A Park Beyond The Dreams of Venice
On April 5, 1847, Birkenhead Park opened to,
"Great rejoicing and festivity, and in the evening there was a gorgeous display of fire-works.
The day at Birkenhead, and indeed partly at Liverpool, was observed as a holiday; and the workmen at the Birkenhead Docks, 2,000 in number, each received a day's wage. Later in the evening a ball and supper took place in the Dock warehouse”
Designed by Joseph Paxton, Birkenhead was the first publicly funded civic park and inspired New York’s Central Park.
Clippings from the Liverpool Mercury during the month of April that year show that Birkenhead was quickly becoming a bustling port city and, mindful that the people of the community who were the “source of all wealth and power” would appreciate the "accommodation and recreation”, the commons area, "overgrown with fern, and rough with prickly gorse [had] been converted into a magnificent park, beautifully laid out, and planted with every variety of shrubs and flowers”. The prickly gorse mentioned in that clip, now considered noxious, is a yellow-flowered shrub and member of the pea family.
The day of the grand opening, Lord Viscount Morpeth gave the commemorating speech gushing,
“We have seen something this day beyond even the dreams of Venice.
For instance, such an array of steamers as has today graced the Mersey, never could have been witnessed in Venice; and though perhaps a steamer may not be so picturesque an object as a gondola, I may yet remind you that…
Venice never could have sent forth a message which in ten days might reach those harbors and roadsteads of the new world."
In the first four days following the grand opening, the paper reported that Mr. Cooper had crossed the river and visited Birkenhead park, and 58,000 persons had done the same.
On April 23rd of this year, there will be a presentation hosted in conjunction with the Friends at Birkenhead Park. For over two years, plans have been developed to secure Birkenhead Park's listing as a World Heritage Site. The evening's presentations are intended to provide an opportunity to learn more about this process. Presenters include Professor Robert Lee of the University of Liverpool’s Department of History.