Memorial Park - Fleetwood
This was a Heritage Lottery Funded project to interpret this historic park. We produced signage that was in keeping with the restoration and material suite. Our role was develop the stories of the park for local people.
Fleetwood is a unique place and Memorial Park embodies the history of its development.
Before the 1830s the area was coastal dunes managed as a rabbit warren, probably from East Warren House, which would become related to the park. Local landowner Sir Peter Hesketh Fleetwood conceived a new, planned town which would be an attraction in its own right and a stopover for travellers arriving by train to catch a boat to Scotland. The streets were laid out in 1836 by one of the leading architects of the day, Decimus Burton. Burton's design was formal with streets, axes and views radiating out from the Mount, and zoned development into areas for accommodation, recreation and industry. Fleetwood is Lancashire's first modern planned town.
By 1885 East Warren House had been redeveloped into the Warrenhurst estate, with a gentry villa, formal and kitchens gardens, and its adjoining land for sale in plots to housing developers, exploiting the westwards expansion of the town. Most of the land in Fleetwood had been owned by Sir Peter, and was subsequently bought by the Fleetwood Estate Company (FEC); since it owned all the surrounding land, FEC eventually bought the Warrenhurst estate in 1898. In 1900 the FEC itself was bought by a businessmen from Manchester forming Fleetwood Estate Ltd (FEL), of which David Abercrombie was the chairman. The architect Tom Lumb was also a director and in 1902 he designed the Warrenhurst Park commercial pleasure grounds on the land for FEL. The grounds had a grand entrance aligned with Burton's street layout, recalling the more famous Raikes Hall pleasure grounds at Blackpool, and comprised a sinuous boating lake surrounded by planted walks, cricket ground, tennis courts and pavilions.
After World War I the Fleetwood Heroes' Fund Committee was formed in 1918 by Fleetwood Urban District Council (FUDC). The committee fundraised and bought the pleasure grounds from FEL in 1921 to create a public park as a living memorial to the fallen of the town. At the same time the Fylde was enjoying a period of growth. FUDC were planning the expansion of the town; as the principal landowner and a development company FEL were very involved. FUDC engaged as their advisor David Abercrombie's brother Patrick who was Professor of Civic Design at Liverpool University. Fleetwood is an early example of his work; with his post-World War II planning projects, especially for London, he was to become the foremost town planner in the country. His 1925 town planning scheme for Fleetwood combined the current Garden City principles of lower density housing and ample green spaces, with a formal layout of axes, radii, views and zoning of uses. This approach of Patrick Abercrombie's may well have been inspired by the earlier planning of Fleetwood by Decimus Burton; Abercrombie continued to use it and it became very influential, lasting until the 1970s.
1925-1932 is the principal period of design and development of the park. In 1925 proposals and plans for it were published in the Fleetwood Chronicle; Councillor Atkinson Chair of the FUDC Planning Committee envisaged the park from the outset as an inter-generational project, involving the school children of the town with fundraising, tree planting and after-care. Patrick Abercrombie produced the layout for the park in 1925 using axes, radii and views, as for the wider town. It was intended that the park would form the new civic centre of Fleetwood with a town hall on the site of Warrenhurst House and other public buildings. The main hub or node and proposed town hall were aligned with the existing entrance arch to form the main axis of the park. In 1925 it was also decided that the main hub of the park would be the most suitable location for the proposed town war memorial.
New iron gates by the eminent company HH Martyn were installed in the main entrance arches. HH Martyn made the gates at Buckingham Palace, Marble Arch and Liverpool Cathedral, and supplied bronze panels similar to those at the park for the Menin Gate at Ypres. On Armistice Day in November 1925 the first half of a remembrance tree avenue was planted by children related to the fallen. The following November saw the official opening of the park which was renamed Memorial Park, with the opening of the new gates and planting the second half of the avenue. A year later the war memorial by the well-known Liverpool sculptor Herbert Tyson Smith was unveiled. Local architect Bertram Drummond was responsible for the design of the memorial platform and surrounding area. In 1930 Alexander Edwards, formerly an assistant curator at Kew, was appointed as Parks Superintendent. He was responsible for completion of the landscape of the park, the rose garden, rock and water garden and bowling greens; 1931 saw the first bowls tournament and in 1932 the pond and rock garden opened to local acclaim. Edwards established a large council nursery in the park which supplied the many plants for bedding and floral decorations necessary for a seaside resort at the time.
The layout of the park did not change greatly after this period. A strip of land was added on the western boundary and the garden of Warrenhurst was gradually incorporated. The town hall was not built on Warrenhurst, but a football ground was on the line of the western avenue, thereby creating a diversion in this axis. After World War II Tyson Smith added more names of the Fleetwood fallen to the base of the war memorial drum and vases. Following local government re-organisation in 1974 the nursery glasshouses were removed and replaced by raised beds. As revenue funding reduced so did maintenance standards, and labour-intensive flower and herbaceous beds were lost. Railings replaced the original concrete boundary fence in the 1990s. In the last decade with recent conflicts and loss, there has been renewed interest in the war memorial and remembrance service. Also a natural play area has replaced the raised beds and the rose garden has been refurbished.