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Approaching the 'Swiss Bridge' over the lake.
Birkenhead Park is a public park in the centre of Birkenheadmarker, on the Wirral Peninsulamarker, Englandmarker. It was designed by Joseph Paxton and opened on 5 April 1847. It is generally acknowledged as the first publicly-funded civic park in Britain.Paxton had earlier designed Princes Park, Liverpoolmarker, a private development.

History

It is widely accepted that, after visiting the park in 1850, American landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted incorporated many of the features he observed into his design for New Yorkmarker's Central Parkmarker. He wrote about the strong influence of Birkenhead Park in his book Walks and Talks of an American Farmer in England, and commented:
"five minutes of admiration, and a few more spent studying the manner in which art had been employed to obtain from nature so much beauty, and I was ready to admit that in democratic America there was nothing to be thought of as comparable with this People’s Garden".


Olmsted also commented on the "perfection" of the gardening:
"I cannot undertake to describe the effect of so much taste and skill as had evidently been employed; I will only tell you, that we passed by winding paths, over acres and acres, with a constant varying surface, where on all sides were growing every variety of shrubs and flowers, with more than natural grace, all set in borders of greenest, closest turf, and all kept with consummate neatness".


Olmsted described Birkenhead as "a model town” which was built "all in accordance with the advanced science, taste, and enterprising spirit that are supposed to distinguish the nineteenth century".

Other parks influenced by Birkenhead Park include Sefton Parkmarker in Liverpool.

Modern times

The park was designated a conservation area in 1977 and declared a Grade I listed landscape by English Heritage in 1995.

The Grand Entrance is the main entrance to Birkenhead Park. Within the Grand Entrance are the North and South Lodges, two Grade I listed buildings. The Grand Entrance and the lodges have been renovated and now house Express Comedy and Active Drama. The lodges are also the home of the Wirral Academy of Arts.

Birkenhead Park has recently been the subject of an £11.5 million renovation, funded jointly by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Wirral Waterfront SRB, Wirral Council, and the European Union via the Objective One programme. All of the paths have been improved, trees and shrubs have been planted, the lakes have been emptied, cleaned and reshaped and most of the original features have been restored to their former Victorian glory. Additionally, a modern glass-fronted building houses a coffee-house style café, Cappuchino's. Unusually for a park of this nature, it is possible for private motorists to drive around the outer circular road, to park freely anywhere along it, and to drive directly to the café.

References

Sources

  • Olmsted, Frederick Law. Walks and Talks of an American Farmer in England (reprinted University of Michigan Press, 1967)



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