Sandy Irvine, from Birkenhead to Everest

We are delighted to announce that Professor Robert Lee has released his book on a detailed history of Birkenhead Park – Birkenhead Park: The People’s Garden and an English Masterpiece. This new book is the first critical, comprehensive history of the first publicly funded park, globally.

 

Birkenhead Park Book Cover

Professor Lee’s work establishes the significance through his research of the park, emphasising the how Birkenhead Park was a pioneer in the development of urban public parks, designed for use by everyone. Birkenhead Park was labelled “the people’s park” and the book further describes how irrespective of social class, ethnicity or age Birkenhead Park become the local green space for health and wellbeing, for all. Additionally, Professor Robert Lee’s book celebrates the creative genius and design skills present in Paxton’s original design of Birkenhead Park. His work identifies the Park’s significant contribution to the public park development and nineteenth-century landscape history on both regional and international scales.

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The mayor, his wife and friends of Birkenhead Park presenting the book

The book is beautifully illustrated with 60 colour images, drawing on a wide range of contemporary material and the professional skills of local photographers.

Order your copy from Liverpool University Press through this link.

Order now

The launch of Professor Robert Lee’s fantastic book was at Birkenhead Park visitor centre and was truly a beautiful event. With support from the Friends of Birkenhead Park and Liverpool University Press, Wirral Council and Birkenhead Park’s team were delighted to welcome attendees from across the country to celebrate Professor Lee’s exceptionally talented work.

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Book release presentations

Birkenhead Park: The People's Garden and an English Masterpiece Launch Event

Wednesday the 1st of May 2024 .

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Friends of Birkenhead Park presentation

Birkenhead Park: The People's Garden and an English Masterpiece Launch Event

Wednesday the 1st of May 2024 .

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A group socializing after the book event

Birkenhead Park: The People's Garden and an English Masterpiece Launch Event

Wednesday the 1st of May 2024 .

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.

Mayoress of Wirral, the Duke of Devonshire, Mayor of Wirral, and Presidents of Friends of Princes Park and Friends of Birkenhead Park

From left to right: Mayoress of Wirral, the Duke of Devonshire, Mayor of Wirral, Katy Gardner President of the Friends of Princes Park, Graham Arnold President of the Friends of Birkenhead Park

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 of Devonshire planting the Chinese Tulip tree with schoolchildren in Princes Park, Liverpool

The Duke of Devonshire planting the Chinese Tulip tree with schoolchildren in Princes Park, Liverpool

Joseph's Paxton stone plaque in Princes Park, Liverpool

Joseph Paxton’s stone plaque in Princes Park, Liverpool

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.

Chinese Tulip Tree at the centre of a yard at Chatswort estate

Paxton’s commemoration Chinese Tulip Tree at Chatsworth Estate

Chinese Tulip Tree on top of a mound at Chatsworth estate, people looking at it

The Friends of Birkenhead Park and the Friends of Princes Park at Chatsworth Estate, November 2023

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.

From left to right: Jimmy Ashcroft, Birkenhead Park's Head Gardner, the Duke of Devonshire and Mayor of Wirral

From left to right: Jimmy Ashcroft, Birkenhead Park’s Head Gardner, the Duke of Devonshire and Mayor of Wirral

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

Deputy Mayor, Mary Rasmussen, unveiling the Joseph Paxton’s blue plaque in Princes Park, Liverpool

Mayor of Wirral unveiling Joseph Paxton's blue plaque in Birkenhead Park

Mayor of Wirral unveiling Joseph Paxton’s blue plaque in Birkenhead Park

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.

The Duke of Devonshire welcomed by the Friends of Birkenhead Park at the park's Visitor Centre

The Duke of Devonshire welcomed by the Friends of Birkenhead Park at the park’s Visitor Centre

Learn more:

Friends of Princes Park

Friends of Birkenhead Park