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Heaton Park

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Heaton Park

Heaton Park
Heaton Park, Manchester
Type Municipal park
Location Manchester, England
Area 600–650 acres (240–260 ha)
Created 1902 (1902)
Operated by Manchester City Council
Public transit access Heaton Park Metrolink station
Website Official website

Heaton Park, covering an area of over 600 acres (242.8 ha),[1][2][3][4][5] is the biggest municipal park in Manchester, England, and one of the largest in Europe. The park includes the grounds of a Grade I listed, neoclassical 18th-century country house, Heaton Hall. The hall, remodelled by James Wyatt in 1772, is now only open to the public on an occasional basis as a museum and events venue.[6][7]

Heaton Park was sold to Manchester City Council in 1902, by the Earl of Wilton. It has one of the United Kingdom's few concrete towers, the Heaton Park BT Tower.

The park was renovated as part of a millennium project partnership between the Heritage Lottery Fund and Manchester City Council at a cost of over £10 million.[8][9][8] It contains an 18-hole golf course, tennis courts, a boating lake, an animal farm, a pitch and putt course, a golf driving range, woodlands, ornamental gardens, an observatory, an adventure playground, a Papal Monument and a volunteer-run tram system and museum and is listed Grade II by English Heritage.[10][11][12] It has the only flat green bowling greens in Manchester, built for the 2002 Commonwealth Games.


Manchester Old Town Hall, King Street.
Old Town Hall Colonnade.

Heaton Hall had been owned by the Holland family since the Middle Ages. In 1684, when Sir John Egerton, 3rd Baronet of Wilton married Elizabeth Holland, the hall came to the Egerton family.[13] In 1772, Sir Thomas Egerton, 7th Baronet (later the 1st Earl of Wilton) commissioned the fashionable architect James Wyatt, to design a new home for his young family. Although Wyatt had already established a reputation for himself as an innovative architect, he was only 26 years old and Heaton Hall was his first country house commission.[14] Wyatt's neo-classical masterpiece was built in phases and was mostly completed by 1789.[15]

The park was originally laid out by William Emes in the style of Capability Brown.[15] It has long been used for public events such as Heaton Park races which were established by the second Earl in 1827. The races were run on a course on the site of the present day boating lake until 1839 when they moved to Aintree near Liverpool, now the venue for the Grand National.[16][17] During the 19th century when the railway to Bury was being laid, it stopped short of Heaton Park, as Lord Wilton was not prepared to see his estate disfigured by a railway.[18] As a compromise the line was run under the estate in a tunnel and a railway station opened adjacent to the Whittaker Lane/Bury Old Road entrance in 1879 (now Heaton Park Metrolink station). Consequently, the decision by Lord Wilton to put the hall and park up for sale was greeted with dismay, especially when it became known that the site was being eyed by a property developer. A pressure group was formed to persuade Manchester City Council to purchase it as a museum and municipal park. Alderman Fletcher Moss, a prominent antiquarian was a notable influence in this movement. The park was purchased and opened to the public in 1902. Unfortunately, the council was not prepared to purchase the contents of the hall and so the furniture and paintings were sold by auction. The hall was considered by the council to be of little architectural or historical significance, and the saloon was initially used as a tea-room.[19] The city council used the hall as a branch art gallery for many years, but eventually the architectural and historical importance of the building was realised. A major restoration programme brought the state rooms back to their original appearance, and period furniture was obtained to furnish them.[19] Some of the original pieces were recovered from store or purchased at sales. Unfortunately, the exterior of the hall is still in a bad state of repair with crumbling stucco, peeling paintwork and boarded-up windows. It is hoped that this will eventually be rectified with further grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The Manchester Pals used the park as a training depot during the First World War, and several hutted camps were built. The park was also used as the site of a Royal Air Force depot in the Second World War.

Manchester Council later used part of the north side of the park for the construction of a large gravity feed reservoir, employing a contractor's railway from Whitefield railway station. This work was interrupted by the First World War, and only completed in the 1920s. A municipal golf course was also laid out, and a large boating lake excavated. The former facade of the first Manchester Town Hall on King Street was re-erected as a backdrop to the lake.

