and the Gladstone Conservatory, Liverpool
||View of the restored conservatory and bandstand in its new landscape setting
Stanley Park, a Grade II registered
landscape, is located some two
miles north-east of Liverpool city
centre in a predominantly late-19th and
20th-century residential area. The site is
approximately 45 hectares, and slopes
away from its southern boundary.
The park’s surroundings are dominated
by the football stadiums of Liverpool
Football Club and Everton Football Club.
Liverpool’s ground, Anfield, abuts Anfield
Road on the Park’s southern boundary,
while Everton’s Goodison Park lies across
Walton Lane beyond its north-west corner.
Stanley Park was one of three municipal parks
conceived together in the mid-19th century to
provide Liverpool with attractive open space
for citizens of all classes, but specifically for
the working class. At that time the city was
growing at a phenomenal rate in a generally
unplanned and uncoordinated manner.
Public open space was extremely limited. The
successful development of the highly influential
Birkenhead Park (1843-7) by the towns’s local
rivals provided the spur for the development
of a grand plan to form a ring of parks around
the city limits. Although not fully realised,
the plan’s outcome was the creation of three
great Victorian municipal parks: Sefton in
the south (André and Hornblower, 1872),
Newsham in the east (Kemp, 1868) and Stanley
in the north (Kemp and Robson, 1870).
Stanley Park is arguably the most
architecturally significant of the city’s parks.
The park and adjacent Anfield Cemetery
were designed by Edward Kemp, a pupil
of Joseph Paxton who had assisted with the
design of the landscape at both Chatsworth
House and Birkenhead Park. His proposals
combined many of the features laid out at
Birkenhead Park and Sefton Park. The result was a superb composition of three distinct
zones (formal, informal and ‘picturesque’
landscape), carefully and subtly interrelated,
that exploited the south to north fall of land
across the site. Kemp’s plan was enhanced by
the successful fusion of landscape and built
form through the buildings and structures
designed by ER Robson, then the city architect.
The partnership proved very successful and led
to further collaborations (including Saltwell
Park in Gateshead) before Robson went on to
become the school boards architect for London.
Stanley Park was formally opened on
Saturday, 14 May 1870 to great acclaim.
The event was sufficiently grand to secure
coverage in the Illustrated London News (28 May 1870), which reported:
Stanley Park which was formally opened
by the Mayor Mr Joseph Hubback on
Saturday the 14th inst will be a valuable
boon to the inhabitants of the north end of
the town... The ground taken for this new
Park is very high, commanding a panorama
of South Lancashire and Cheshire with
the sea coast: the distant mountains of
North Wales as far as Snowdon on the
one hand: the mountains of Westmorland
and Cumberland on the other: some of the
North Yorkshire Hills: Blackstone Edge
and the Peak of Derbyshire: but the last of
these are often obscured by the smoke of the
factory districts. The park is greatly laid out
with a terrace, lawns and shrubberies, a lake
and bridges over it arranged by Mr Kemp;
landscape gardener of Birkenhead.
Sadly, the impact of the original layout
had been greatly diluted by subsequent
alterations, which have almost entirely been
made without consideration or sympathy for
Kemp’s aims. These changes included the
insertion of bowling greens and tennis courts
as well as the use of a large area of the ‘middle
ground’ for football pitches, all contributing
to the loss of clarity of Kemp’s vision.
|Aerial view of the park with Goodison (Everton FC) in the foreground and Anfield (Liverpool FC) in the top right (English Heritage)
|Historical postcards from the park’s heyday
(Liverpool City Council)
The buildings and other structures
in the park were originally set within a
carefully composed and balanced landscape but its fabric and integrity have suffered,
as have the built elements it incorporates.
Tree planting, predominantly concentrated
along the park’s northern and western
boundaries, had been poorly managed over
many years resulting in the loss of many
fine views, both within and out of the park.
The landforms remained much as they were
laid out by Kemp, although insensitive
re-grading around the lakes had created an
inward looking and detached zone, cutting off
views and compromising pedestrian safety.
Through the latter half of the 20th century
the landscape and structures fell victim to
the cycle of chronic underfunding and endemic
misuse that has affected many municipal parks.
This was exacerbated by well-intentioned
but ill-advised changes to the structure of the
park and its facilities. Not long after opening,
one of the lakes was filled in, presumably in
response to a problem with the lake lining.
