Travel Report: Sefton Park, Liverpool.
Sefton Park, Liverpool.
May 2019. It was another sunny day in Liverpool. Hence Steppers and I knew we had to take full advantage with a visit to the city’s historical and much-loved Sefton Park.
This gorgeous green space began life in 1867 when The Liverpool Corporation purchased it from the ludicrously wealthy Molyneux family, the Earls of Sefton. They had acquired the park from the crown, who’d kept it as a grounds for royal deer.
The Liverpool Corporation decided to hold a grand competition where designers could submit their entries for how the new Liverpool park should look. Eventually, a duo of French (Edouard Andre) and English (Lewis Hornblower) architects got the nod.
The park opened its doors in 1872 with a cricket ground and a lake for rowboats among its main features. Prince Arthur, Queen Victoria’s third son, was on hand to cut the ribbon. “This public park is for the health and enjoyment of the townspeople” he declared.
Since those early years, the city council has added fountains, boathouses and statues. Moreover, the park features tennis courts, football pitches, a bowling green and a jogging circuit.
Above all though, it stands simply as a peaceful, green oasis from which Liverpudlians can come to escape hectic city life.
Sefton Park, Liverpool.
It didn’t take me long to sniff out a minor but very cool Beatles spot. According to several local historians, this old Victorian bandstand is where John Lennon’s mother Julia Stanley used to meet up with Alfred Lennon while they were dating in the late 1920s.
Furthermore, both John and Paul spent hours playing in the park as children, though they never actually met as kids. It’s likely both future Beatles hung out at the bandstand too, as it was (and still is) a popular spot for live music.
From the many statues we saw, I particularly liked the one of William Rathbone V, who served as Mayor of Liverpool In the late 1830s.
One of the city’s most celebrated politicians, Rathbone worked tirelessly alongside Kitty Wilkinson, the so-called Saint of the Slums, to establish public baths and washhouses in reaction to the great Cholera epidemic of 1832. He also played a key role in providing financial relief during the great Irish Famine of the 1840s.
What to See & Do, Liverpool.
Rathbone’s statue stands in a quiet corner of the park and is a popular reading spot. The perfect place, apparently, to settle down with that Johan Cruyff biography you’ve been meaning to start.
My favourite part of our visit came at Palm House, a stunning, octagonal, iron-framed glass conservatory. Opened in 1896 as a plant house, the building was a gift to the city from the millionaire newspaper businessman Henry Yates Thompson.
Designed by the famed builders Mackenzie and Moncur Ltd, a walk around the exterior reveals a statue placed at each corner angle. Showcasing the world’s great explorers, scientists and gardeners, the collection includes the likes of Captain Cook, Christopher Columbus, Darwin and Carl Linnaeus.
Palm House sustained heavy damage from bombing during The Liverpool Blitz in 1941 and wasn’t properly restored until the end of the decade. Unfortunately, the building fell into near total decay in the 1980s before finally being brought back to its former glory in 1993. Courtesy of National Lottery funding to the tune of £3.5 million!
Much of this investment went into the hugely impressive three-tiered dome, which looks particularly splendorous on an afternoon like this, with blue skies and sunshine streaming in through the palm trees.
Sefton Park, Liverpool.
Like Sefton Park itself, entrance to Palm House is free, though they do accept donations at the door. I was more than happy to drop a pound into their box, while you can also help out by grabbing a drink and a bite at their little cafe. Which is exactly what this local artist did prior to starting work on a sketch of the dome.
There are a handful of cosy cafes in Sefton Park. Steppers and I grabbed lunch at the tiny Sefton Park Cafe, which has outdoor seating by the lake. I’m pleased to report that the coffee was decent and the crumpets suitably buttery and cheesy.
A shout out goes to the excellent waitress that day. She remained so cheerful, despite the fact that she was absolutely rushed off her feet and running the entire operation solo.
Sefton Park is open twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. For more info take a look at their website.
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