The opening of Wavertree Playground, "The Mystery" 1895

Liverpool Mercury, May 2nd, 1895

Liverpool has come into possession of another public park, and, on this occasion through the munificence of a private donor. A piece of land at Wavertree, of the substantial area of 108 acres, already laid out as a playground, has been offered as a gift to the Corporation, and of course the offer has been gratefully accepted. The generous giver has not disclosed his identity, he desires to remain shrouded in anonymity, being one of those who, “do good by stealth, and blush to find it fame.” He is acting through an agent who is authorised to make the necessary transfer, and the land, it may be added is producing an income which will materially reduce the charge for maintenance. Probably no city in the world can show a more impressive army of memorials of individual philanthropy than Liverpool is so fortunate to possess and so proud to own. The spirit has been active for generations and has been giving back to the community in various charitable and utilitarian shapes, a good portion of its wealth gathered in its industries and commerce. The donor of “Wavertree Playground” which is the name he suggests for the new park will take rank with those who have preceded him as public benefactors, and will, without doubt, awaken in the minds of his fellow citizens the full measure of gratitude his splendid present merits.


Liverpool Mercury, Aug 23rd, 1895


In about a fortnights time the youth of Liverpool, through the generous action of a gentleman who prefers to avoid public recognition of his generosity, will be provided with a playground suitable for almost any outdoor recreation, and which, in its healthy situation and excellence of arrangement, is likely to become one of the most popular holiday resorts of the city. The large area of ground which lies between Smithdown Rd and Wavertree, High St, bounded on the east by a section of the London and North Western Railway, is fully 108 acres in extent.

In presentation to and acceptance by the Liverpool Corporation are matters of general knowledge, and already the playground, or park, as it perhaps should be more properly termed, has passed unreservedly into the hands of the Corporation, who may do exactly what they like with it, except that the donor has modestly suggested that, “ possibly before appropriating it to any other use the Council might approve of giving it a fair trial for this [playground] purpose, and it is submitted that it would tend to the better appreciation of the land as a playground, if a part [at the discretion of the Council] was allotted periodically to certain schools and other clubs for a small annual rent, and the remainder used on the principle of “first come , first served”

As might have been expected the Council had no hesitation in accepting so magnanimous an offer., which was made, as the Lord Mayor expressed on the occasion of the acceptance, “without the imposition of any conditions except indicating in which direction the generous instincts of the donor tended in presenting it.” Not only is this the wish of the donor, but Mr James RHIND, who has had entrusted to him the whole of the work in connection with the scheme, had, in accordance with his instructions before ever the presentation was made, converted the spot into a suitable playground which has been practically transferred to the Corporation as, what is known in business circles as, “a going concern”. It is to be known as, “The Wavertree playground.”

Originally the land had comprised of farms and several private houses, one of which was in the occupation of the late Mr GRAVES, Shipowner, and other land, and the purchases of the whole plot has taken many years to complete. Immediately it was fully acquired levelling operations were carried out , so as to make it suitable for various outdoor games. The whole place was surrounded by substantial iron fencing, the iron work being in the hands of Messers MORTON and Co, whilst in places there are plantations of young trees and other horticultural decorations by Messers DICKSON’S of Chester. Many of the older and inconveniently placed trees which were originally to be found on the estate have been cut down and removed, and the enclosure may briefly be described as on enormous field, probably the largest extent, intersected by three main roadways 12ft in width, which however are so diminutive in comparison to the large area of grass acreage, which amounts altogether to 100acres, as to be hardly discernable. The four principal entrances have been built on a very handsome scale, one being in Wellington Rd, another in Smithdown Rd, another in Grange Terrace, off High St, Wavertree, and the fourth on Prince Alfred Rd. The two principal roads are perfectly straight and run between Smithdown Rd and Grange Terrace, the other one running between Wellington Rd and Prince Alfred Rd. Both these roads will afford very direct thoroughfares for pedestrians, although we understand vehicular traffic will not be allowed. There is also another road which skirts the railway. Some of the houses which were originally situated on portions of the land have been remodelled and converted into suitable premises for the park-keepers, whilst there have also been built a number of lavatories excellently suited for the use they are intended. Where the roads cross shelters have been erected and a commodious refreshment room with kitchen attached, something akin to that in Sefton Park, has also been constructed, and is ready for use. Of course, also, there have been provided a sufficient number of seats in various parts of the playground.

Another feature of the presentation which should not be lost sight of is the fact that several tenanted houses still form a portion of the newly acquired Corporate Estate, the rent of one of them is about £100, and there are several others of fairly remunerative rents which will find their way into the Corporation coffers, and go towards the maintenance of the playground. The opening ceremony which will take place on the 7th proximo, will be presided over by the Lord Mayor, who has issued invitations to 5000 guests, who are each entitled to bring two children, 10,000 children who attend schools in Liverpool under the control of the School Board and denominational bodies, and 2000 children who attend such institutions as the Indefatigable, Seaman’s Orphanage, Canon Major Lester’s institution etc. Sports and other amusements will be provided during the afternoon, several bands will be in attendance, and in the evening the opening proceedings will be terminated with a grand firework display, the ground at seven o’clock being open to the public at large.


