Parks and Platt Fields
Manchester ParksPublic Parks in urban environments began to be created in the second half of the 19th century as an antidote to the industrial sprawl, pollution, poor air and even poorer health of the workers in the industrial cities. They were originally designed to be 'the green lungs of the city' and were widely used by families for their rare moments of leisure (Sunday afternoons only, until the 20th century).
Manchester's first urban parks were created in the Victorian days, by industrial philanthropists. These include Phillips, Heaton, Queens, Alexandra and Birchfields Park amongst others.
Platt Fields ParkPlatt Fields was created in Edwardian times. It has a long, colourful and fascinating history, as a 'people's park', bought by Manchester Corporation after a huge local campaign by local people left them with little other option. It was created and landscaped by the working (and unemployed) people of the area. Until the second half of the 20th century, Platt Fields was extremely popular, well-used and maintained by a fleet of up to 50 gardeners.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, parks went into serious decline, caused predominantly by a disgraceful lack of government funding and subsequent growth in vandalism, neglect and crime. As park security patrols were abandoned, parks slowly became magnets for petty crime, muggings and widespread vandalism. Platt Fields was not immune to this; gradually more and more of its excellent facilities were shut down, the gates were no longer closed at night, the perception of danger increased and the numbers of people using the park dropped dramatically. A very sad state of affairs, replicated across the UK. Since the mid 1990s, and principally alongside the upsurge in Friends support groups (of which we were one of the very first), parks have slowly started to recover and regain a new but equally important place in a city's life as spaces for exercise, peace and quiet and as meeting places.
Platt Fields is one of Manchester's principal parks. In the heart of inner city Manchester, it serves a very large concentration of people of all ages and from a myriad of different cultural origins, living less than 15 minutes away. At a survey in 2003, over 43 languages are spoken just in the streets closest to the park.
It is situated at the junction of three wards: Rusholme, Fallowfield and Moss Side; Wilmslow Rd runs along its Eastern edge, an important road that includes both the Indian and Middle Eastern Restaurant area (known locally as the 'Curry Mile') and the huge complex of student Halls of Residence that make up the University's Owens Park campus.
View the "What's in the Park" page >>
The park has a variety of different areas which are all put to good use:
- A central boating lake, rich with birdlife
- Wooded glades and a walkway through these
- Hilly areas, including one high one used for flying kites
- Several large expanses of grass, used for events and sports (football, rugby, & Frisbee, etc.)
- A secluded freshwater brook that runs through the park
- A small community orchard
- A quiet, sunken, Shakespearean garden
- An extensive length of open drainage ditch, harbouring a variety of wildlife
- An historic Anglo-Saxon ditch, known as Nico Ditch
- A formal rose garden
- An 'eco-garden' - used to entertain and educate schools groups and children
- Eric's glade - a quiet contemplative shady area
- The labyrinth - an area for children to explore
- A soft fruit orchard known as Edible Space
- A wilderness area (either side of the brook)
- Tennis courts
- A BMX Track (built to Olympic standards)
- Basketball courts
- A skateboarding park
- Two bowling greens
- A model boat club
- Rowing boats and pedalos
- A fishing club
- 2 children's play areas
Platt Fields used to have a thriving pets corner, a café, a bandstand, a tennis pavilion, a paddling pool and a model boating pool, as well as substantial and vibrant herbaceous borders and floral displays, which many local people still recall with great fondness.
To commemorate the centenary, the Friends have produced a book of text and images that covers the history of the park , and the Platt Estate that existed before on this land, from 1100. See this page for details.