Hoole Parks and Open Green Spaces
J.C. Loudon, Hoole House Estate, and the People’s Parks in Hoole
John Claudius Loudon, an eminent landscape designer and authority, visited the renowned gardens of Hoole House, “one of the most remarkable specimens of the kind in England”, in 1831. He was there at the personal invitation of Lady Elizabeth Broughton, who kept the garden for her own use and that of a close circle of friends. He really admired Lady Broughton’s own design of the famous Rock Garden of Hoole House. J.C. Loudon’s article describing it in ‘The Gardener’s Magazine’ in 1838 made it internationally famous.
From 1857 Arthur and Elizabeth Potts developed the grounds and gardens of Hoole Hall country house, building the conservatory which enabled Arthur Potts to pursue his passionate interest and great expertise in growing orchids, one of which was named after Hoole Hall. Elizabeth Potts was an accomplished flower grower.
However, J.C. Loudon recognised the need for the creation of public improvements. The public park movement had already begun in the 1830s after his visit to Hoole House. At first this was due to concerns about public health, mortality rates, loss of access to green spaces and the need for leisure and recreation for the people in the rapidly growing industrial towns. J.C. Loudon also saw the need to create attractive public spaces where all the classes of society could mingle easily. He believed that creating public parks and recreation grounds could generate community pride.
In 1894, Hoole was designated an Urban District Council, just 46 years after the opening of Chester General Railway Station.
The population continued to grow, as did the demand for housing. By 1899 the Public Health report on Hoole noted that 300 houses were being constructed each year across the district.
In 1896 the 100 acres of land which had been occupied by the very successful Royal Agricultural Show at Hoole in June 1893, was offered for disposal and sale when Claude Hamilton Vivian, who had lived at Hoole House until then, returned to the family seat in Anglesey.
Mrs Elizabeth Potts, the widow of Arthur Potts of Hoole Hall, bought Hoole House and its grounds in 1896 and created a drive and spinney leading from the gardens to Hoole Lane.
The unique society and community of urban Hoole continued to develop rapidly on the hitherto green fields and the street plan spread from Vicarage Road as far as what is now Canadian Avenue.
Hoole Urban District Council, with newly acquired planning and financial powers, took advantage of the opportunity to create most of the area’s parks and open space land as it became available after 1896.
An Important Legacy of Hoole Urban District Council 1894-1954
In 1894, when Hoole Urban District Council was formed, it had already secured the incorporation of part of the Township of Newton-by-Chester, between the Hoole Road and the Cheshire Lines Railway into the District.
There were later boundary adjustments. In 1936, Newton–by-Chester was dissolved and areas of Newton and Plas Newton, shown on the 1947 map, were incorporated into Hoole Urban District, along with 99 acres of Hoole Village. The ring road was emerging as a north east boundary. Also in 1936, Great Boughton gained 18 acres from the District, losing 5 acres back to Hoole Urban District on its south easterly boundary.
In 1947, the Official Handbook and Guide to the District, which covered the expanded Council area, was published.
The guide described how the Council worked to establish a good standard of Public Health for residents and emphasised the parks and open green spaces available for public leisure and recreation. Plans for the further development of housing were also outlined.
Local services, places of worship, and the clubs and societies of the area were listed.
As Chairman of the Hoole Urban District Council, Mr. John R. Hughes welcomed the publication of the Official Handbook and Guide, saying “I am certain that this publication will reinforce the already strong community of interest existing in the district and I commend it without hesitation to both resident and visitor.”
Recently more documents about Local Government in Cheshire have become available, including those drawn up by Hoole Urban District Council in its last days. The last meeting of the District Council took place on 8th March 1954, and the District was incorporated into Chester Council on 1st April 1954.
In its preparations for the change, the District Council drew up a list of properties, including parks and open green spaces, which were to be transferred by order to Chester Council. This document gives the details of all the land purchased for this statutory purpose by the District Council between 1894 and 1954, and under which Acts of Parliament it was acquired. Alexandra Park, with its buildings and structures, contains almost eight acres, 6.231 acres adjoining Canadian Avenue and Panton Road, and 1.653 acres adjoining Canadian Avenue and Hoole Road. The document confirms the legal fact that Alexandra Park was acquired under the 1875 Public Health Act for the benefit and pleasure of the people of Hoole, and that it was purchased by funding from the ratepayers of Hoole. A surprise in the document is the fact that Walker Street Playground (0.238 acres) was acquired under the same act and for the same purposes and is thus similarly protected.
Hoole Allotments, at the rear of properties on the north side of Hoole Lane and the east side of Canadian Avenue were purchased under the Small Holdings and Allotments Act 1908.
No.3 Bowling Green and its building and structures, (0.429 acres) on the south side of Panton Road extension, was created after the Bowling Greens of Alexandra Park, under the Physical Training and Recreation Act. 1937. What became Coronation Playing Fields, was opened by His Royal Highness, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, on 29th April 1953, just over four weeks before the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth on 2nd June of that year.
The Fields were from two parcels of land. The first, 9.742 acres of Playing field on the south side of and fronting Hoole Road, and the second, a ‘hockey field’, measuring 1.468 acres of land at the western end of Park Drive, were combined to create the Coronation Playing Field. Both parcels of land were acquired under the Physical Training and Recreation Act. 1937.
The total area of land purchased for the statutory purpose of providing public leisure and recreation was, and remains, 32.28 acres of land.
The orders for all properties transferred from Hoole Urban District Council to Chester Council came into effect on 1st April 1954, the ‘Vesting Day’ of the expanded Council. These properties were then transferred by order, without modification, to Cheshire West and Chester Council, coming into effect on ‘Vesting Day’ 1st April 2009 in whose stewardship the parks and open green spaces now rest for the foreseeable future.
- Article researched and written by Linda Webb, June 2018, Hoole History & Heritage Society
- Article researched and written by Linda Webb, July 2021, Hoole History & Heritage Society