Liverpool Mercury, Sept 5th, 1895



The citizens of Liverpool are evincing special interest in the ceremony on Satrurday next when the Wavertree Recreational Ground, announced as the present of an anonymous donor, will be opened. The Lord Mayor and his family have exerted themselves in the direction of presenting a fitting entertainment in honour of the donor, who is now known to be Mr Philip HOLT, a member of a family which have taken a prominent part in the commercial and municipal life of Liverpool. The Lord Mayor will at 1 o’ clock meet the members of the City Council and others at luncheon in the Town Hall. Thence, headed by the Police Band, a procession will pass to the grounds, where the chairman of the Parks and Gardens Committee will present the Lord Mayor with a gold key as a memento of the occasion and request His Lordship to declare the ground open.

The letter offering the new playground to the city and the resolution of the City Council accepting the same will be read by the town-clerk after which the Lord Mayor will formerly declare the ground open. After a battery of the 4th Lancashire Artillery Volunteers have fired a salute the children of the public elementary schools of the city will march past the Lord Mayor, headed by the band of the Indefatigable Training Ship, accompanied by the bands of the following institutions, Seaman’s Orphanage, Kirkdale Industrial School, Holy Trinity School and the Orphan Boy’s Asylum. When half the procession has passed the Lord Mayor a halt will be made, and a song by Mr John Gambril NICHOLSON, commemorative of the occasion [music composed by Mr W. H. JUDE] will be sung by a choir of 1000 children, to the accompaniment of the Liverpool Constabulary Band [conducted by Mr A. P. CRAWLEY bandmaster]. The remainder of the children will join in the chorus.

At 4 o’ clock sports for boys and girls will take place in the enclosures. An entertainment will be given by the Liverpool Gymnasium, and a cutlass drill by the Indefatigable boys, as per programme. An entertainment will also be given by the Preston Morris Dancers and a hornpipe dance by the Indefatigable boys. Refreshments will be provided for the teachers and scholars. Whilst the sports are taking place the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress will distribute prizes to the first and second best boy and the first and second best girl in each school represented at the demonstration. The scholars receiving these prizes have been nominated by the head master and head mistress respectively on account of ability, character and attention to school duties. The prizes will be distributed at 5 o’ clock by the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress to the girls who have been the successful competitors at the sports. At 5.30 a gun will be fired and the children will thereupon reassemble on the appointed spot and march off the ground. There will be children from 127 schools in the city. The firework display by Messers BROCK and Co of London will take place between 7 and 9pm and will be on an elaborate scale.

At the monthly meeting of the City Council held at the Town Hall, yesterday, under the presidency of the Lord Mayor, attention was called to the opening of the new playground, on a recommendation of the Finance and Estate Committee, proposed by Alderman BOWRING, to the effect that in the consequence of the expense that will be incurred, an additional allowance of £750 be granted to the Lord Mayor.

Sir A. B. FULWOOD explained that the Lord Mayor would derive no benefit from the allowance, but the only way in which the expense of celebrating a noble gift in the way proposed could be provided was by the making of an allowance. He wished to ask the chairman of the Finance and Estate Committee, or whoever was in charge of the function to take place on Saturday next, to what extent the public were to be admitted, whether they were to be admitted freely, whether tickets were to be obtained, and whether any or the whole of the place were to be reserved.

Sir A. B. FULWOOD said, that in view of the money allowance to the Lord Mayor, he thought that the park should be opened to all interested in the event. He would like to know to what extent the public would be admitted to the opening ceremony.

The Lord Mayor said, it was not deemed advisable to throw open the park free on Saturday afternoon, as it might interfere with the carrying out of the ceremony. The school children of the city had been invited to the number of 12,000. In addition to this provision had been made for 25,000 persons. Each member of the Council had received 10 tickets, and this was an instance to show that the idea of scattering the invitations broadcast had been maintained. [Hear hear].

At a later period of the meeting Alderman F. SMITH proposed the following recommendation of the Parks and Gardens and Improvement Committee :- “That the piece of land situate on the west side of Prince Alfred Rd, Wavertree, south side of High St, , south-east side of Wellington Rd, north side of Smithdown Rd and east side of the London and North Western Railway, and containing 108 acres or thereabouts, and conveyed to the Corporation by deed of gift, dated 20th May 1895 be appropriated, pursuant to section 14 of the Liverpool Improvement Act , 1865, as a place of recreation for the inhabitants of the city, and that it be called the “Wavertree Recreation Ground”.

Mr BURGESS said that he did not wish this piece of land to be named as the committee proposed. In the letter in which the noble gift was announced to the Council, Mr RHIND wrote that the name should be, “Wavertree Playground”.

Mr TOPP asked if the opinion of Mr HOLT the donor, had been ascertained on the matter ? He was told that he had no right to mention Mr HOLT’S name, but he maintained that the name should be permanently associated with the playground. Posterity should know to whom they owed the gift, and he trusted that a way could be found to associate Mr HOLT’S name with it.

Alderman SMITH said that he had seen Mr RHIND that morning and that he particularly desired that whilst the naming of the grounds should be entirely within the control of the Council no name shall be associated with it. The Parks Committee in regard to the name, had no feeling in the matter, and if the Council would like it to be playground, playground let it be.

The resolution of Alderman SMITH was then adopted, with the substitution of playground for the words recreational ground.


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