Who Was Mr Tom Vernon Harrison?

Huddersfield in 1870, son of James Harrison who was a compositor
Married at:      
St Aidan’s Church, Harehills, Leeds, 29 July 1896
Maude Boshell, daughter of Henry Boshell, a printer & Grainer
Vernon Boshell Harrison, born 16th July 1897
Enid Harrison, born October 1898

In 1928 Tom Vernon Harrison was the Head of Christchurch Primary School in Hunslet and was an officer of the Leeds Elementary Schools’ Athletic Association (LESAA). He was an enthusiastic supporter of school sports. The sports ground at Oldfield Lane had been used for sports at least since the 1850s and was rented from its private owners by the LESAA. However, in 1928 it became known that it was to be sold by its owners ostensibly “to wind up a trust” but their intention was to build on the ground. 


Mr TV Harrison Was A Man Of The People

  The Wortley Wembley in Action!

Harrison put together a group of school teachers involved in the LESAA who committed themselves to buying the land in order to safeguard it for the schoolchildren of Leeds. They entered into a contract to buy the land for £1,800 (£114,000 today) and launched a public appeal. They only had a limited period of time to raise the money but they took the personal risk. In June 1928 the Yorkshire Evening Post took up the campaign and ran it from the newspaper, itself making an initial donation of £50 - £3,000 today. Harrison realised the importance of involving the wider public, including children, and land was “sold” at 4 (old) pence per square foot! Remarkably by  October, just in time for to meet the contract of sale, £2,216 had been raised and the land was bought with surplus going to ancillary costs of running sports ground. 

Harrison then organised a handover ceremony and on 
27 October 1928 there was a formal celebration on the ground with a band a rugby league match. The Lord Mayor of Leeds formally handed over the deeds of the Oldfield Lane Athletic Ground to the ownership of the LESAA. Harrison believed that putting the ground into the trust of the LESAA would, as was said, ensure that it would “be preserved in perpetuity as a recreation ground for the schoolchildren of Leeds.” However he was shrewd enough to make it doubly safe by making the Westminster Bank a “custodian trustee” who would have to ensure that the legal conditions had been met if the trust ever wanted to dispose of it. 

Just five months later Harrison died suddenly from pneumonia, aged 58, and it was decided to name the ground after him in recognition of his leading role in safeguarding it from development.