THE HISTORY OF LIVERPOOL'S PARKS
Our November talk - reviewed by Rosemary Doman
Liverpool is outstanding in the quality and quantity of its parks: ten per cent of the city's area being public parkland. On 25th November, thirty-four members were taken on a beautifully illustrated and illuminating tour by Colin Twist. Colin explained that he used to work for the City Council, and had organised guided walks through the parks in 1984-94 before the present-day 'ranger' service existed.
Many parks were purpose built by the Council, starting with St. James's Mount (site of the present Anglican Cathedral) in 1767 - an unemployment relief scheme. The former quarry alongside later served as a cemetery, interring William Huskisson in 1830 and finally 57,773 others.
Three large parks were created by the Council in the 1860s, to provide recreational space for the vast increase in population which followed the Irish potato famine. Newsham Park was established in 1868 on land purchased from the Molyneux family. Two years later came Stanley Park, then in 1872 Sefton Park was opened, on a site purchased by the Council for one quarter of a million pounds from the Earl of Sefton. Its layout was designed by Edouard André and Lewis Hornblower, who won the competition prize of three hundred guineas.
Some parks are linked to famous Liverpool names or events. William Roscoe (slavery abolitionist) raised funds to gather plants worldwide, mainly of economic importance, for the 240 ft greenhouse of the Botanic Garden begun in 1802 on the corner of Myrtle and Olive Streets. In the 1830s the gardens moved to Edge Lane, and became public property ten years later. Queen Victoria opened the great Liverpool Shipperies Exhibition of 1886 in Wavertree Park, which had been established alongside the Botanic Gardens in 1850.
In 1918 the City Council acquired Princes Park, which - when privately owned by Richard Vaughan Yates - had been designed by Joseph Paxton primarily for the benefit of those who lived in the villas round the edge. The park still features James Pennethorne's beautiful 'sunburst' gates at the entrance.
Locally, Calderstones Park was acquired in 1902 for £43,000 from the McIver family, of the Cunard Line, and developed as a vast horticultural park. Its Victorian kitchen garden has been rated 'the best free garden in the country'! Our nearby Woolton Woods were once owned by Holbrook Gaskell, a chemical industrialist, but were opened to the public in 1914. There are hopes that its much loved cuckoo clock (originally installed in 1927) will soon be fully restored.
Altogether a brilliant talk, to which a brief note such as this does scant justice.