In the run up to Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee in 1896 Matlock Council
decided they would try to purchase the land where these Public
Gardens are today. It was then known as Allcocks and was described
as rough ground. The Council's decision was taken because the grand
Victoria Hall, replaced by the houses of Victoria Hall Gardens
today, had just been opened on the opposite side of the road and
its gardens landscaped.
They did not want to spoil the view.
As the photograph shows, this included the Riber hillside and the
towers of Lilybank Hydro.
However, in late November 1900 the Council considered selling
Alcock[s] on Smedley Street because, although it was considered
to be a public open space, an adjoining owner had erected a high
wall that partially blocked the view. Councillor Hartley stated
that the place could be a "spot of beauty, a retreat and recreation
ground, and they would be doing quite wrong in not retaining
it". Putting in a rockery and creating a tip, presumably for landfill,
were considered but Councillor Arms felt that creating a public
tip would be a nuisance and he had been told that large trees were
to be planted on the lower grounds. Councillor Fox did not approve
of the Council retaining its public open spaces. The Chairman of
the Council remained neutral following the vote, a draw, and the
none of the suggestions were taken up.
It is difficult to be certain quite when the public gardens, bounded
by Smedley Street East and Henry Avenue, were
developed. Henry Avenue was not shown on the 1899 OS map and the
earliest properties were built about 1903. Pre 1914 images of Matlock
Bank do not seem to show any park-like development on the site.
Sparrow Park does not appear on maps until 1919, when it was not
shown as either a park or gardens and covered a much smaller area
with had both a Fn (fountain) and Urinal within its boundaries.
Post war maps show the gardens the size it is today. Nobody seems
to know why it is known today as Sparrow Park.
links are to transcripts or more information elsewhere on this web
 A very small part of Victoria Hall's
Gardens has survived. Victoria Hall was not demolished until
about 1992 but had ceased to be used as a leisure complex before
the first world war and later became part of Derwent Mills (Paton
Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee, 1897 - 26 May.
 "Derbyshire Times", 10
November 1900. The Arguments About Open Spaces.