Acts of Parliament tend not to make for scintillating reading and the Brooke's Park (Londonderry) Act 1899 is no exception. However the preamble to the Act which extends to some six pages does provide the local historian with some background to the establishment of this municipal park. Locally it is referred to as Brooke Park, but section 10 of the Act clearly states that it is to be called Brooke's Park. Philanthropy seems to have been very much a part of Victorian life.
The Brooke of Brooke's Park was James Hood Brooke of Brookhill, (now owned by the Walker family.) Brooke died on 2nd August 1865 having previously made his list will and testament on 13th April 1865 in which he appointed James Thompson Mackey, John Cooke, Edward Reid, Robert Allen and his brother John Brooke QC as his executors with the first four of these individuals being nominated as his trustees. His will was proven at the Londonderry District Probate Registry on 21st October 1865.
Brooke left his entire estate to his trustees upon trust to sell and convert same into money in so far as same should not already consist of money stocks or securities for money. After payment of debts, funeral and testamentary expenses and two pecuniary legacies Brooke directed that the income from his estate should be paid to his brother the aforesaid John Brooke and his sisters Mary Brooke, Margaret Brooke and Elizabeth Brooke and to the survivors thereof in equal shares. After the death of all four of his siblings his trustees were directed to utilise the trust funds in the purchase of lands suitable for a public park in the parish of Templemore in the City and Liberties of Londonderry for the perpetual use, enjoyment and recreation of the citizens of Londonderry. The trustees were to retain a, "moderate fund," from the trust funds to maintain the Park. The will went on to stipulate that the moderate fund should in fact be one quarter of the trust fund. He stipulated that the park should be kept open on Sundays as well as all other days of the year.
John Brooke died on 27th January 1877 and Mary Brooke died on 2nd May 1881.
Margaret Brooke in her will bequeathed her entire estate to her sister Elizabeth Brooke for life and thereafter or upon her own death should Elizabeth predecease her she directed that her net estate, ( save for legacies of £50 to each of her three executors), should be paid over to the trustees of the will of her brother the said James Hood Brooke in aid of the the fund bequeathed and given by him for a people's park. By a codicil to her will she stipulated that if the people's park should not be completed or in the course of completion within two years of her death or that of her sister Elizabeth should the latter survive her then the residue of her estate should pass to the Royal National Life Boat Institution.
Margaret Brooke died on 8th November 1897. Her surviving sister, Elizabeth ,died on 8th November 1897. By this time the trustees of the will of James Hood Brooke were Sir Edward Reid, William Tillie, John Cooke and John Fitzpatrick Cooke and as of 31st December 1898 the trust fund stood at some £9,100. Margaret Brooke's net estate stood at £1460.
The Act states that Brooke's Trustees had made various enquiries with a view to purchasing land which was suitable for a public park but that the funds available to them (£10,460) were inadequate to purchase, lay out and maintain a park. The most suitable land available was the 19a 2r 8p belonging to the trustees of the Gwyn and Young's Endowment. They were willing to sell it for £13,000. Clearly the Honourable the Society were approached to help fund the transaction. The Act states that the Irish Society had agreed with the Brooke Trustees that if the Corporation of Londonderry were to be willing and enabled to take over the Park when formed and laid out and provided that they should thereafter for ever maintain same that the Irish Society would make up the purchase price and pay for the laying out of the park provided that they should not have to provide a sum which exceeded £6,000.
The Act goes on to authorise and enable the Brooke Trustees to purchase the lands with the assistance of the monies from the Irish Society and without any requirement to retain any funds for maintaining the Park. Once the park was formed and laid out the Act states that it is to be transferred to the Londonderry Corporation and for ever maintained by them in perpetuity in accordance with the provisions of the Public Parks (Ireland) Acts.