Dr. A. B. Sykes – The Donor of duke Street park

By Reg Yorke – 26 January 2011

Any Formby resident will be familiar with Duke Street Park, but what they may not know is that some time in the 1930s, when it ceased to be a farm a builder wanted to develop that area with a mass of small houses. Living just opposite, at Ashurst, Dr. A.B. Sykes, then one of Formby’s senior GPs, negotiated the purchase of the land for himself and then presented it to the Urban District Council, on condition it would remain a park for all time. From that time, it has provided a marvellous site for the former open air Formby Show, the occasional circus and of course somewhere to play a few games, walk the dog, play bowls or tennis.

One of Dr. Syke’s sons, David who became an Aircraft engineer, visited Formby some years ago and presented the Society History Library with a copy of his autobiography “Aeroplanes in my Briefcase” which among other things contains interesting observations about life in Formby in the 1930s. 

One of Dr. Syke’s grandsons, Michael Sykes, who now lives in California and being interested in his family history, is trying to collect information about his grandfather. Dr. Sykes was baptised Arthur Barry Sykes at St Peter’s Church on 25 Jun 1876 the child of Benjamin Sykes and his wife Sarah. He died in 1962 but his place of burial is not as yet known.

The Ashhurst garden was about three or four acres and had been planted by Dr Syke’s father with about four hundred fruit trees. He served at sea in WW1 and started his practice with a pony, ‘Tink’, and trap, but he later had a very majestic car, a Belgian Metallurgique and later again a bull-nosed Morris Cowley, nick-named the ‘Patent Leather Boot’. Apparently, years later, it was still going. Sadly its wheels had wooden spokes and one of these rotted under the layers of paint. A.B. was proceeding down the road outside the house when a wheel came off and knocked an old gent off his bicycle. He was a patient who was reasonably forgiving. The car looked very sad on three wheels and had to be replaced by a Morris Oxford Coupe. Members of the Sykes family would now like to know a little more about Dr. Sykes. There are probably quite a few older residents of Formby who remember him and we would very much like to hear from them. Please phone or e-mail chairman@formbycivicsociety.org.uk drop us a line.