Public parks emerged in the 1830’s to improve the health of the working classes living in the over-crowded conditions of the rapidly growing industrial towns. It was hoped that parks would reduce disease, crime, and social unrest, as well as providing “green lungs” for the city and areas for recreation.
Most of the land for public parks were either purchased by town councils
or donated as gifts. A number of parks were created to commemorate a special occasion, such as the Queen’s Jubilees such as Victoria Park (now known as Handsworth Park). Many Victorian parks
were designed by prestigious designers, Cannon Hill Park was designed by John Gibson, who worked as an apprentice on Birkenhead Park (the first public park) with Joseph Paxton and redesigned Battersea Park.
Public parks are ‘witness to the passage of time, to the shaping of our political, cultural, social and economic heritage’. However, difficulties have arisen in approaches to maintaining and conserving these landscapes. Over the last two decades many parks have benefited from funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Handsworth Park was able to be restored to its former Victorian splendour from grants from the HLF.
‘Public Parks’ by Hazel Conway describes the history of Britain’s municipal parks, from their origins to their features, and future in today’s society. Many parks within Birmingham have Park Friends, voluntary groups dedicated to the preservation and improvement of the parks: http://www.cannonhillpeoplespark.net/ / http://highburyparkfriends.org.uk/
- Highbury Park