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Sefton Park.
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Copyright:Lee Thompson, April 2004 Email: Lee@UKProfessionals.com

The land now occupied by Sefton Park is one of the last reminders that the area was once open countryside. The settlements of Toxteth and Smithdown can be found mentioned in the Doomsday book of 1086. The place names indictae that the age of the setllements was much older, with Toki Staith thought to be Viking in origin, probably 9th Century, meaning landing place of Toki and Smithdown meaning 'smooth hill' and thought to be Anglo-Saxon in origin. In the 13th Century King Edward I enclosed both areas into a deer park to be used for royal hunting. Toxteth was sold by the crown to the Earl of Derby in 1592 who turned the area into farmland and sold the land in 1604 to Sir Richard Molyneux of Sefton, whose family became the Earls of Sefton in 1771.

The area remained rural until the early 19th Century when the rapid expansion of Liverpool began to encroach on the area. In the 1860's there was a demand for public parks to provide open green spaces to fight against the increasing urban sprawl. To this end Parliamentary powers were obtained in 1864 to enable the purchase of land for the laying of several parks in Liverpool, including Sefton Park.

The Palm House.

Above: The Palm House is one of many ornamental buildings that give the park its character.

Sefton Park was by far the biggest of the planned new parks in Liverpool, with 387 acres of land purchased, of which 113 would be used for the building of houses around the external ring of the park.

Upon completion of the purchase Liverpool Corporation announced a public competition for the parks design, with a first prize of 300 guineas. The winning design was submitted by Parisian Edouard André and local architect Louis Hornblower. Edouard André had previously designed the Tuieries Gardens in Paris and had been a pupil of Alphand, a great landscape gardener for Napolean III. Louis Hornblower had previously been involved in the design of park features such as gates, bridges and buildings at Birkenhead and Princes Park.

The Fullwood Lodge.

Above: Fulwood Lodge, near to Ullet Road was designed by local Liverpool architect Louis Hornblower.

The Statue of William Rathbone.
Above: A statue of William Rathbone V, a member of the famous Liverpool family, occupies a prominant position in the Park
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The Parisian influence of Edouard André can be seen in the circles and ellipses of the parks drives, which have been influenced by the design of the smaller parks of Paris. André's design also catered for Victorian tastes and included a Cricket Pavilion, a Crouquet lawn and Archery field, an aviary and apiary, a pavilion for the sale of childrens toys, an aquarium for aquatic planets, a semi-circular summer house, a swan hut, cast-iron fountains, a sheep pen, arbours for tea parties, a music pavilion and a restaurant. The lakes and connecting streams were to run the lengths of the two natural valleys that intersected the park and were to lead into a 5 arce boating lake which had a landing stage and boating house.

The park was completed and officially handed over to the public in 1872, however even after this date developments were still occurring in the park. The iron bridge near the Queens Drive entrance was not completed until 1873, while the Palm House was not completed until 1896.

The Palm House, now listed as a Grade 2 building of architectural and historic interest, was designed by architects McKenzie and Moncur, and was a gift from Henry Yates Thompson at a cost of £12,000. The Palm House is 100 feet wide and 70 feet high, consisting of an iron frame supporting a glass dome similar in style to The Crystal Palace and the Palm House in Kew Gardens in London.

The Palm House and the park in general fell into disrepair in the 70's and 80's. However in 2000 the Palm House, having received a Heritage Lottery Grant, was restored to full glory. Meanwhile the rest of the park is undergoing continued renovation.

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