A sunken garden (the Audley Gardens) was
created and furnished with statues depicting
characters from fairy tales and mythology
donated from a Liverpool benefactor,
George Audley. From 1923 until the early
1960s an outdoor swimming pool occupied
a section of the original lake formation.
Later, the brutal design of the leisure
facilities on the eastern section of the park
delivered an unsightly backdrop to the decaying
historic features of the central core. Finally, an
attempt to reuse the conservatory as a public
house only hastened its demise and encouraged
misuse of the western end of the terraces.
Outside the three zones of the park’s
original core a fourth component, the eastern
park, was of considerably less interest. Not
only did this section fit awkwardly with
Kemp’s historic core, it had been subject
to the most aggressive change. The area
was dominated by the large municipal
sports hall previously mentioned and
now demolished, accompanied by a vast
expanse of tarmac that provided match day
parking for the nearby football grounds.
This presented the ideal location for the
planned new stadium, which in turn would
provide the catalyst for the landscape
restoration and regeneration of the park.
By the turn of the new millennium little
positive activity was being generated by
those who were using the park, although it
was clearly still much loved by local people.
There was an accepted need to change
the cycle of misuse and encourage local
people to reclaim possession of the park. In
other urban parks the value of considered
regeneration and proactive management had
proved that change was possible. In Lloyd
Evans Prichard’s direct experience this had
been well demonstrated at Heaton Park,
Manchester and at Birkenhead Park. The
funding model applied at Stanley Park would
need to be quite different to suit the park’s
specific requirements and those of the parties
directly involved in the regeneration plan.
In 2004 Lloyd Evans Prichard (LEP) was
commissioned to complete a condition
and historic appraisal of the buildings and structures within the park landscape. This
work formed an integral part of the wider
planning application for the construction
of the state-of-the-art football stadium on
the eastern park for Liverpool FC. The
permission for the stadium was hard fought
and ultimately granted, but was conditional
upon the full restoration and regeneration
of the historic core of the park. LEP was
subsequently appointed by Liverpool
City Council to take responsibility for the
restoration of the many structures which
decorated Kemp’s landscape. These included
pavilions, bridges, the Gladstone Conservatory
and a variety of other built elements.
These structures provided shelter along
Kemp’s formal terraces and framed the views
across the park to the distant landscapes.
Constructed in Liverpool’s signature red
sandstone, they adopt a simplified gothic style
with columns and arches supporting slate
roofs. The regeneration proposals included
plans for their full restoration in tandem
with the provision of new landscape features
based on Kemp’s original planting plans.
Kemp’s picturesque landscape included three
lake areas crossed by a sandstone bridge and
four iron beam composite bridges. These
were in varying states of disrepair with the
sandstone bridge being shut to the public since
extreme vandalism had led to much of the
parapet walls being pushed into the lake. The
stone was retrieved from the waters and used
to provide templates for replacement stone.
The bridge was then carefully reconstructed
to match its original configuration.
The composite bridges were generally
in a better condition but it was necessary to
carefully dismantle the structures for restoration
to allow for the repair of the corrosion to
their iron beams. In due course these were
reconstructed with new stonework to match
the existing where this was required.
OTHER BUILT ELEMENTS
Other features of the park which were
identified in the regeneration plan included
the bandstand, boundary railings and walls,
the surviving masonry plinth of a long since
destroyed boathouse, and a number of smaller
Edwardian shelters used in conjunction with the bowling greens and tennis courts.
While some of these were considered to
be inappropriate in the context of the
restored landscape, many were restored and
presented in the light of their new setting.
One further major structure presented
the greatest challenge in providing a positive
benefit to enhance and promote the regenerated
landscape, the Gladstone Conservatory.
|The restored central pavilion on the formal terrace: new cast iron gates and screens were added to prevent unwanted access when the park is closed.
|Above left: The restored central pavilion on the formal terrace: new cast iron gates and screens were added to prevent unwanted access when the park is closed. Above right: A view of the restored sandstone bridge following reconstruction of the guardings and refuge detail
THE GLADSTONE CONSERVATORY
While this iconic building was not an original
feature of the park, its carefully chosen
position complements and enhances the
westernmost section of Kemp’s formal terraces.
