Cammell Laird backs campaign for Birkenhead Park to become World Heritage Site
Merseyside shipyard and marine engineering services company Cammell Laird has thrown its weight behind a campaign to have Birkenhead Park recognised as a World Heritage Site.
Acknowledged as the world’s first publicly funded municipal park, it was created and financed by the elected Commissioners for the Improvement of Birkenhead and designed by (Sir) Joseph Paxton. Work began in 1843 and the project was completed in 1846, however, the park’s opening was delayed for a number of months to coincide with that of Morpeth Dock, the start of Birkenhead’s new dock system.
More than 10,000 people attended when members of the public were allowed through the park’s gates for the first time on Easter Monday 1847.
“I am sure the whole Birkenhead community will support this worthy cause to put our town on the international stage.” – Tony Graham, Cammell Laird Chief Operating Officer.
Tony Graham, Cammell Laird Chief Operating Officer, said: “Cammell Laird is entirely supportive of the bid to achieve World Heritage Site status for Birkenhead Park.
“It’s a wonderful community resource and has been a source of enjoyment for many members of our workforce for nearly 175 years. While our company’s roots are a little older than the park itself, our links with the first publicly funded park in the world remain as strong as ever. I am sure the whole Birkenhead community will support this worthy cause to put our town on the international stage.”
John Laird, the forefather of Cammell Laird, became the first elected MP of Birkenhead in 1863. He played a critical role in the town’s development, including its gridiron system starting from Hamilton Square (with the largest number of Grade 1 Georgian houses outside London), the commissioning of the Mersey Ferry, and the adoption of a street tramway – the first example in Europe. The Laird shipyard became the town’s leading employer.
The Lairds were also directly involved in the development of Birkenhead Park. John Laird initially purchased some of the land on which the park was constructed. In 1868, land on the other side of Park Road North was made available for the building of Hamilton Memorial Church, and in 1882 a ‘New Recreation Ground’ for bowls and quoits was opened in Park Road North on land donated by William Laird.
While Cammell Laird is globally recognised for the building of ships such as the Ark Royal, Mersey Ferries, and most recently, the RRS Sir David Attenborough polar research vessel, Birkenhead Park has influenced the design of parks nationally and internationally. Most famously, it provided inspiration to the American landscape architect Frederick Olmsted who went on to design Central Park in New York.
Birkenhead Park was designated a conservation area in 1977, while in 1986 it was registered Grade I in English Heritage’s Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest.
Main image: Birkenhead Park, ©Wirral Council.