Manchester’s Philips Park
A Park for the People, By the People, Since 1845
- Allan R. Ruff
15th June 2016
Manchester’s Philips Park was the world’s first designed public park in an industrial city, but it is more than the celebration of a single park. Unlike many historic private gardens that have been fully documented, the history of the ‘peoples’ park’ has been largely overlooked. The history of Philips Park serves to illustrate the story of all Victorian parks. It shows why they are important living documents of social history that reflect political and public attitudes, as well as changing recreational demands.
A unique collection of documentary sources have been used to show how the fortunes of the park have ebbed and flowed through time. At the height of its popularity in the 1860s, Philips Park was the recreation centre of its day; 20,000 people would visit on Tulip Sunday. The decline of parks coincided with changes in recreation, with the arrival of cinema, radio, public transport and later on private cars and television. In Philips Park, facilities and features were removed and others left to become derelict. Early this century a campaign led by the Victorian Society (the Garden History Society and the Landscape Institute) brought a brief renaissance of Victorian parks, supported by Heritage Lottery Funding. Philips Park was restored as part of the programme to make east Manchester ‘Sports City’. Today parks are once again in jeopardy due to cutbacks in Local Authority funding. This book provides a timely reminder of their importance as new ways are sought to ensure their future.