Work starts on £4-million restoration of historic park.

Victoria Park

Work started today on the long awaited £4-million restoration of Victoria Park in St. Helens.

Supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), work got underway when the Mayor of St. Helens, Councillor Geoff Almond made the first spade in the ground mark to mark the opening of the project.

First opened in 1886, the park’s popularity continued to increase over the years, unfortunately the 1980’s saw a gradual decline but thanks to four years of hard work from St.Helens Council, in partnership with Age UK Mid Mersey and the Friends of Victoria Park, Heritage Lottery Funds have been secured to help restore the park to its former glory and improve its visitor facilities.

The preservation of the park’s historic character will include the conservation of the original entrance gates and the restoration of the Grade II listed Gate Lodge that will provide a base for new visitor facilities and activities. The folly will undergo stabilisation work to prevent further deterioration and the pond will be fully restored with the introduction of wetland habitats.

At its peak the park was home to ten tennis courts, sadly today none of them remain but, thanks to the improvement works, two new courts will be reintroduced in the park. The park will also see its first traditional bandstand designed around the original plans.

Works will also take place on the now Age UK owned walled garden and Orangery that, when fully restored, will once again be open for the public to enjoy. The project will also see many other improvements including footpath works, improved lighting and a fitness trail.

Council Leader Marie Rimmer welcomed the start of the work, adding: “Victoria Park has a special place in St Helens peoples memories, especially my own. Anyone who has grown up in the town, has a story to tell about what it means to them. For me, it was the swings, lake, ducks, tennis and bowls, the Queen’s seat, the Museum, the stuffed tiger and Miss Hook Head Cook. That is what makes this work we are starting today so exciting. Those experiences, those memories, are helping to start the cycle again, to be enjoyed by new generations.

It isn’t a scheme that will renew buildings and leave it at that. It will be a hub for new activities involving the community. It will offer new opportunities to all users of the Park, local schools and social enterprises, (which will add to the Park’s charms). I know how much this will mean to the community. As a Friend of Taylor Park, I have seen what renewal of Parks delivers, it adds such a lot to people’s lives. In my experience, they are a valuable way to improve health and well being. They are the green lungs of people, and offer the opportunity for leisure, sport, peace, heritage, culture, (in one place), and all on our doorstep.

Sara Hilton, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund North West, said:

“Parks enrich millions of people’s lives on a daily basis – providing room to relax and reflect – and it’s vital that we continue to value and protect them not just for ourselves but for the next generation. We at HLF are delighted to be supporting St Helens Council with their exciting regeneration plans for Victoria Park and are pleased to see work get underway. We know that the project, when completed, will vastly improve the park for the people that use it daily.”

Parks have sometimes been overlooked in recent years as a place to visit and enjoy for a day out with a picnic and frisbee in favour of the seaside or theme park, but they have once again become an integral part of how we spend our leisure time. During difficult economic times, locals and visitors alike are rediscovering the beautiful parks right on their own doorstep.

The Heritage Lottery Fund investment will help the Cou

ncil create a more aesthetically appealing and user-friendly environment for people to continue to enjoy for many more years to come.

The park is located on City Road, just 1km from the town centre, and will be open as usual during the development works so please come along and enjoy the current facilities including the skate park and play areas or just saunter around taking in the beautiful surroundings.

The main project will start in March 2013 and should be completed in Spring 2014.

Over the coming weeks contractors William Birch & Sons Ltd setting up in the park. At first it may seem that there’s not much work going on, that’s because the Orangery in the Mansion House grounds will be the first to be rebuilt shortly followed by the historic Gate Lodge restoration.

Other partners include BLISS, Ibstock Cory Environmental Trust and the Mersey Forest

To find out more please visit the webpage, call St.Helens Council on 01744 676789 or email victoriapark@sthelens.gov.uk

Victoria Park Logo

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