||This article may contain original research. (September 2011)|
|Location||Sefton Park, Liverpool|
|Area||235 acres (0.95 km2)|
|Created||20 May 1872|
|Operated by||Liverpool City Council|
|Status||Open all year round|
Sefton Park is a public park in south Liverpool, England. The park is in a district of the same name within the Liverpool City Council Ward of St Michaels, and roughly within the historic bounds of the large area of Toxteth Park. Neighbouring districts include modern-day Toxteth, Aigburth, Mossley Hill, Wavertree and St Michael's Hamlet.
The park is 235 acres (0.95 km2) in area and has been designated a Grade II* Historic Park by English Heritage making it one of three such parks in the city, along with the nearby Princes Park and Anfield Cemetery.
The site of the park was once within the boundaries of the 2,300-acre (9.3 km2) Royal Deer Park of Toxteth which became "disparked" in 1591. The land eventually came under the control of the Earl of Sefton.
As Toxteth rapidly grew, the green fields and woodland of Toxteth Park grew into narrow streets and courts packed tiny uninhabitable houses where the air was stagnant, there was little or no sanitation and running water consisted of one tap in the middle of the court. At the same time there was demand for large aristocratic mansions in the South of Liverpool. In 1862 the Borough Council Engineer recommended a site for this development. An Act of Parliament[which?] in 1864 permitted corporations to borrow sums of money up to half a million pounds to be repaid over thirty years. This allowed steps to be taken towards the purchase of land for Sefton Park. In 1867 the Council purchased 375 acres (1.52 km2) of land for the development of the park for £250,000 from the Earl of Sefton.
Even though it was recognised by politicians that clean, fresh open spaces were now regarded as necessity there was an outcry from the public that £250,000 was extravagant and wasteful. As with neighbouring Princes Park plots of land on the perimeter were sold for housing which helped in the funding of the layout of the park.
Soon after, a European competition was launched to design a grand park. 29 entries were received and the competition was won by a French landscape architect Édouard André with work on the design also undertaken by Liverpool architect Lewis Hornblower. The park was opened on 20 May 1872 by Prince Arthur who dedicated it "for the health and enjoyment of the townspeople".
The Park design is based on circular, oval and marginal footpaths, framing the green spaces, with two natural watercourses flowing into the 7-acre (0.028 km2) man-made lake. Hornblower’s designs for the park lodges and entrances were elaborate structures, and included follies[specify], shelters and boathouses. The parkland itself included a deer park and the strong water theme was reflected by the presence of pools, waterfalls and stepping stones. The Park, its exclusive villas and ornamentation reflected the grandeur of the City during its mid Victorian period when Liverpool was the second city of the Empire.
The perimeter road's outer edge is lined with Victorian buildings constructed to around 1890, and Edwardian houses. Additional development of the park continued with the construction of the iron bridge in 1873.
A major park improvement programme was undertaken in 1983 prior to International Garden Festival.
 Sporting uses
Sefton Park Cricket Club moved their ground to the park in 1876 and WG Grace was amongst the three Gloucestershire players who made up a "South of England" team who won there in 1877. The park also has tennis courts, a bowling green, a popular jogging circuit and local league football is a regular weekend fixture. It is also used every November to hold the European Cross Country Championships trial races for the British team.
 Entertainment uses
The park has also been a site for Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra's summer pops season, Africa Oyé and the Moscow State Circus. Bands have also played at the park in the 80s such as Echo and the Bunnymen.
In 2005 the park received provisional approval for a major £5 million Heritage Lottery funded renovation project which involves the refurbishment and improvement of many of the park's features. The work began in June 2007 was expected to be completed in summer 2009. This work was very controversial with some regular users of the park as it included destroying trees and breeding sites of birds. The work led to the formation of the "Friends of Sefton Park" campaigns.
 Notable features of the park
 Palm House
This is a Grade II* three-tier dome conservatory palm house designed and built by MacKenzie and Moncur of Edinburgh which opened in 1896. Liverpool millionaire Henry Yates Thompson (the great nephew of the founder of Princes Park) gifted £10,000 to the city to fund the construction. It was designed in the tradition of Joseph Paxton's glass houses and was stocked originally with a rich collection of exotic plants.
