Following our recent report on the Moor Park restoration project we thought it might be interesting to take a look back at the park’s history. Moor Park was originally known as Preston Moor and was considerably larger than the area it occupies today; however, even though there have been many changes in its history Moor Park is the largest and oldest park in Preston and is said to be one of the oldest in England. Up to the late eighteenth century this land was used extensively for horse racing with a course pegged out across what was then Preston Moor. Around this time it had been noticed that the land of the moor was being slowly being lost to industrial development and a proposal was made to set aside the land as a public park. Some years later legal steps were taken to create a municipal park which was to consist partly of private housing and the remainder of the land to be public park land.Advertisement
In 1862 landscape architect Edward Milner, who subsequently designed Avenham and Miller parks, had prepared a ‘plan of improvement on Preston Moor’ and work started on the renovations. A great deal of the manual labour came from out-of-work cotton workers who had been laid-off during the great cotton famine of that time. Although the boundaries and basic design of the moor remained unchanged, there were many new additions and a great deal of drainage had to be carried out. A lake was formed towards the north-west corner and selected trees were planted in various areas of the park. Take a look at the following images below and journey through the mists of time from late nineteenth century to early twentieth century views of Moor Park.
During the WWI a Voluntary Aid Detachment hospital was opened in January 1915. As the war continued the hospital continued to grow as new wards were built and necessary equipment installed of which some of the money needed was raised by staff at Horrockses, Crewdson & Co. After the war ended and in 1919 the hospital was closed and the buildings were used as an open-air school until 1937 when a new building was constructed on the same site. Two of these buildings still exist today as the H.Q. of Preston Sea Cadets on Strand Road.
Towards the north-west side of the park an observatory was built in 1927; originally there was a former observatory sited on Deepdale enclosure, the small park on Deepdale Road adjacent to Meadow Street. It was at this time that there was a total solar eclipse and the newly installed observatory lay in the path of totality and some 30,000 people assembled on Moor Park to witness the event. The custodian of the observatory, George James Gibbs, was present for the eclipse and can be seen in the image immediately below preparing his equipment in readiness.
In 1947 Mr. Gibbs unfortunately died of a stroke and two years later the council finally appointed Emeritus Professor Vinicio Barocas as director until his retirement in August 1979. It is noteworthy to mention that Professor Barocas is still alive today and he celebrated his 100th birthday August of this year 2014. It will be fascinating to see what will become of Moor Park during the restoration period; will there be new features not seen before or will some of the old gems be reinstated? Time will tell. We would like to take this opportunity to thank Preston Digital Archive for the use of their images in creating this short article which would be sadly lacking indeed without them. What do you think of the way Moor Park used to be? Let us know in the comments below.