‘New life’ plan for one of the oldest public parks
Chris Burnett Associates (CBA) has been commissioned by Salford City Council to assist it with plans ‘to breathe ‘new life’ into Peel Park, Salford, one of Britain’s first public parks.
A comprehensive conservation plan from CBA will support the council’s bid for £2.1m of funding under the Heritage Lottery Fund’s Parks for People Round 2.
A practice specialising in the restoration of historic landscapes, Cheshire-based CBA’s input involved researching the history of the park and preparing a detailed conservation plan ‘as an essential precursor’ to the development of the landscape masterplan for the park being undertaken by Salford City Council’s in-house design team.’
Peel Park was opened in 1846 as the UK’s first public park, as part of a government-backed effort to combat the social problems associated with Manchester’s rapid industrialisation. Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel donated £1,000 to the scheme, in acknowledgement of his family’s ‘deep obligation’ to the industry of Manchester.
During the 20th century the park fell into decline and disrepair. The focus is now firmly on recapturing the 19th century spirit of the park and, at the same time, ensuring that it is relevant to the needs and aspirations of the local community, including the University of Salford.
The conservation plan makes extensive use of historic plans and photographs, including the park keeper journals, which, says CBA, ‘provide a picture of the day to day life of a Victorian Park’. By providing readily accessible information on how the park developed, and details on such things as plant species, planting layouts, tree cover and park furniture, the conservation plan has formed the basis of the landscape proposals currently being finalised, CBA explains.
The project also includes restoring the iconic tear drop and quatrefoil planting beds below the main terrace and the path network, which will reflect the 19th century layout, and an activity plan, is being developed to foster links with the local community. This includes a full programme of activities and events in association with Salford Museums and Art Gallery.
‘This pioneering public park brought recreation and pleasure to the people of Salford at a time of social hardship and was treasured by the local population,’ says CBA principal Chris Burnett. ‘The plans aim to breathe new life into the park and recapture some of its former glory.’
The final plans go forward to the HLF for second-round approval in February and, if successful, the restoration works will start in autumn 2015.