesting to see it as an adult, rather than as a child or teenager. I’m not sure how much it has really changed, and how much is to do with not really looking at it properly before.
West Bank Park occupies part of a larger site which was for many years occupied by the famous Backhouse Nurseries, founded in York in 1816 on Tanner Row.
The Friends of West Bank Park have recently created a fernery, inspired by the park’s history as the Backhouse Nursery.
A royal presence
Despite changes in the planting, Queen Victoria’s statue remains, though it looks different from my memories of it. I thought it was lower down, and rather darker in colour. I’m not sure how much has been changed since I was last here – whether she’s been cleaned up – but she does have a nose now – for some years it was missing, knocked off by vandals.
The local paper’s Diary section mentioned the statue in an entry in November 2005, while discussing the problems of commemorative statues in general: "her statue has long been neglected and forgotten in West Bank Park. She is little more than a glorified bird toilet and her nose keeps falling off."
This statue, originally a tribute to and commemoration of Queen Victoria’s reign, was sited in the Guildhall originally, but ended up here in the park. A strange place to put it, perhaps. But reflecting changing attitudes to this type of commemorative statue – we’re less deferential now and seem to prefer our sculpted figures to be rather more symbolic – like the Angel of the North (just thinking about it makes me feel proud to be a northerner). But I think we’d miss Queen Victoria if they moved her out of the park.
Page compiled 3 July 2006. Last updated: 18 Oct 2011.