5th February, 2019. History of Public Parks, 23.

The bandstand (s.p.b.) at People’s Park, Grimsby stands to the right off the above picture. Travis Elborough in his book A Walk in the Park (s.p.b.s) is of the opinion that ‘the common park bandstand’ was inspired by ‘the raised-platform kiosks seen in Turkey and across the Ottoman Empire’, these being encountered by British diplomats and soldiers during the mid 19th century support Britain gave to the vast Ottoman Empire especially during the Crimean War.

He also argues that the great age of municipal park creation from the 1880s to the early 20th century was a response to the economic recessions of the era, the logic being that beneficial public provision would dilute the impact of recessions on the population and thereby, might, stave-off civil unrest. This seems to predict a Keynsian logic as opposed to the early 21st century response of cutting-back all public provision. Certainly it was during this era that municipal authorities came to compete with each other over the physical extent and diversity of public park provision, also, to work for the ‘Parks Department’ became a measure of status and worker satisfaction.

Another aspect of the way public parks developed was the general policy that should dictate features provided in such parks. Initially public parks were perceived and designed by landscape gardeners (see early blogs re J.C. Loudon) focussing on open grassland peppered with native and exotic tree species. By the third quarter of the 19th century the creation of flower-beds was becoming a priority, thereby the horticulturalist becoming more important than the architect. Conservatories and greenhouses became a must, not only to educate the people in sub-tropical flora but also to facilitate propagation for the flower-beds. The policy of ‘carpet bedding’ could be controversial, that was planting masses of plants (usually annuals) to create a mass of colour. Public events such as Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, 1897, encouraged some park super-intendants to oversee carpet bedding which portrayed some relevant thing e.g. the national flag. One argument in favour of horticultural priorities in public parks was that many labouring families had little or no garden area on which to work themselves, a factor that is becoming increasingly the case again today and not just within the poorer classes.