How has our park changed and why?

How has our park changed and why?

How has our park changed and why?

1) Background information

After WWII, many public parks fell into decline because fewer people were visiting them, and therefore not seen as a priority for council expenditure. This was as a result of the following changes in leisure habits.
People no longer needed to go to the park to hear music. Radio and record players allowed people to listen to music at home. Consequently, bandstands were left to decay and were even removed in some parks. Others were only basically maintained, losing their decorative colour schemes under corporate colours.

Cinema was, by then, hugely popular, followed shortly by television in the home, providing people with alternatives to spending their leisure time.

Increased opportunities for leisure time generated a demand for more sports facilities that could not be accommodated within parks. Councils therefore had new priorities and many diverted funds from the management of parks to pay for these.

More and more people were able to afford cars, allowing them to travel away from their home town for days out. Also, the introduction of cheap package holidays enabled people to holiday abroad rather than at British coastal or country locations.

Before the post-war housing boom, many working class people had lived in terraces with only back yards. Throughout the country, new houses were being built with their own gardens in which people could spend their leisure time, including gardening.

In 1968, the Countryside Act led to the creation of the Countryside Commission which gave grants to create new country parks. These were usually sited on the outskirts of towns and were cheaper to maintain.
Parks suffered as a consequence of the increasing expense of their upkeep. To reduce costs, planting schemes became less elaborate, with fewer seasonal changes. This was less labour intensive and enabled staffing levels to be reduced. Park staff were absorbed into centralised teams, which were subsumed into larger council leisure and amenities section, and had to compete for maintenance budgets. As a result of these changes resident park keepers lost their jobs or their posts disappeared once they retired. Some park lodges were sold off; others were demolished.

A further factor in the decline of parks was the modernist influence in architecture. Town planners moved away from overly decorated features and surroundings. This was reflected in the maintenance of traditional parks, which many saw as old-fashioned. Instead, larger, uncluttered open spaces were preferred, which were, of course, more easily and cheaply maintained.

An additional problem for many councils had been the removal of park railings during WWII to support the war effort. This reduced security, leaving many parks vulnerable to vandalism and theft, providing a further drain on park budgets.

Cash-strapped councils recognised the land value of parks in or near to town centres. A few sold off fringes of their parks for lucrative development, using the proceeds to fund other services or developments.


How has our park changed and why?

2) Sources of Information

ldpost jan 30 1962 sefton park

Old issues of newspapers will report contentious stories about development plans for your park.

Image: © Liverpool Record Office

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Derelict buildings that provide evidence of past activities in your park.

Image: Derelict Building Durham Park © David Walmsley

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Street signs that show changes to the area around your park.

Image: Parkfield Road Street Sign © David Walmsley.

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Architectural features from past structures or buildings connected to your park.

Image: Gate Posts © David Walmsley

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Mystery features in your park.

Image: © Liverpool Record Office

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Remains of features that have been removed.

Image: Urinal base © David Walmsley.

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Details that children might overlook, such as the grooves in cobblestones at the entrance to the park. These were deliberately cut in order to prevent horses slipping on their smooth surface, since many rich people during the nineteenth century would have arrived at the park by carriage, especially for formal events.

Image:Grooves in cobbles © David Walmsley.


How has our park changed and why ?

3) Activities in school

Use maps to explore how the area around your park has changed. Compare your park’s original plan to one now. Prepare simple overlays that show changes.

Is your park still near to a major residential district? Has the geographic focus for the town centre shifted and how has this affected the park? How were the areas bordering your park used? Compare with today. Has the size of your park changed? Why?

Look at changes within your park. Record these changes on a large plan. Collect a series of images showing your park at different periods. Sequence them, looking at what has changed. Talk about the reasons why. Discuss how changes in jobs and leisure habits have affected your park. Explore why.


How has our park changed and why?

4) Activities during your visit

Look at how the area around the park has changed. Talk about how this impacted on the use of the park. Take digital photographs of the surroundings and compare them with old photographs back at school.
Identify features in the park that are no longer used. Talk about why. Look for evidence of features that have disappeared, such as raised mounds, hollows or empty spaces. Research what used to be there. Are there any features that children might want to change? Should some be relocated to another part of the park?

In small groups, children could ask older people, who also may be visiting the park, if they could talk about the park in the past. (An adult helper should make the initial approach and remain with the group throughout the interview.)

Obtaining resources

Your local study libraries and archives will be able to help. Some have education officers who can help find material. Most have microfiche and microfilm of local census records.

Contact the ‘Friends of the park’. They may be able to provide information and images or be willing to come into school to talk about their experiences or recollection.

Contact your local parks and gardens department, park ranger or park keeper for advice.

Contact your local history society for information (your local studies library should have contact details).

Contact your local museum for help.

Use the Internet to research information. Visit your local council’s website.

Place an advert in a local newspaper, parish newsletter or gazetteer for information.

Useful websites

www.parksandgardens.ac.uk
For background information about your local park. Many records include photographs.

www.heritageexplorer.org.uk
For free downloadable images of historic photographs of parks throughout the country. Also includes the extensive collection of historic postcards of parks photographed by Nigel Temple. Once you have registered, type in ‘gardens’ and the name of your town or city.

www.maps.live.com and www.multi-map.com
For free downloadable aerial views or maps.

www.old-maps.co.uk
For old maps around the country (fee payable).

http://www.historicaldirectories.org
For free extracts from local trade directories published for your area.

www.ancestry.co.uk
For census details (fee payable).