During the Liverpool Blitz of May 1941 a bomb fell nearby and shattered the glass. It was reglazed in 1950 at a cost of £6,163 with costs covered by War Restoration funds. A period of decline and deterioration culminated in its closure in the 1980s on grounds of safety.
In June 1992, a public meeting was held highlighting the dereliction and calling for restoration. A petition was presented to the City Council by what had become the "Save the Palm House" campaign. A public fund raising campaign was established, with a "sponsor a pane" programme generating over £35,000. This led directly to the conversion of Save the Palm House into a registered charity (Friends of Sefton Park Palm House). The Palm House was partially repaired and reopened in 1993. It was fully restored at a cost of £3.5 million with Heritage Lottery and European funding and reopened in September 2001. It is now both a popular visitor attraction offering free and paid-for public entertainment and is venue for hire.
The eight ‘corners’ of the Palm House are marked by statues by the French sculptor Leon-Joseph Chavalliaud. These include explorers Captain Cook, Christopher Columbus, navigators Gerardus Mercator and Henry the Navigator, botanists and explorers Charles Darwin, Carl Linnaeus and John Parkinson and landscape architect Andre le Notre. Inside the Palm House are two sculptures by Benjamin Edward Spence "Highland Mary" and "The Angel's Whisper".
The grounds of the Palm House feature a statue of Peter Pan which was one of the last works by the British sculptor Sir George Frampton. This is Grade II listed and is a replica of a similar statue given as a gift for the visiting public to Kensington Gardens by author J.M. Barrie. The statue was donated to the park by George Audley in 1928 and was unveiled in the presence of Barrie. It originally sat in Sefton Park but was damaged in the 1990s. It was restored at Liverpool's Conservation Centre, and returned to the more secure location of the Palm House's grounds in December 2005.
 Shaftesbury Memorial and Eros Fountain
This is Grade II listed and situated in the centre of the Park next to the cafe and former site of the aviary. The fountain, made from bronze and aluminium, was unveiled in 1932 and is a replica of a memorial to Lord Shaftesbury created by Sir Alfred Gilbert in London's Piccadilly Circus. It was restored in 2008 with a new aluminium Eros statue replacing the original which now resides in Liverpool's Conservation Centre.
An artificial cave also known as Old Nick's Caves. This was built around 1870 by French rockwork specialist M. Combaz. It includes a waterfall which flows into a mirror pond.
 Other statues and facilities
The park features a Gothic drinking fountain and several prominent statues including a memorial to William Rathbone V by Sir Thomas Brock unveiled in 1887, and an obelisk, the Samuel Smith memorial located by the principal entrance to the Park. There is a bandstand, popular since the Victorian era, which is said[by whom?] to be the inspiration for The Beatles' song Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band. An iron bridge was opened in 1873 which spans the Fairy Glen. There is a cafe in the centre of the park called the Aviary Cafe and a pirate themed children's play area opened in 2009.
 Former features of the park
An aviary was introduced to the park in 1901 and was home to many exotic birds. After falling into disuse in the 1990s, the old cages were removed during the restoration project and replaced with a new curved viewing point overlooking new outside planting.
 The Concert
The park also boasted a small open-air theatre – "The Concert" – near the café which featured singers, magicians and talent contests to entertain local children during the summer holidays. This was removed in the 1970s.
 Boating lake
The lake was a popular venue for boating until the 1970s, with a jetty and boat hire facilities. The lake was totally emptied in 2007 for the extensive renovation work and all of the fish (which included specimen weights of carp, tench, roach, pike and golden orf) were caught with large nets and sent to various locations across the UK. Following its restoration, the lake was refilled in 2010. Turtles have also been spotted in the lake.
There was a small pirate ship located in one of the lakes until the early 1990s when it was removed due to falling into disrepair.
 See also
- "Sefton Park". Liverpool City Council. Retrieved 9th Dec 2011.
- Down, Richard (2008-05-13). "Anger as work disrupts wildlife breeding season at Sefton Park". Liverpool Daily Post. Retrieved 2011-09-01.
- Liverpool City Council - Sefton Park
- Sefton Palm House
- Sefton Park and the Evolution of Urban Park Design in Britain
- Sefton Park's Peter Pan statue
- Pictures of Palm House
- Aerial Picture
- Sefton Park Cricket Club
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