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Lasting memorial to park's landscape designer installed

16 November 2022
Tree planted in honour of Birkenhead Park architect Joseph Paxton
Pictured (from left to right): Mayoress of Wirral, Duke of Devonshire, Mayor of Wirral, President of Friends of Princes Park, Katy Gardner and President of Friends of Birkenhead Park, Graham Arnold

As its 175th anniversary year of celebrations comes to an end, Birkenhead Park has installed a lasting commemoration to its landscape designer – and the designer of many of the finest public parks – Sir Joseph Paxton.

The 12th Duke of Devonshire, Peregrine Cavendish, joined Wirral’s Mayor, Cllr Jeff Green, in a ceremony at the park recently where a Chinese tulip tree was planted to celebrate the life and illustrious career of Joseph Paxton. The tree will have a stone plaque placed next to it, highlighting the significance of its presence in the park.

The commemoration was organised jointly by the Friends of Birkenhead Park and the Friends of Princes Park – situated in Toxteth, Liverpool. The Duke of Devonshire also planted a tree and plaque in Princes Park, which was another park designed by Paxton, as well as at his own Chatsworth House estate.

Sir Joseph Paxton was famously the head gardener at the Chatsworth estate between 1826 and 1858 – which remains one of the seats of the Dukedom of Devonshire – and this was where he learned and developed the skills he used in designing other public parks in Birkenhead, Liverpool, Glasgow and Halifax.

His fascination with greenhouses led to arguably his greatest commission, which was the design and construction of the Crystal Palace in Hyde Park, London, as part of the Great Exhibition of 1851.

The collaboration is part of the relationship the two Friends groups have built with the Chatsworth estate since the Duke visited Princes Park in 2014. Representatives from both groups then visited Chatsworth Estate at his invitation and the idea to shine the spotlight on Paxton’s work on Merseyside parks was born.

The Grade 1-listed Birkenhead Park is recognised as one of the UK’s foremost historic parks. It was the first municipally funded public park in the UK and the inspiration for the creation of Central Park in New York.

Like Princes Park, Birkenhead Park is a special place and a masterpiece of landscape design. Paxton created a place replicating the English pastoral countryside, while at the same time incorporating features such as lodges, bridges, and a boathouse.

Since it opened in 1847, Birkenhead Park has provided a much-needed haven for active recreation with its cricket clubs, a place for strolling and contemplating nature. Wirral Council, with the support of the Friends of Birkenhead Park, is currently seeking its inclusion in the UK’s Tentative List for inscription as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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