Adam & Eve in the Garden of Leeds

Local historian, Bill McKinnon, remembers a pair of local celebrities who resided in the Hyde Park area for forty years…

The garden that has formed the setting for the Victoria Memorial on Woodhouse Moor since 1937 used to be known as the the Adam and Eve Garden. It was named after statues of a young man and woman who had been nicknamed Adam and Eve. The garden is first mentioned – albeit in passing – in a Yorkshire Post article published on 5 August 1907 (“Foresters’ High Court in Leeds”) and is referred to by that name on numerous Edwardian postcards, such as this one:

According to a Mr Ben Wormald of Peel Court, Woodhouse, quoted in an article published in the Yorkshire Evening Post on 10 May 1935, the statues were placed on the Moor in about 1896:

“I am now 75,” said Mr Wormald to a Yorkshire Evening Post reporter, “and I should be 36 or 37 when I helped to remove them from the garden of what is now 151, Hyde Park Road, but in those days the road was called Henrietta Street. The man who lived in the house was a Mr Wainwright, broker, of Kirkstall Road, and he was friendly with Tom Spink, the head gardener at the Moor. Mr Wainwright told Mr Spink he could have the statues for the fetching. At that time I was a carting agent in Bolland Street, Woodhouse Street, and I did carting work for the Corporation. That was how I was brought into the business of removing the statues … How long they had been in Mr Wainwright’s garden, and where he got them from, I can’t say, and I don’t suppose there is anybody left old enough to know.”

The reason for the renewed interest in the statues was that, a few days earlier, Adam and Eve had gone missing…

“Adam and Eve have left their Eden,” reported the Yorkshire Evening Post on 6 May; “one of the twain was found badly smashed, and was taken from the Moor into the care of the Leeds Parks Department. The companion went along too, and for that reason two pieces of statuary which have adorned the Moor for many years are no longer on public view.” The piece went on to ruminate on the origin of the statues’ nicknames:

Adam and Eve are male and female plaster moulds about 4ft 6in in height. How they came to be known as Adam and Eve is not clear, because Mr T.R. Trigg, Chief Officer of Leeds Parks, told a “Yorkshire Evening Post” reporter, they conform towards the shepherd and shepherdess types at one time so popular. There is a lot that is obscure about the statues, quite apart from the names they are known by. Mr Trigg thinks that simply by long association and usage the names Adam and Eve came to be applied to them. Where they came from, or how long they have been on the Moor are questions he is unable to answer. One employee of the Parks Department says he has known them for 25 years, but he has no idea what length of time they were on the Moor before that.

A few days later, a letter from John W. Moorhouse suggested a solution to the mystery of the statues’ real identities: 

Some years ago I was sitting on a form facing the statues when I overheard a conversation between the two Misses Smith, who at who at the time kept a private school near Woodhouse Moor, and they were saying how nice the statues of “Paul and Virginia” looked in their new coat of paint. I soon realised they were identifying the statues as the two figures in that French classic “Paul and Virginia,” and I think they were right. I never read of any dog in the Garden of Eden, but all lovers of the book remember “Fidele,” who found the children when they had lost themselves in the woods (Yorkshire Evening Post, 10 May 1935).

Jacques-Henri Bernardin de Saint-Pierre’s novel, Paul et Virginiewas published in France in 1788, and tells the story of childhood sweethearts living on the island of Mauritius (then under French rule). Northerner’s column in the Evening Post on 7 May 1935 explains some of the confusion:

I missed the faces of two old friends on Woodhouse Moor yesterday. Adam and Eve had gone and the Moor is the poorer for their absence. For as long as I can remember those two amiable statues have stood in an enclosed garden there, known, in consequence, to many generations of the Leeds youth as the “Adamaneve Garden.”

Adam, in a sort of hiker’s garb, his mild features somewhat obscured by numerous coats of paint, stood looking over his shoulder at Eve, twenty yards away, playing with a faithful hound, christened “Pinch-me” by the Adamaneve habitués. Incidentally, in the middle of this garden there once grew a castor-oil plant which I am told, was frequently – and pardonably – confused with the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

Well, as I say, I noticed yesterday that Adam, Eve and Pinch-me have gone from their old haunts. Eve, I hear, has been seen in Armley Park still playing with her faithful Pinch-me. Whether Adam is there also I don’t know, but I can see a sort of civil war arising when the inhabitants of Woodhouse learn of the theft. Like the Greeks after stolen Helen, they will sally forth against Armley in a fleet of a thousand tramcars to regain their Eve.

Postcard showing Woodhouse Ridge (left) and the Adam and Eve Garden (from Leodis.net)
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