A public park laid out in 1833-5 and improved by Edward Milner in the 1860s.
Reasons for Designation
Moor Park, Preston, laid out 1833-5 and improved by Edward Milner in the 1860s, is designated at Grade II* for the following principal reasons:
* Date: the park is an especially early example of a municipal park;
* Design: although enhanced, the park’s design is essentially unchanged from its C19 layout;
* Designer: Edward Milner, who in the 1860s enhanced the park and laid out two others in Preston, was a leading designer of parks in England;
* Historic interest: the first municipal park laid out by an industrial town;
* Structures and features: the park retains numerous features of C19 date;
* Planting: Moor Park retains much of its C19 planting.
In 1253 Henry III granted by charter to the burgesses of Preston, 324 acres of moorland. At the end of the C17 the land was used for horse racing, the course pegged out across the moor being in regular use until 1791. On 24 August 1795, a group of freemen of the borough met to discuss a complaint of encroachment on the moor which was increasingly being lost to industrial development. It was from this meeting that the proposal for the setting aside of the land as a public park evolved. In September 1833 legal steps were taken by the borough council towards enclosing a defined area of what remained of the moor, partly for housing development, but primarily to form a public park. This involved abrogating the bye-law whereby a small number of freemen still had rights of pasturage, and declaring that 'the land may hereafter be enclosed and managed in such a manner as the common-council or other persons lawfully entitled to administer the affairs of the borough may from time to time lawfully direct'. This initiative made Preston the first industrial town to create a municipal park.
The 'Plan of improvements on Preston Moor', published in the Preston Chronicle (1833), shows the boundaries and basic design of the site remain unchanged. The moor was drained at great expense to provide an open central area labelled 'Green Pasture' (let as grazing until 1865), lightly planted with trees and surrounded by a perimeter walk, serpentine along the northern boundary. A lake was formed towards the north-west corner of the site and Ladies' Walk (Moor Park Avenue) was laid out along the southern boundary.
The park was described thus by Charles Hardwick (1857):
'The Moor Park already possesses something of an ornamental character. The fine straight avenue, from west to east, called 'the ladies' walk', is adorned by plantations, and picturesque entrance lodges. The 'Serpentine Road', across the northern side of the moor, is likewise varied by some planting. A small lake and picturesque lodge also add to the variety and beauty of the park. Much, however, is yet required in the shape of landscape gardening before the corporation can be said to have carried out their original purpose. The air is very salubrious, and the situation admirably adapted to meet the growing wants of the town on the north. Even in its present condition, Moor Park is much frequented, and will doubtless, in a short time, become so general a promenade, that further additions to the planting and laying out of the ground may confidently be anticipated.'
During the Cotton Famine of the early 1860s, the Town Council commissioned Edward Milner (1819-94) to prepare a report on Preston's parks. This was part of a wider scheme to assist out-of-work cotton operatives by employing them to carry out public works, financial support coming from the Public Works Loan Commissioners. Milner submitted proposals in February 1864 and was subsequently invited to design and oversee the building of two new parks, Avenham and Miller Parks (qv), and to improve Moor Park. At Moor Park, Milner retained all the features of the original plan of 1833, adding roads across and round the site, enhancing the tree cover and plantings of ornamental shrubs and landscaping the north-west quarter of the site, including the addition of a rockery and cricket ground. The total cost of these improvements was £10,826 7s 9d and the park was formally opened on 3 October 1867, along with the Town Hall and Avenham and Miller Parks. Hewitson (1883) praised the bowling greens, the walks round the lake, and the flower gardens in the north-west corner, beyond the area used as a cricket ground. A 'very considerable portion of the centre' still remained in agricultural use in the 1880s.
Moor Park has significant archaeological interest, the principal western Roman Road linking the north and south of the country having run across the centre of the site.
LOCATION, AREA, BOUNDARIES, LANDFORM, SETTING
Moor Park occupies a 40ha (131 acres) rectangular site on the north side of Preston, to the south of Eaves Brook which forms the boundary with Fulwood. Blackpool Road, formerly Serpentine Road, marks the northern edge of the park, while Garstang Road and Deepdale Road run along the western and eastern sides respectively; Moor Park Avenue forms the southern boundary. The park is on very gently sloping ground, falling from south-east to north-west.
ENTRANCES AND APPROACHES
There are entrances at each of the four corners of the site, and also a little to the east of centre on the northern and southern boundaries. The West Lodge stands at the south-west corner of the park and the North Lodge is on the north boundary, adjacent to the north-west corner of The Serpentine.
GARDENS AND PLEASURE GROUNDS
A serpentine walk through perimeter plantings surrounds the open centre of the park, while a cross-walk roughly bisects it, crossing from the entrance opposite St Paul's Road to the south and passing to the west of the lake. Approximately in the centre of the site is a mid C20 pavilion, to the north-west of which is a C17 stone known as the 'starting-chair', said to have been a marker post of the earlier race course (Dr Crosby). The heart of the park is planted with the remains of several clumps.
The north-west corner, developed by Edward Milner in the 1860s, is landscaped with a series of paths weaving through a rockery with artificially undulated ground, and is crossed by a bridge constructed of vast blocks of Longridge stone. Also in this corner of the site is the early C20 observatory, to the east of which lie former tennis courts, which have been redeveloped into a multi-use games area.
In the south-west quarter and near to the southern boundary a set of bowling greens (present by the late 1860s), accompanied by a pair of mid C20 pavilions, project northwards into the open ground. East of them, but still to the west of the entrance from St Paul's Road, is a playground occupying the site of the mid C19 gymnasium.
A school situated in the north-east corner of the park lies within the site boundary although the buildings are excluded from the registered area. Immediately to the south of this is the site of the open air baths, opened in 1907 but now demolished. To the west of the school is a lake, The Serpentine, at the northern end of which is a viewing platform and shelter. There is rockwork at the southern end, but Milner's iron bridge which originally carried the perimeter walk across it has gone, and the southern tip of the water has silted up. Adjacent to the north-west corner of the lake is the North Lodge, to the west of which runs the north end of the cross-walk. A stone cross stands by the walk near the entrance on to the Blackpool Road.
The park also contains examples of Pulhamite rockwork, designed by James Pulham, including rocks which the bridges within the park rest on; a drinking fountain and the rocky tunnel and roadway.