Preston Park, Brighton
|Preston Park, Brighton|
|Operated by||Brighton & Hove City Council|
|Status||Open year round|
|Public transit access||Preston Park railway station|
Preston Park is a park near Preston Village in the city of Brighton and Hove, East Sussex, England. It is located in Preston Park ward to the north of the centre of Brighton, and served by the nearby Preston Park railway station. Preston Park is also one of the wards of Brighton and Hove City Council. The population as of the 2011 census was 14,911.
It is one of Brighton's largest parks, with 63 acres (250,000 m2) of lawns, formal borders and rose gardens, bowling greens, tennis courts and a small pond. It was bought in 1883 by Brighton Corporation (then Brighton's local council) from Mr William Bennett-Stanford who owned the Preston Manor estate and had begun to develop the park as enclosed pleasure grounds. The costs of the purchase (£50,000) and initial layout (£22,868) were funded with a bequest of £70,000 from a local bookmaker, William Edmund Davies in 1879. The park was formally declared open on 8 November 1884.
The Brighton and County Polo Club, started by Lt. Col. Robert McKergow in 1904, was based in Preston Park. An earlier club, the International Gun and Polo Club, founded by George Mashall in 1874, used grounds in Preston, probably Preston Park, though the club itself was based in the Bedford Hotel.
The park remains green throughout the summer because of a non-drinkable underground water source, known as the Wellesbourne, which runs below Preston Park, London Road and The Level. The source dates back many centuries and is often referred to as Brighton's lost river. In 2000, after torrential rain, it rose and caused considerable damage.
The park is host to various annual events including the festival at the end of the Brighton & Hove Pride parade, the start of the Brighton Marathon, a circus during the Brighton Festival, a large starting event for the Take Part sports festival, and, from 20 April 2013, parkrun, a free 5km run open to all runners and joggers at 9am every Saturday.
Opposite the park, across the main London Road, is The Rockery—the largest municipal rock garden in Britain built up the side of a steep railway embankment. Various pathways and streams wind through its grounds. It was originally a wooded area which had been purchased along with the land used for the main park; it was landscaped into its present form in 1935 by Captain B Maclaren. Originally, the area was known as "The Rookery", referring to the tall trees in the former wood which were frequented by rooks. Over time, the name was modified into "The Rockery".
The surrounding neighbourhood is also widely referred to as Preston Park. It is distinct from the further outlying Preston Village.
Preston Park Velodrome, situated in the north-east corner, is the oldest velodrome in the UK having been opened on 12 May 1877, and is the oldest, working velodrome in the world. It was constructed by hand by the British Army and originally had a surface of cinders, replaced in 1936 by a tarmac surface. During the 1950s, Bank Holiday events would attract large crowds to watch riders such as Reg Harris race.
Unlike most modern velodromes which have two straights separated by a curved bend at each end, Preston Park velodrome has four straights of unequal length. A single lap is 579.03 metres (633.23 yards).
In January 2015 British Cycling issued a statement indicating that they had assessed the track as being unfit for racing, and that they would not sanction competition at the velodrome for the summer of 2015. Soon after, a 'Save Preston Park Cycle Track' campaign started. Local cyclist Rupert Rivett started a Facebook community page relating to the campaign which received over 4000 likes in two days. In January 2016 British Cycling announced that it would contribute £110,000 of the £160,000 needed to repair and reopen the track, with the remainder of the required funding coming from Section 106 financial contributions made by developers as part of planning applications.
In 2007, a statue of Steve Ovett by Peter Webster was stolen by a 44-year-old woman, of no fixed address. The woman was later arrested. Part of the statue, which had been sliced off at the ankle, was recovered but police believe that it had been sold to scrap dealers.
- "Preston Park Ward". Openly Local. Archived from the original on 7 September 2011. Retrieved 21 July 2011.
- "Brighton and Hove ward population 2011". Retrieved 13 October 2015.
- A Well Kept Secret: The Largest Municipal Rock Garden in Britain
- "Rockery history". mybrightonandhove.org.uk. Retrieved 10 October 2020.
- Horace A. Laffaye, Polo in Britain: A History, Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 2012, p. 24
- "Aid hopes for flooded farmers". BBC. 12 November 2000. Retrieved 29 November 2009.
- "About Pride". Pride in Brighton & Hove. Archived from the original on 18 July 2011. Retrieved 21 July 2011.
- "The Course". Brighton Marathon. Archived from the original on 7 July 2012. Retrieved 21 July 2011.
- "Weekend Events > Preston Park". Take Park Brighton & Hove. Retrieved 21 July 2011.
- "Cycling at Preston Park Velodrome". Brighton & Hove City Council. Retrieved 3 July 2012.
- "Tracks in the UK". Road Cycling UK. Retrieved 3 July 2012.
- Windsor, Richard (22 January 2015). "Preston Park Velodrome receives racing ban over safety fears". Cycling Weekly. Retrieved 19 March 2015.
- Save Preston Park Cycle Track. Accessed: 15 October 2015.
- Clarke, Stuart (11 January 2016). "British Cycling funding package set to save racing at Preston Park velodrome". Cycling Weekly. Retrieved 11 January 2016.
- Pilditch, David (5 September 2007). "Who did a runner with Ovett's statue?". Daily Express. Retrieved 24 March 2009.
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