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Heaton Park, covering an area variously reported as Template:Convert/acre,[1] Template:Convert/acre,[2] and Template:Convert/acre[3] is the biggest park in Greater Manchester, England and one of the biggest municipal parks in Europe. It is often said to be the biggest municipal park in Europe but vies for this title with Sefton Park, Liverpool which is of a similar size at Template:Convert/acre. The park comprises the grounds of a grade I listed, neoclassical 18th-century country house, Heaton Hall. The hall was remodelled to a design by James Wyatt in 1772, and is now open to the public as a museum and events venue.[4] BORING AND WITH BAD FORMATTING Heaton Park was sold to Manchester City Council in 1902, by the Earl of Wilton, to be kept for the enjoyment and recreation of the public and so it has remained to this day. 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.[5] Some of the buildings and original vistas from the 18th-century landscape design were restored.[6] The restoration of the park was singled out for an award by the British Association of Landscape Artists from 100 entries in November 2005.[5] 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 tramway system and museum (operational every Sunday, and Bank Holiday, afternoon during the summer months). The park is listed Grade II by English Heritage[7] and contains nine listed buildings.[8][9] It has the only flat green bowling greens in Manchester, which were built for the 2002 Commonwealth Games.

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History Edit

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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.[10] 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[11] Wyatt's neo-classical masterpiece was built in phases and was mostly completed by 1789.[12]

The park was originally laid out by William Emes in the style of Capability Brown.[12] It had long been used for public events, ranging from horse racing in the early 19th century, to Volunteer Reviews in Victorian times. 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 unless it was put into a tunnel.[13] This was done and a station opened adjacent to the Whittaker Lane/Bury Old Road entrance in 1879 (this is now Heaton Park Metrolink station). Consequently, the decision by Lord Wilton to remove himself and place the hall and park up for sale was greeted with dismay, especially when it became known that the site was 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 auctioned off. The hall was considered to be of little architectural or historical significance, and the Saloon was initially used as a tea-room.[14] The city council used the hall as a branch art gallery for many years, but eventually realised the architectural and historical importance of the building. A major restoration programme restored the state rooms to something resembling their original appearance, and period furniture was obtained to furnish them. (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 peeling paintwok and windows boarded up. 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 depot during the First World War, and several hutted camps were built. Again, the park was used as the site of a Royal Air Force depot in World War II.

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Manchester Council later used part of the site to construct a large gravity feed reservoir, employing a contractors railway from Whitefield 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.[15] The school building remains to this day and is used as a training centre.

Heaton Hall Edit

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The hall, which has been called "the finest house of its period in Lancashire",[12] 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 fine Music Room, Dining Room, and (upstairs) a rather rare Etruscan Room.

The rooms of the hall were exquisitely finished by the finest artists and craftsmen of the period with most of the furnishings and mahogany doors being made by Gillows of Lancashire. Most of the decorative paintings were by an Italian artist, Biagio Rebeca, including the Pompeiian Cupola Room and the case for the chamber organ built by Samuel Green. The ornate plasterwork was created by the firm of Joseph Rose II of York.[14]

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

An 18th-century Samuel Green organ fills one wall of the Music Room.

The Library was remodelled by Lewis Wyatt in the 1820s. Horse racing was held in the south-west of the park from 1825 to 1837, and a painting depicting one of the meetings 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.

The hall has been a Grade I Listed Building since 1952[16]

Heaton Park TramwayEdit

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Shortly after the park was bought by Manchester Corporation the tramway was extended into the Park. The first tram arrived on 31 May 1903, bringing visitors from Manchester into the park.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. 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 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 is currently (2007) underway.


  1. Retrieved 2007-10-13
  2. Retrieved 2007-10-13
  3. Retrieved 2007-10-13
  4. Retrieved 2007-10-13
  5. 5.0 5.1 see Retrieved 2007-10-19
  6. Retrieved 2007-10-22
  7. retrieved 2007-12-27
  8. Retrieved 2007-12-27
  9. Heaton Hall. Images of England. Retrieved on 2007-12-27.
  10. Retrieved 2007-10-20
  11. Retrieved 2007-10-22
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 Hartwell, Clare; Matthew Hyde, Nikolaus Pevsner (2004). Lancashire: Manchester and the South-East. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, pp 398–403. ISBN 0-300-10583-5. 
  13. Retrieved 2007-10-14
  14. 14.0 14.1 see Retrieved 2007-10-14
  15. Retrieved 2007-10-16
  16. Retrieved on 2008-01-31

Further reading Edit

  • 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 linksEdit

Gallery Edit

Click photographs to view full size.

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