Coordinates: Wavertree Playground, also known locally as The Mystery, was one of the first purpose-built public playgrounds in the United Kingdom. It is based in the Wavertree area of Liverpool, England.
In May 1895, a stately home called "The Grange" was demolished and it looked inevitable that the estate it was based within would be used as building for the increasing suburbs of Liverpool. Much to the surprise of Liverpool society, it was however announced that an anonymous donor had purchased the Grange estate together with some adjoining properties, and was presenting the whole 108 acres (0.44 km2) to the City of Liverpool.
The donor had levelled and grassed the area – eradicating the ornamental lake that was once a feature of the grounds – and suggested the name 'Wavertree Playground'. It was to be a venue for organised sports, and a place for children from the city's public schools to run about in, not a park for 'promenading' in the Victorian tradition. He expressed the hope that the City Council "might approve of giving it a fair trial for this purpose ... before appropriating it for any other use".[this quote needs a citation]
The mysterious donor's offer was accepted by the council; the playground was opened by the Lord Mayor of Liverpool amid great celebrations on 7 September 1895. There was a march past of 12,000 children, after which, the Daily Post reported, "the children were liberally regaled with cakes and milk". Juvenile sports, a gymnastics exhibition and Morris dancing followed, and finally "for upwards of two hours, the sky was brilliant" with a fireworks display watched by an estimated 60,000 people.
The new park was immediately nicknamed 'The Mystery'. At the time the press speculated that the donor might be Philip Holt — a shipowner who himself lived on the edge of Sefton Park — but this was neither confirmed nor denied. Local historian and resident Neil Carter described the park's nickname as "apt" as the local people often questioned the Council's lack of motivation in redeveloping the park for further recreational use and as such people tend to just use the park as a shortcut to other places.
A Liverpool Corporation day nursery had a building on the site on Grant Avenue but this was demolished about 1990.
In addition to the playground, the land is home to Wavertree Athletics Centre with many sports facilities including tennis courts, all-weather pitch, bowling green and athletic track with grandstand. Liverpool Harriers and Athletic Club have based their headquarters at this centre since 1990.
- Discovering Historic Wavertree, published by The Wavertree Society. Much of this article is based around content from this website.
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