Avenham & Miller Parks History
A beautiful 19th century creation in the heart of Preston...
A 'harmonious whole' was the aim of the landscape architect, Edward Milner, when designing and creating Avenham and Miller Parks during the 1860s. With the two parks being linked by ornate railway arches, this vibe was definitely captured.
Cotton themed beginnings
At the time of the parks’ creation, American civil war was raging and the cotton towns in the Northwest were experiencing a cotton famine. Preston was one of these towns affected and was under threat of economic and social problems brought on by high unemployment. In order to prevent these problems the parks were built by out-of-work cotton workers.
The land to Miller Park was donated by Thomas Miller, a local cotton manufacturer who came to own Horrockses Yard Works after his father went into business with John Horrocks.
Memorials and features
Avenham Park was created by a natural amphitheatre and, since its construction, has had many features added to help transform it into the interesting and historic place it is today. These additions include the Boer War Memorial, added in 1919, the Swiss Chalet, and the Grade II listed Belvedere. The Belvedere was originally located in Miller Park and was relocated to Avenham Park in 1875 to make room for the Earl of Derby Statue.
The Japanese Rock Gardens were also added to Avenham Park in the 1930s. The gardens feature a wide variety of unusual ornamental plants and trees and were planted alongside a large spread of rockery, creating an exotic and unique area to stroll through. The Japanese Rock Gardens officially opened on 12 November 1936 and were opened by Mayor James Harrison.
Egg rolling traditions
Avenham Park was also once home to an elegant bandstand, constructed in 1903. The bandstand provided top Edwardian entertainment and remained until 1953, after which it was removed and another bandstand was constructed nearer to the River Ribble. No bandstand is present in the parks today, however, both parks play host to numerous events throughout the year. The most famous and well-attended of these events is the annual Egg Rolling on Easter Monday. The annual egg rolling event dates back to over 150 years, first taking place in 1867, before Avenham Park was even officially open. Amongst those taking part in 1867 was a correspondent from ‘Liverpool Mercury’ who sent a glowing report:
“I never saw the festival of Eastertide don such an air of thorough-going festivity in any town as in Preston. The people have a park there – nestling snugly on the brink of the river Ribble, so famous for its salmon; and though this park is the very miniature of all its race it is so well ordered, so tastefully laid out, so entwined and enfolded in beautiful walks, so dotted with fountains and streams and miniature lakes, and so picturesquely situated, that it is a very gem of parks”.
Avenham Walk, with its picturesque views of the River Ribble, became a well-known attraction and was considered part of a fashionable resort amongst the county’s ‘polite society’. Avenham Walk is just one of the many reasons why the parks are now Grade II* listed on the English Heritage Register of Historic Gardens and see visitors from all around.
When visiting Avenham and Miller Parks, be sure to look out for interpretation signage for even more history on the parks’ key sights.
*Images from Preston Digital Archive.