The glasshouse was gifted to the park by
Alderman Henry Yates Thompson in 1900.
Earlier, and presumably for fairness, Thompson
also gave Sefton Park in the south of the city
an even grander glasshouse, the Palm House.
Both are predominantly cast and wrought
iron structures by McKenzie and Moncur
of Glasgow. The Palm House restoration in
2000 provided a model for the regeneration
of the Gladstone Conservatory. Indeed, it was
clear that many similar components had been
used through both structures although their
specific function and form are very different.
The development of a business plan based
on audience development research brought
forward proposals for the restoration and reuse
of the building as a function and wedding
venue with the addition of a permanent
café for park users. In essence, the strategy
was to carefully dismantle and restore the
existing historic iron frame off-site while a
contemporary undercroft structure was built to
house the ancillary accommodation required to
serve the new use. The restored iron frame was
then to be re-erected on the new undercroft
structure to present the listed building free
of any of the modern accretions that would
diminish the appreciation of its historic form
and volume. The setting of the conservatory
and the adjacent bandstand would be subject
to a radical reappraisal so that the relationship
between the buildings and landscape could be
enhanced. In effect, a new precinct was created
to lead visitors from the car parking areas
through the building and into the landscape.
Careful attention to documented evidence of
Kemp’s planting plans allowed the landscape
architects (Planit EDC) to propose a form and
plant types which acknowledged his influence.
Following budget cost approval in
November 2005, a detailed survey of the
conservatory structure was carried out in
December of that year. The aim was to
comprehensively analyse the condition of
the ironwork and assess the component
assemblies that made up the walls and roof.
In turn, this would allow the production of
a scope of works to provide both a structure
for cost control and a specification to guide
prospective contractors on materials and
workmanship. The survey was carried out
over a three-day period in two teams; one
assessing the condition of high level elements
using a hydraulic platform and one at ground
level assessing the lower wall structure.
|Main picture: The restored conservatory prior to introduction of loose furniture and tables. The lift housing and stair stand as independent
contemporary interventions in the volume of the restored iron framed conservatory. Upper right: Prior to the regeneration the conservatory was a ruinous shell. Lower right: The wrought and cast iron frame was carefully recorded and
dismantled for restoration off site in workshop conditions.
This allowed the construction of the contemporary basement
structure which would provide a café for the park and all
ancillary accommodation. The restored frame was then
re-erected on its new base.
The difficulties of scheduling repairs
in such a structure were acknowledged at a
very early stage in the process. Having been
involved in dismantling three pairs of listed
iron promenade shelters in Blackpool, LEP
knew that the structure’s true condition would
only be revealed once deconstruction and
removal of finishes commenced. Through
discussions with recognised specialists in this
field of work it was resolved that the most
appropriate way to manage this would be to
break the process down into elements that
could be defined and costed (dismantling,
re-erection, glazing, painting and so on), while
accepting some flexibility within the repair
of elements so that the tender figure could
be managed as the restoration progressed.
The detailed survey allowed LEP
to break down the entire structure into
a series of component assemblies. The
building is essentially a kit of parts:
knowing how the components fit together
allows a clear understanding of how best
to dismantle and re-assemble it. Based on
this detailed knowledge, it was also possible
to produce appropriate specifications
and costings for the paint and glazing
systems and to calculate the contractor’s
overheads, scaffolding costs and so on.
This left the restoration of the ironwork
as the element of greatest uncertainty. The
design team carefully considered methods and
proposals for managing this ‘risk’ within a
defined contract cost. In effect, the specification
dictated the materials and restoration
techniques. It was the extent that these would
be required that was impossible to accurately
forecast with the information available at
that stage. The LEP survey had identified a
proportion of the structural elements that
would require replacement. These were
scheduled on a component-by-component basis
so that a unit cost for each could be established
and an overall cost for ‘new’ identified.
The element of ‘repair’ for each
component was also scheduled but it was
down to the expertise and experience of the
chosen specialist subcontractors to reassess
this once deconstruction was under way.
