Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Sunny Bunces Resurrected

Back in December 2007 I wrote a News From Nowhere post called Sunny Bunces. Most of my current followers won't have even been alive back then, so I am repeating it again - but with a new update.

Sunny Bunces

I need to get my affairs in order (as they say). This particular thought was prompted by a one hour search through boxes of old photographs for a picture I once took of Sunny Vale Pleasure Gardens. And the search was prompted by picking up a copy of a new book by local author Chris Helme entitled "Sunny Vale Pleasure Gardens - A Postcard From Sunny Bunces".

Sunny Vale Pleasure Gardens - known by one and all as "Sunny Bunces" after the founder of the gardens, Joseph Bunces - was located in a valley just outside Lightcliffe, midway between Halifax and Brighouse. It was one of those "inland resorts" which blossomed all over the north of England in late Victorian and Edwardian times. With the coming of charabancs and trams and half-day holidays from the mills, such "pleasure gardens" became the destination of hundreds of Sunday School Treats and Friendly Society Trips. And Sunny Vale liked to think of itself as the finest of them all, it liked to market itself as "the playground of the north".

The book is a pleasure to read. It is in not "heavy" in any way. It does not attempt to tell a chronological story or provide a sociological analysis of the rise and fall of Pleasure Gardens. It is nothing more than a collection of photographs and reminiscences strung together with a light text : a series of amusements and diversions, a bit like Sunny Vale itself.

Sunny Vale just managed to survive the Second World War but even in the thirties it was spinning into decline, replaced in people's affections by Blackpool and Bridlington. In 1947 the park was sold and in the mid-fifties the various rides and attractions were auctioned off. By the early sixties it had become a site for go-kart racing and stock car racing but that didn't last long either. By the late 1960s much of the grounds were overgrown and forgotten. It was at this time that I took my photograph. It was of what remained of the smaller of the two lakes - the Victoria Lake - strewn with rubbish. I would show it to you but, as I say, I can't find it. Somewhere in my garage or attic it lies lost and forgotten. A bit like Sunny Bunces.

Five years on I am glad to say that I have found the picture. So what better excuse can I have for re-posting an old piece and featuring a new photograph.


  1. It looks almost like a war-torn battlefield from WWI... haunting qualities... beautiful

  2. Mmmm. Playground of the North..... The mind boggles!

  3. How sad...your picture speaks volumes...but very interesting to see how history takes it toll on every little thing.

  4. Stark. Has Sunny Bunces seen any recent rehabilitation?

  5. A sad end to what was a very pleasant place. Sunday school treat? When I was a boy we had a Sunday School treat. Nobody else had it and this is the first time I have seen it anyplace else. I always thought it was a local name. Now I realize it must have been an English term.

  6. There can be beauty in decay then, Alan. Lovely photo.

  7. A super photo of times gone by. It evokes a sad feeling.

  8. I'm glad you found the photo Alan, as well as reposting the story. Your picture tells a story in itself.

  9. Oh my gosh, that is sad that it has been left to accumulate litter. Old Joe must be rolling over in his grave. I would have loved to have visited there when it was up and running.

    Thanks for the post, Alan. I was actually alive in 2007, but it is true that hadn't met you yet.

    Kathy M.

  10. Kind of a ghostly looking photo..too bad:(

  11. Glad you finally found it.
    Great reflection!!


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