A Chinese Tulip Tree for Joseph Paxton
On Thursday November 10th 2022, the Duke of Devonshire, visited Princes Park Liverpool, and Birkenhead Park, to celebrate Joseph Paxton, designer of both parks.
The Duke was accompanied by both Friends’ groups and the Deputy Lord Mayor of Liverpool and the Mayor of Wirral.
The 12th Duke of Devonshire planted a Chinese tulip tree in each park on Thursday November 10th to celebrate the life of Joseph Paxton, designer of both parks. The Duke was accompanied by the head gardener from Chatsworth Estate, Steve Porter. They were joined in Liverpool for the morning planting by The Deputy Lord Mayor, and in Birkenhead for the afternoon planting by the Mayor of Wirral.
The Duke planted a third tree at his Chatsworth estate, where Paxton was head gardener for many years from 1826-1858, and which itself owes much to Paxton’s brilliant work.
In 2022, Birkenhead Park celebrates its 175th anniversary this year. Princes Park was opened 5 years earlier and is celebrating its 180th anniversary. The Duke’s visit was hosted by the Friends of Birkenhead Park and the Friends of Princes Park. The two Friends groups have an excellent relationship, nurtured when, after the Duke’s last visit to Princes Park in 2014, both groups visited Chatsworth Estate at his invitation. Both Friends groups feel that this was a great opportunity to celebrate Joseph Paxton, who they feel has been under appreciated in Merseyside to date.
Princes Park, Grade 2* listed, in Toxteth, has developed from neglect in the 80s and 90s, to a vibrant focal point for families and communities from Liverpool 8 and beyond today. During the recent pandemic the park was a haven for both people and wildlife. While working as head gardener of Chatsworth Estate Joseph Paxton designed Princes Park, one of the first private parks in England to have a public space within it. The park has unexpected views and winding paths, characteristic of Paxton’s work.
The 6th Duke of Devonshire was a mentor and friend to Joseph Paxton. Paxton, a man of great vision, went on to design, with collaborators, Birkenhead Park. Later, in 1851, the Crystal Palace in London was amongst his many achievements. John Robertson worked with Paxton on the design of Princes Park and later Birkenhead Park, and his descendant is an active member of the two Friends groups today.
Birkenhead Park, Grade 1 listed, is one of the UK’s foremost historic parks. It was the first municipally funded public park in the UK, and the inspiration for the creation of Central Park in New York. Like Princes Park, Birkenhead Park is a special place and a masterpiece of landscape design. Paxton created a place replicating the English pastoral countryside, while at the same time incorporating features such as lodges, bridges, and a boathouse. Since it opened in 1847, Birkenhead Park has provided a much-needed haven for active recreation with its cricket clubs, a place for strolling and contemplating nature. Wirral Council, with the support of the Friends of Birkenhead Park, is currently seeking its inclusion in the UK’s Tentative List for inscription as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Both parks installed, in addition to the tree, a stone plaque commemorating Paxton, laid in the ground by the tree. Each park also have a Paxton Blue Plaque installed.
Deputy Mayor, Mary Rasmussen, unveiling the Joseph Paxton’s blue plaque in Princes Park, Liverpool
In Princes Park the Duke and Lord Mayor visited the proposed site for the new Mandela bridge to the island. Originally there was a Chinese bridge at this site, like the Swiss Bridge in Birkenhead Park. The new bridge will be modern and minimalist. Princes Park has become a place for remembering Nelson Mandela, and community organisation Mandela 8 is organising the island space and bridge work.
In Birkenhead Park the Duke and the Mayor of Wirral joined both Friends’ groups for a buffet in the Visitor Centre before the tree planting.