During the Second World War, two "prefab" housing estates and an infants school were built in the south of the park, the houses providing much-needed homes until they were demolished in the 1960s.[20] The school building was used by Manchester City Council until 2012, when it was demolished.

Heaton Hall

View of Heaton Hall.
Statue of a lion at the south entrance.

The hall, has been a Grade I Listed Building since 1952[12] and has been called "the finest house of its period in Lancashire".[15] It is built of sandstone and stuccoed brick, in a traditional Palladian design with the entrance on the north side and the facade on the south. The landscaping was designed to make the most of the uninterrupted views of the rolling hills across to the Pennines. An important feature of this was the ha-ha, used to keep the grazing animals, so important to the landscaping, away from the formal lawns, with a barrier that was all-but invisible from the house.

The state rooms include the Library, the Music Room, Dining Room, and upstairs, a rather rare plasterwork was created by the firm of Joseph Rose II of York.[19]

There are 13 rooms occasionally open to the public in the central core and east wing. Manchester City Galleries restored the decorative detail in the 1980s and early 1990s. The ground floor rooms on the north east front have been converted to an expansive space that houses temporary exhibitions. The first floor rooms include the Cupola which was originally Lady Egerton's dressing-room. The room was styled in the 1770s "Pompeiian" style with mirrored walls and a domed ceiling — there are only three such rooms left in Britain.

The library was remodelled by Lewis Wyatt in the 1820s. A painting depicting one of the horseracing meetings held in the park can be seen here. The library is now licensed for civil partnership and wedding ceremonies. Heaton Hall's collections are managed by Manchester Galleries. Photography is not permitted in the hall but a collection of photographs of the hall's interior can be seen on the Manchester Art Gallery webpage.

Landmarks and features


The Temple.

Designed by James Wyatt in 1800 for the First Earl, the ornamental temple is a simple, small rotunda of Tuscan columns with a domed roof and lantern. This Grade II listed building stands on the highest point of the City of Manchester giving views across the golf course, which was originally the deer park.[22] It has its own fireplace and is thought to have been used as an observatory by the Earl who is known to have owned a telescope bought from Dollond's of London. The cost of the telescope was £18.5s.0d (£18.25) – the same amount earned in a year by the Earl's under-butler. The temple has recently been enclosed by a stone balustrade and gravelled path and is used as a summer studio for artists, and for astronomy sessions.[23]

Dower House

Dower House and ha-ha

The Dower House was a plain brick building that was transformed with a decorative columned facade in 1803. The ha-ha in front of the house stopped the cattle from grazing on the formal lawns, making a barrier which can't be seen from the house. In 2004 the house became the home of the Manchester and District Beekeepers Association and is furnished with an observation hive, equipment and displays with an apiary in the garden behind the house.

Smithy Lodge

Smithy Lodge.

This "pepperpot" building located at the east entrance to the park, now on [24]

Grand Lodge

Grand Lodge.

Commissioned in 1807 by Sir Thomas Egerton, Grand Lodge was designed by Lewis Wyatt as an impressive main entrance to the park from the south. The lodge is built of ashlar sandstone as a large triumphal arch and originally led onto one of the longest carriage drives to the house. It has two floors of accommodation, cellars under the west wing and an attic over the arch. The construction of the lodge completed the enclosure of the park by a 10-foot (3.0 m) high boundary wall.[24] It was refurbished as part of the millennium project and is now rented out to the public as short stay accommodation. There is a memorial plaque here dedicated to the memory of the Manchester Pals who trained in the park in 1914.

Western Pleasure Grounds

The Tunnel.

These ornamental gardens were probably laid out in the early nineteenth century as a peaceful retreat for the family. The gardens have recently been returned to their original design with pools, summerhouses and plants appropriate to the period. A tunnel leads from the flowergarden to The Dell and carries a causeway at high level across the gardens to allow the cattle, from the fields to the south of the garden, to be taken to the farm for milking without entering the gardens. The tunnel entrance is faced with large stones to give it the appearance of a natural cave.


