Southampton's Central Parks' recognised by English Heritage10th October 2013
Southampton’s Central Parks have been awarded the prestigious Grade II* listed status on English Heritage’s Register of Parks and Gardens of special historic interest.
This upgraded listing recognises the parks’ national importance as examples of early municipal parks whose layout and design remains substantially intact, enhanced by notable monuments of social and historic interest associated with significant historical events.
Southampton’s Central Parks are made up of five open green spaces - Andrews (East) Park, Hoglands Park, Houndwell Park, Palmerston Park and Watts (West) Park, which cover 21 hectares in total.
The parks are held as a fine example of mid 19th Century civic improvement works, possibly influenced by J C Loudon, a botanist and garden designer, and one of the pioneers of landscape architecture who had been commissioned by the council to design the city’s cemetery (today known as Southampton Old Cemetery).
Grade II* status protects the Central Parks from any future development which would detract from their character or historic value. This includes development both within and outside the parks which would affect its setting.
The English Heritage website explains the reasons that Southampton’s Central Parks have been upgraded to Grade II* listed status. It states: “Although enhanced, the parks’ design is essentially unchanged from their original layout which developed in he 1840s and 1850s.
"The parks have numerous listed structures including the town’s war memorial (the Edward Lutyens-designed Cenotaph) and the Titanic Engineers Memorial... (and have) a rich time-depth, formerly having been part of the town’s Lammas lands."
Lammas lands were ancient medieval town fields which were cultivated privately for six months each year until 1 August (Lammas Day) when they were made available for common grazing. Other areas of the parks have interesting histories attached to them. East Park and West Park – including the site where the Civic Centre stands today – were the East and West Magdalens, which were lands granted for the leper hospital of St Mary Magdelene. The word ‘Marlands’ is derived from this.
As well as boasting a rich and fascinating history, Southampton’s Central Parks have an important role to play in the present, forming a green oasis in the heart of the city centre that is enjoyed by thousands of residents and visitors every year.
Today the parks are home to a mini-golf course, skate park as well as cricket pitches which have been in use since 1867. The Central Parks regularly host events including family and children`s activities, guided walks, arts in the park, the Mela and Ejector Seat festivals and regular music in the bandstand. Just this summer the revamped play area at Houndwell Park opened and was an instant hit with families from across the city.
Cllr Jacqui Rayment, Southampton City Council’s Cabinet Member for Environment and Transport, said: “Southampton’s parks and open green spaces are among the jewels of the region, so we are justifiably proud that English Heritage has recognised their significance by upgrading our Central Parks to a Grade II* listing.
“We have ambitious plans for the future of the city but this upgraded listing reminds us that our parks are a precious and historically valuable resource available to be enjoyed by everyone who lives in and visits Southampton – which means that any future developments would have to be sympathetic to this and preserve the spaces for future generations."
Graham Linecar, Secretary of Southampton Commons and Parks Protection Society, said: "We in Southampton are a bit inclined to take our splendid Central Parks for granted. This II* grading is a reminder of just how special they are, and how lucky we are that our predecessors 170 years ago had the foresight to prevent development of the town`s common lands and lay out the parks we enjoy today.
“Few towns or cities are as fortunate in having a chain of linked parks so close to their central shopping area. It`s a huge advantage which we`re inclined to under estimate. The popularity of the newly improved children`s play area in Houndwell Park shows how much residents and visitors appreciate parks in close proximity to the main shopping area. The future attractiveness of the City Centre depends as much on its Central Parks as it does on expanding its shopping provision."
The upgrading of Central Parks to Grade II* listed status follows the announcement in the summer that St James’ Park, Mayfield Park and Weston Shore had been awarded the Green Flag, identifying them as among the best parks and green spaces in the country.