"The Boathouse", alongside the park's lake
|Location||Birkenhead, Wirral Peninsula, England.|
|Created||5 April 1847|
|Operated by||Metropolitan Borough of Wirral.|
Birkenhead Park is a public park in the centre of Birkenhead, on the Wirral Peninsula, England. It was designed by Joseph Paxton and opened on 5 April 1847. It is generally acknowledged as the first publicly funded civic park in Britain. Paxton had earlier designed Princes Park, Liverpool, a private development.
Although not the first public park, Birkenhead was the first town to ask Parliament for the powers to use public funds to build a municipal park. 10,000 people attended the opening. It is widely accepted that, after visiting the park in 1850, American landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted definitely did incorporate at least some of the features he observed into his design for New York City's Central Park. He wrote about the strong influence of Birkenhead Park in his book Walks and Talks of an American Farmer in England, and commented:
"five minutes of admiration, and a few more spent studying the manner in which art had been employed to obtain from nature so much beauty, and I was ready to admit that in democratic America there was nothing to be thought of as comparable with this People’s Garden".
Olmsted also commented on the "perfection" of the gardening:
"I cannot undertake to describe the effect of so much taste and skill as had evidently been employed; I will only tell you, that we passed by winding paths, over acres and acres, with a constant varying surface, where on all sides were growing every variety of shrubs and flowers, with more than natural grace, all set in borders of greenest, closest turf, and all kept with consummate neatness".
Olmsted described Birkenhead as "a model town” which was built "all in accordance with the advanced science, taste, and enterprising spirit that are supposed to distinguish the nineteenth century".
Other parks influenced by Birkenhead Park include Sefton Park in Liverpool.
The Grand Entrance is the main entrance to Birkenhead Park. Within the Grand Entrance are the North and South Lodges, two Grade I listed buildings. The Grand Entrance and the lodges have been renovated and now house Express Comedy and Active Drama. The lodges are also the home of the Wirral Academy of Arts.
Birkenhead Park has recently[when?] been the subject of an £11.5 million renovation, funded jointly by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Wirral Waterfront SRB, Wirral Council, and the European Union via the Objective One programme. All of the paths have been improved, trees and shrubs have been planted, the lakes have been emptied, cleaned and reshaped and most of the original features have been restored to their former Victorian glory. Additionally, a modern glass-fronted building houses a coffee-house style café, Cappuccino's. Unusually for a park of this nature, it is possible for private motorists to drive around the outer circular road, to park freely anywhere along it, and to drive directly to the café. Most of the children's playground has also been updated.
The Swiss Bridge, a 23-foot pedestrian span of stringer construction built in 1847, is unique as being the only "covered bridge" of traditional wooden construction (similar to North American and European covered bridges) in the United Kingdom. It was modelled after similar wooden bridges in Switzerland.
- "The History of Birkenhead Park". Metropolitan Borough of Wirral. Retrieved 26 March 2008.
- Brocklebank, Ralph T. (2003), Birkenhead: An Illustrated History, Breedon Books, pp. 32–33, ISBN 1-85983-350-0
- Frederick Law Olmsted, Walks and Talks of an American Farmer in England (New York, New York: George E. Putnam, 1852), page 79.
- Olmsted (1852), page 79.
- "Birkenhead Park". Metropolitan Borough of Wirral. Retrieved 26 March 2008.
- "Express Comedy - Capital of Comedy". Retrieved 28 September 2007.
- "Lease of life for Merseyside's world famous park". eu&merseyside. Retrieved 5 April 2007.
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- Olmsted, Frederick Law. Walks and Talks of an American Farmer in England (reprinted University of Michigan Press, 1967)