Preston Past: Avenham & Miller Parks (Part 2)

Posted on - 11th April, 2012 - 9:30am | Author - | Posted in - History, Nostalgia, Parks

Avenham and Miller parks were both opened in 1867, however, Miller Park was created on land extending from the East Lancashire Railway to the North Union Railway embankments and was laid out on eleven acres of land which was donated to Preston Corporation by Alderman Thomas Miller, a principal partner in the  firm of cotton manufacturers, Horrocks, Miller & Co. As with Avenham Park, Miller Park too was designed by Edward Milner the landscape designer from London and was assisted by out-of-work cotton operatives during the cotton famine.


Miller Park (Note the misspelling of Miller on the original image caption)

The above image shows a north westerly view¬†with the beautifully ornate fountain which features four figures around the base that represent Earth, Air, Water and Fire respectively.¬† In the background is the majestic Park Hotel which was designed by Oldham architect Arnold Mitchell and was built in 1882. For many years this hotel was the overnight resting place for Victorian and Edwardian travellers going from London to Glasgow, as in those times it was considered ‘detrimental to health to travel the full distance in one journey’. How times have changed!

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From the fountain is a pathway leading to the terrace steps, and at that point there is an elaborate pair of sweeping twin steps with surrounding stone balustrades and sculptured urns. In spring and summer the urns and surrounding gardens would contain the best and most unique of flora creating a most delightful sight to be enjoyed by the visitors to the park.

Photo-Manipulated image illustrating a view of the former location of the Belvedere on Miller Park

At the summit of the terrace steps there is Derby Terrace, formerly known as Broad Walk, which is named after the 14th Earl of Derby and from its unveiling in June 3rd 1875 a memorial statue of the Earl stands facing the park just adjacent to the terrace. This was not always the case, as originally the Belvedere building which now stands in Avenham Park, as mentioned last week, stood in the same location as the succeeding Earl of Derby statue from the opening of the park.
I have not been able to locate an image of this location which includes the Belvedere prior to its removal to Avenham Park. Therefore I have shown the adjacent image that I have photo-manipulated to depict what this location would have looked like from 1867 to 1875.


Every effort was maintained to protect the quiet and serene ethos of the parks and in particular the East Lancashire Railway bridge, known as Ivy Bridge, was no exception. This bridge was purposely designed to fit in with the surroundings with it’s picturesque stone bottle type¬†balustrade and the ivy which festooned its whole structure to ‘create an impression of a walkway¬†in¬†the grounds of a country mansion’.¬† When Victorian and Edwardian visitors to the parks strolled along the walkway towards the bridge they would only really notice that it was a railway bridge by virtue of the occasional steam train blowing its whistle whilst crossing the bridge. The image below is of the Ivy Bridge in 1906 and¬†under the bridge are the old iron gates that were locked each night. The bridge carried the East Lancashire Railway line to Preston Junction (Todd Lane) and beyond. Following closure of the line in the early 1970’s the bridge became redundant. It has now been fully restored as part of the ‘Remade Project’ and carries a cycle and walkway.
The policeman in the image looks as though he is about to close the gates for the day.


The Ivy Bridge in 1906 viewed from Miller Park

Miller Park has had many features over the years, one being the aviary which was presented by the Misses Poole, 21st Feb 1934.
I certainly remember visiting the aviary with my mother in the late 1950’s where I recall seeing budgerigars, finches and a parrot if I remember correctly. I wonder how many readers will recall this delightful little bird shelter. Unfortunately the aviary disappeared from view many years ago, probably due to untenable upkeep as well as health and safety issues.
A view of the aviary is seen in the adjacent image.


The images below are of three features that remain today, although not quite in the same condition as they were originally.
The image left of centre is of the Miller Park Sundial set in the centre of a spiral walkway and well stocked gardens. In the recent restoration of Miller Park the sundial and gardens have been renovated to near original condition.
The centre image¬†is of¬†a section of Basalt rock from the Giant’s Causeway. This must have been seen as a worthy novelty in years gone by but I don’t think that it would be appreciated nowadays if we attempted to take a piece of it away from its home in Northern¬†Ireland. This feature still stands in the park today but minus the top segment and the metal plaque.
Finally, the image right of centre is one of the grotto’s alongside the North Union Railway embankment. These rocky places give an air of mystic appeal to young children as the image suggests. I know my children loved them when they were young and they used to call them the fairy caves. Now my granddaughters see them in exactly the same way. It’s lovely to see that some things from the past are still in fashion.


Preston Past: Avenham & Miller Parks (Part 1) can be viewed here.

Next Week: Fishergate; a hundred years of change from the mid nineteenth century onwards.

This is a weekly series showcasing photos each week from the brilliant Preston Digital Archive which is an online archive of images of Preston’s past

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