Sefton Park is a public park in south Liverpool, England. The park is
surrounded by a number of districts including Toxteth, Aigburth and Mossley
The park is 640 acres (2.6 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 Princes Park and St James Cemetery.
Open spaces and parkland were had always existed in the south end of
Liverpool. The site of the park was once within the boundaries of the 2,300 acre
Royal Deer Park of Toxteth which became 'disparked' in 1591. The land eventually
came under the control of the Earl of Sefton.
As the town 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 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 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
Soon after, a European competition was launched to design a grand park.
Twenty nine 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 on 20 May 1872 by
Prince Arthur who dedicated it "for the health and enjoyment of the
The Park design is based on circular, oval and marginal footpaths, framing
the green spaces, with two natural watercourses flowing into the 7-acre man-made
lake. Hornblower’s designs for the park lodges and entrances were elaborate
structures, and included follies, 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 impressive Victorian,
constructed to around 1890, and Edwardian houses. Additional development of the
park continued with the construction of the Iron Bridge in 1873.
The park had a gallops which led to it being nick-named "the Hyde Park of the
North" but was always referred to by locals as "The Jockey Sands".
A major park improvement programme was undertaken in 1983 prior to
International Garden Festival.
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 Team GB.
The park has also been a site for Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra's
summer pops season, Africa Oyé and the Moscow State Circus.
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 is
expected to be completed in summer 2009. This work was 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.
of the park
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 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.
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
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.
of the park
An aviary was introduced to the park in 1901 and was home to many exotic
birds. After failing into disuse in the 1990s, the old cages were removed during
the restoration project and replaced with a new curved viewing point which over
looks new outside planting.
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.
The lake was a popular venue for boating until the 1970s, with a jetty and
boat hire facilities. The lake continues to be a popular fishing location.
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.