English Heritage’s Register of Parks and Gardens: Urban Parks Register Upgrade Project

English Heritage’s Register of Parks and Gardens: Urban Parks Register Upgrade Project

With 220 examples, municipal parks are one of the main types of designed landscape on English Heritage’s 1,626-strong Register of Parks and Gardens now part of the National Heritage List for England http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/professional/protection/process/national-heritage-list-for-england/. Most were created between the 1840s and 1860s - the great period of municipal park foundation - and generally retain good original landscaping, planting and park structures.

As with listed buildings, parks are divided between three grades: Grade I sites are of exceptional interest; Grade II* sites are particularly important, of more than special interest; and Grade II sites are of special interest, warranting every effort to preserve them.
Under English Heritage’s National Heritage Protection Plan (NHPP), thirty municipal parks registered at Grade II were identified for upgrading based on the criteria set out in the Register of Parks and Gardens Selection Guide: Urban Landscapes (English Heritage 2013). Twenty-eight of these have been upgraded to Grade II* (making a total of 42 at this grade), and two, Royal Victoria Park (Bath) and Sefton Park (Liverpool), to Grade I. Only one municipal park has been registered at the uppermost grade, and these two parks are of comparable quality, fully deserving this mark of exceptional interest.

Royal Victoria Park-BathRoyal Victoria Park, Bath © English Heritage

Royal Victoria Park, Bath, opened in 1830, was the first park in England to be named after the then Princess Victoria. It has been raised to Grade I as it is an especially early municipal park with its original design by Edward Davis, the City Architect, little altered. The park is enhanced by a large number of listed park structures and by rich planting beginning; the founders’ ambition was for this to be a major arboretum, and a Botanical Garden was added in 1839. The park also has strong group value as it is overlooked by the Grade-I listed Royal Crescent and lies within the Bath World Heritage Site.

The other park promoted to Grade I is Sefton Park, Liverpool, the design of which is essentially unchanged since its opening in 1872. Its designer, Edouard André, had worked on Paris’s parks, and was the first to introduce French park design to England. Sefton Park was and still is an important element of one of England’s great industrial cities, and was one of the parks designed to form a green belt around Liverpool. The park retains various 19th-century and later memorials and structures including the Grade II*-listed Palm House of 1896.