Two photographs from a family album. Taken in May, 1899, they illustrate a probably typical outing to Stanley Park. The top photograph shows a busy boating lake with everyone dressed up in their Sunday best. The young man, possibly the photographer on a self-timer, poses with top hat and cane in the bottom photo.
I visited Stanly Park a few years ago, intending to take a few shots for a book on architecture. After only a few steps, I turned round and returned to the car having caught sight of a large group of young men with unfriendly-looking dogs hanging out around the delapidated, seemingly beyond repair. Not a place to wander with an expensive camera hung around my neck.
Forward to last Summer and what a change! The restoration of the pavilions, terraces and gardens have brought the park back from the brink. With a welcoming cafeŽ in the restored conservatory, the whole aspect of the park, overlooking the Mersey, is a revelation. Stanley Park was opened in 1870, two years after Newsham Park and two years before Sefton Park. Away from the salubious areas that allowed impressive villas to be built to offset the cost as was the case with both Newsham and Sefton Parks, Stanly Park was somewhat the neglected link in the chain of green spaces that the Victorians constructed to give the people of the town a taste of the countryside. In the wake of the cholera and typhoid epidemics of the 1840s and 50s, Liverpool had pioneered public parks and their survival and development is a magnificent part of our heritage which, as the photographs show, has been appreciated for the best part of 150 years.