The Orangery.
Orangery and gardens.

The Manchester City Council's Hospitality and Trading Service.[25]

Boating Lake

The 12-acre (4.9 ha) boating lake was constructed between 1908 and 1912 by previously unemployed men using only shovels and hand-pulled trucks. The lake, which is overlooked by the Lakeside Cafe, has three islands and is home to large numbers of ornamental birds and wildfowl including geese, ducks, swans and fantail doves. There are rowing boats for hire during the summer months. The lake is noted for its excellent carp fishing and is also stocked with roach, rudd, bream, tench and chub.[26] Fishing rights to all the waters in the park are held by the King William IV Angling Society.[27]


An interesting structure in the park is the Colonnade, which once formed the front of the Manchester Town Hall in King Street. When that building was scheduled for demolition a successful campaign to save the facade resulted in the colonnade being re-assembled in the park at the end of the Boating Lake.

Walled garden and Horticultural Centre

The 18th-century walled Garden was the Earl of Wilton's kitchen garden supplying fruit and vegetables for the estate. The walls provide a warm microclimate for crop cultivation and support for climbing plants. The Horticultural Centre staff now grow plants for the city's displays and for sale to the public. There are also demonstration gardens open to the public during the summer[28] and a sensory garden. "The Friends of Heaton Park", a group formed in 1992 to promote an interest in the care of the park and to act as a communication link between the park users and the Heaton Park management team, are based at the centre.[29]

Farm Centre, Stables Cafe and Animal Centre

Hazlitt Wood Pond.

The farm centre was originally built as a stable block for Sir Thomas Egerton. It was designed by Samuel Wyatt and built between 1777 and 1789. It now houses the Stables cafe and is also the administrative centre for the park. The Animal Centre is housed behind the stables in the area that was Home Farm, on the site of the nineteenth century glasshouse range where exotic foods and flowers were grown for the family. The Animal Centre was built in 2003–4 to replace the old Pet's Corner and houses goats, cattle, pigs, donkeys, hebridean sheep, alpacas and Kune Kune pigs,[30] plus small pets.

Hazlitt Wood Pond

The Hazlitt Wood Pond, also known as "The Golly Pond" is located in Hazlitt Wood to the far north of the park. This area of the park can only be reached on foot and hence remains quiet and secluded.

Heaton Park Tramway

Tram number 765 in Heaton Park.
A horse-drawn tram in Heaton Park.

Shortly after the Heaton Park was bought by Manchester Corporation the tramway was extended into the park and the first tram arrived on 31 May 1903, bringing visitors from Manchester. By 1934 buses were taking over from trams and the tramway was disconnected from the main system and covered in tarmac for use by buses.[31]

The Manchester Transport Museum Society (MTMS) was born in 1961 with the aim of creating a museum in which to make the society's various exhibits available to the public. It was decided that Heaton Park would be a suitable site for such a museum and proposals were made to the Parks Department of Manchester City Council.

The initial idea, to construct a new tramway from Grand Lodge to Heaton Hall, was considered too expensive, as it would require remedial works to carry it across the railway tunnel. Therefore a new scheme was proposed to open up the old Manchester Corporation Tramways spur from Middleton Road to the old tram shelter some 300 yards (270 m) inside the park. The original track was buried under a layer of tarmac which had to be cleared and the old tram shelter had to be restored to form the centre of the society's operations.

The work was completed in 1979 and the Heaton Park Tramway was officially opened on the 28 March 1980.The tramway currently has an operating fleet of 3 electric trams and one horse tram.[32] One of these, tramcar, No 765, was to be seen in the museum at Crich in Derbyshire,[33] before moving to Heaton Park.

The operation based upon the original siding has since been extended (by the use of track salvaged from elsewhere), largely on a private right of way to a new terminus short of the boating lake. Plans exist for a further extension, perhaps as far as the hall. A major restoration of the depot and museum complex was completed in 2007 and a restored horse tram was added to the collection. The MTMS now owns eleven tramcars ready to be brought on site when the new depot is constructed behind the boathouse at the new Lakeside terminus. The collection includes several withdrawn from the Blackpool fleet, as well as tramcars from around the Manchester area.

