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Great City Parks: Birkenhead.

Did you know that Merseyside’s Birkenhead Park, was the first major park in Britain to be created by an Act of Parliament and built at public expense? It was the brainchild of Councilor Isaac Holmes who was concerned about the health of the working people as industry grew in the area, and it was designed by Joseph Paxton in 1843. The Park officially opened in 1847 and was an immediate social success.

The idea of a 'people’s garden' was new, earlier town parks having been donated by wealthy philanthropists, so this leafy haven was actually an innovative and bold initiative at the time. The park was designated a conservation area in 1977 and declared a Grade I listed landscape by English Heritage in 1995.

Its main entrance is modelled on the Temple of Illysus in Athens, and its Roman Boathouse is also a notable feature. Stroll by the park’s two lakes and Swiss Bridge and check out the sandstone lodges at the three entrances, which each have a different style of architecture, Gothic, Norman and Italianate.

In 1850, American Frederick Law Olmstead, the designer of New York City's Central Park, visited Birkenhead Park as part of his European Tour and ‘…was ready to admit that in democratic America there was nothing to be thought of as comparable with this People’s Garden’. He incorporated many of the features he observed there into his design for the Big Apple’s massive park, transporting something of the English country landscape across the Atlantic.

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