This did not remove the risks involved but
it did allow the design team to establish
and monitor costs as the contract works
progressed. This approach placed a great
deal of responsibility on the design team
to manage the process effectively but it was
agreed that this was the best way forward.
|The restored conservatory and bandstand in the setting of the new landscape precinct
The process identified two key areas where
materials specification was crucial to success:
replacement ironwork and the provision of
new glazing. LEP’s investigations confirmed
that the structure was a combination of
cast iron elements (columns and decorative
friezes), wrought iron elements (glazing bars,
purlins, and fixing straps) and early steel
beams (eaves beams and ridge). In general,
the team’s approach dictated the maximum
retention of original fabric. Where repairs
to elements were required these were to
be on a ‘like-for-like’ basis so that wrought
iron, for example, would be repaired using
wrought iron of a matching quality. However,
where replacement of components was
necessary this was less straightforward.
Wrought iron is simply no longer
manufactured commercially, and only
‘reclaimed’ wrought iron is available. This is
difficult to grade and can vary from good quality
(ships chains) to poor (reclaimed railings). This
clouds the issue of like-for-like provenance.
Allied to this, the supply of true wrought iron
is variable and few sources reclaim the material
in quantity. For this reason it was decided that
replacement components should be supplied
in a contemporary material. Our research
highlighted the compatibility of ‘pure iron’, a
modern material with a similar composition,
structure and properties to wrought iron. Its use
would allow damaged components to be reused
as compatible material for like-for-like repairs.
All replacement components would be clearly
stamped and dated to identify their origin.
The issue of replacement glazing would
prove an even more difficult issue to address. In
conservation terms the aspirations were to use
the most historically accurate replacement glass
possible. However, the practical requirements
for environmental control and safety would also
need to be considered. Given the building’s
intended new use, any measures to address
overheating in summer and cold in winter could
not be ignored. Likewise, the health and safety
implications of overhead glazing in a public
building needed to be fully acknowledged.
||View of the basement park café which spills out onto the terrace on the north side of the conservatory
Having used a modern Swiss manufactured
glass in a recent conservation project, LEP was
aware that it was possible to source slightly
textured or rippled glass in large sheets with a
nominal increase in the thickness of the glazing
system. It was likely that the original glass
was approximately 4mm thick. To increase
this by any substantial amount would create
issues in terms of the rebate depth of the
glazing bars and their structural capability.
Through detailed discussions with
the manufacturer a system was proposed
which used a similar product in a laminated
form. Unfortunately, this fell victim to
the value engineering exercise that was
necessary to keep costs within budget. As a
compromise, and with the close involvement
of the specialist restoration contractor
(Eura Conservation), it was decided to use
a modern float glass which is overheated as
part of the toughening process, resulting in
a slight distortion to its surface finish. The
float glass does not match the aesthetic of
the more expensive option but its use did
address the safety issues and incorporating
a solar control safety film on the inside also
provided some environmental benefit.
This approach resulted in an overall
thickness of 6mm on inclined overhead
glazing and 10mm on the low level vertical areas where the use of a more robust
material was considered prudent. The
structural engineers considered that the
existing structure would be more than
capable of accepting any increased loading.
The new glass would allow the proposals
to keep within the budget constraints and
the slight imperfections in its structure
would go some way towards delivering the
softer look of historic glass. The use of an
applied film to address environmental and
safety considerations fulfilled the team’s
responsibilities to acknowledge the practical
issues raised by the building’s new public use.
STANLEY PARK TODAY
The regeneration of Stanley Park means
that visitors can enjoy the full beauty of
the restored landscape at their leisure and
then retire to the conservatory café where
modern facilities offer refreshment and
comfort. Above this, the restored volume of
the conservatory provides a dynamic new
venue for a range of functions and uses, from
weddings to display and performance.
The enhancement of the park’s fabric
married to the sensitive incorporation
of increased security has provided a safe
environment where all can appreciate
the quality of the original design. More
importantly, the regeneration has restored
local pride in, and a sense of ownership
of, the park and its structures. The cycle
of decline and misuse has been broken
and the park is once again the focal
point of the community it serves.
THE STANLEY PARK REGENERATION PROJECT
Client: Liverpool City Council
Architect: Lloyd Evans Prichard Ltd
Landscape architect: Planit EDC
Project manager: 2020 Liverpool
Quantity surveyor: Gleeds
Structural engineer: 2020 Liverpool
M & E engineer: Mouchel
Ironwork restoration: Eura Conservation