Heaton Park Golf Course

The municipal golf course is a picturesque, championship standard golf course, built on the former deer park to the south of the hall with spectacular views across to the Pennines. Designed by five times Open Champion John Henry Taylor, it was opened to the public in 1912 and has been the venue of many prestigious events, both professional and amateur.[34] The golf centre, which has its own private driving range used for teaching purposes, is located at the Smithy Lodge, Middleton Road entrance to Heaton Park. The course has an undulating, championship length layout within which three picturesque lakes play a prominent part. The 11th is played across water to a plateau green and was rated by Open Champion Henry Cotton as "the toughest par-3 in England".[34][35] The course was voted the best municipal golf course in England in 2005.[36] There is also a pitch and putt course.

Activity in the park

In 1909, the great Italian tenor, Enrico Caruso, performed at the Free Trade Hall in Manchester. The concert was attended by one William Grimshaw, a gramophone salesman from Prestwich and a few days later, he took his gramophone to Heaton Park and played recordings of the songs performed by Caruso to an assembled crowd of 40,000 people who, according to the Prestwich and Heaton Park Guardian, "remained as if spellbound from the moment of arrival to the close of the programme, which, it is hardly necessary to say, was intensely enjoyed." Caruso later wrote to Mr. Grimshaw to thank him for the way his voice had been reproduced, sending him a signed cartoon of himself. Grimshaw was the first person in England to give gramophone concerts in the open, an idea which soon spread across the country. The concerts were carried on for several seasons and as they grew in popularity, Grimshaw became known across Lancashire as "the gramophone King"[37]

Since the 1980s a number of open air pop concerts have been held in the park, headlined by popular bands of the day such as Travis and Supergrass. On 31 May 1982 Pope John Paul II celebrated Mass in the park for over 100,000 people and ordained 12 new priests.[38] This event is commemorated by the papal monument in the south-west of the park

In recent years the park has hosted some open-air theatre productions. In 2005 there was a performance of Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream. In the same year there was a production of Dracula by Feelgood Theatre Productions as well as a screening of Pulp Fiction with a film inspired set from the Fun Lovin' Criminals.

In 2006, Feelgood returned with a performance of Arthur – King of the Britons. Feelgood also runs a series of acting and writing workshops in the park. The park has been the venue for the BBC's "Proms in the Park" on a number of occasions. There are often charity run events such as the Race for Life and seasonal fairs are located near the Papal Monument. There is a large bonfire and firework display held on the 5th of November (Guy Fawkes Night) each year. The Shakespeare's Globe Theatre performs open-air theatre annually with performances of Shakespeare's greatest works in 2008, 2009 and A Midsummer Night's Dream in June 2010.

Manchester band, Oasis, performed to a total audience of 210,000 over three nights in June 2009[39][40] and newly reformed The Stone Roses played three gigs on successive nights between 29 June and 1 July 2012,[41] watched by a total audience of 225,000.[42] It was announced in February 2013 that Manchester's annual Parklife Weekender music festival will be held at Heaton Park for the foreseeable future.[43]

A 5 km run against the clock is organised by the group Parkrun most Saturday mornings.[44]

Manchester band Courteeners are to stage their largest headline show to date at the park on June 5th 2015.

See also



  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ "Heaton Park". Manchester City Council. Archived from the original on 8 March 2010. Retrieved 2 March 2010. 
  3. ^ "Bicycles for hire in Heaton Park". Manchester City Council. 26 March 2007. Retrieved 13 October 2007. 
  4. ^ "Heaton Park wins award at national ceremony". Manchester City Council. 22 November 2005. Retrieved 20 July 2009. 
  5. ^ "Heaton Hall". Retrieved 4 October 2014. 
  6. ^ "Bury Council - Heaton Park". Retrieved 4 October 2014. 
  7. ^ "Budget crisis could lead Manchester council to give away Heaton Hall and Wythenshawe Hall". Retrieved 2012-09-02. 
  8. ^ a b "Latest news". Retrieved 4 October 2014. 
  9. ^ "HELM Home Page". Retrieved 4 October 2014. 
  10. ^ [2]
  11. ^ "A-Z of Listed Buildings in Manchester: Listed buildings in Manchester by street (H)". Manchester City Council. p. 8. Retrieved 27 December 2007. 
  12. ^ a b "Heaton Hall". Images of England. Retrieved 2007-12-27. 
  13. ^ "Heaton Park : History & Architecture". Retrieved 4 October 2014. 
  14. ^ [3]
  15. ^ a b c Hartwell, Clare; Hyde, Matthew; Pevsner, Nikolaus (2004). Lancashire: Manchester and the South-East. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. pp. 398–403.  
  16. ^ "Heaton Park : The Earls of Wilton". Retrieved 4 October 2014. 
  17. ^ "Bury tourist and visitor information -". Retrieved 4 October 2014. 
  18. ^ [4]
  19. ^ a b c [5]
  20. ^ "Heaton Park : The 20th Century". Retrieved 4 October 2014. 
  21. ^ Pevsner, N. (1969) Lancashire; 1. Penguin Books; pp. 328–30
  22. ^ [6]
  23. ^ "HELM Home Page". Retrieved 4 October 2014. 
  24. ^ a b "Heaton Park : The Grand Lodge". Retrieved 4 October 2014. 
  25. ^ "Heaton Park : Orangery". Retrieved 4 October 2014. 
  26. ^ [7]
  27. ^ [8]
  28. ^ "Heaton Park : What To See and Do". Retrieved 4 October 2014. 
  29. ^ "Heaton Park : Friends of Heaton Park". Retrieved 4 October 2014. 
  30. ^ "Welcome to Heaton Park". Retrieved 4 October 2014. 
  31. ^ [9]
  32. ^ "Heaton Park Tramway". Retrieved 4 October 2014. 
  33. ^ Bett, W. H. & Gillham, J. C. (1975?) The Tramways of South East Lancashire;p. 73
  34. ^ a b "Heaton Park Golf Centre: Championship Golf Course". Manchester City Council. p. 3. Retrieved 14 October 2007. 
  35. ^ "Heaton Park Golf Centre". Retrieved 4 October 2014. 
  36. ^ "Heaton Park : Community Groups : Golf Club". Retrieved 4 October 2014. 
  37. ^ "BBC - Manchester - Features - 40,000 in Heaton Park". Retrieved 4 October 2014. 
  38. ^ [10]
  39. ^ Sinclair, David (5 June 2009). "Oasis, Heaton Park, Manchester". The Times (London: Times Newspapers Ltd.). Retrieved 11 June 2009. 
  40. ^ Keegan, Mike (5 June 2009). "Oasis — Heaton Park review". The Manchester Evening News (M.E.N. Media 2009). Retrieved 11 June 2009. 
  41. ^ Evans, Denise (27 June 2012). "Stone Roses: Your guide to the Heaton Park weekend". M.E.N. Media. Retrieved 19 August 2012. 
  42. ^ McKeegan, Alice (2 July 2012). "I am the cash injection: Stone Roses' Heaton Park concerts pull in £23m". M.E.N. Media. Retrieved 19 August 2012. 
  43. ^ "Parklife Weekender 2014". Retrieved 4 October 2014. 
  44. ^ "Heaton Parkrun". Parkrun information. Prkrun Heaton. Retrieved 14 July 2010. 

Further reading

  • Transactions of Lancashire & Cheshire Antiquarian Society (1983) – The 1st & 2nd Earls of Wilton and the Creation of Heaton House by James Lomax MA. Vol 82 Moxon Press Ltd, Ilkley
  • Heaton Hall: A Short Account of its History & Architecture. Manchester City Council Cultural Services Dept, Manchester City Art Galleries, 1984.

External links

  • Heaton Park official website
  • Greater Manchester County Records Office Archives
  • Save Heaton Park website
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