New Ferry's oldest park is ringed by attractive housing and, with the adjacent Village Hall, forms the heart of the community and plays host to the annual New Ferry Festival.
The first New Ferry Park was not built here. It was laid out on land to the rear of the New Ferry Hotel (off New Ferry Road) in the late 19th century, and was intended to cater for residents of the new houses being built down by the riverfront and for the many day-trippers who came over from Liverpool on the ferry to New Ferry’s pier. However, developers viewed the land the park occupied as highly desirable, and the Council sold the site for housing. The housing at Onslow Road now covers most of the site, whilst the New Ferry Hotel was demolished in the last century and the site of it is now occupied by the Derwent Lodge retirement home.
The Council decided to rebuild the park on its new site at the end of the 19th century. This land had been a mixture of farmland, where some clay pits had been excavated (for brick-making) and these had often been left as a series of small ponds. The ponds were filled in and the park laid out during the late 1890s. As well as the tennis courts (two of the original four of which survive today in Stanley Road), the park also featured a bowling green surrounded by benches and a pavilion covered with clambering roses. The park even boasted a garden for the blind, with highly-scented flowers and braille nameplates next to them
The Lodge, built in 1904 (and pictured opposite circa 1922) once guarded the main entrance to the park. The two large gates, one on either side of the lodge, were locked every night and the park patrolled by the park keeper. This Grade II listed building was empty for many years before being restored as a restaurant in 2000, then was turned into a childrens' day care centre and subsequently an animal sanctuary. It has recently been sold to an unknown buyer and its future use is currently not yet known.
The park was originally to have been surrounded by fine Victorian houses. You can see the first few of these were built in Sefton Road. But, as often happened in the late 1890s, builders went bankrupt, the remaining land was then resold and more inferior, smaller houses built. Just look at the age and style of the houses along the road, from grand Victorian villas, to 1920s semi-detached and, finally,1930s semi-detached homes.
For generations, the park was a popular place for the people of New Ferry to relax and enjoy themselves. During the first half of the 20th century it played an important role in the annual Port Sunlight Festival when the procession of highly decorated carnival floats would end up here after a winding tour of the village’s streets.
During WWII, the park was one of the few open spaces in the area with enough space and distance from surrounding buildings to build public air raid shelters to protect residents from German bombs. The shelters were indeed useful, as a bomb fell onto terraced houses in nearby Egerton Road in May 1941 (on the site where the new houses stand today). The shelters were still open to the public in the 1960s and 1970s – and many people remember playing in and around them until they were covered over for safety reasons. They still exist, under the mounds next to the play area.
For many years, the area to the north of Grove Street School was used for allotments. Many older residents remember spending happy hours with their parents and and grandparents growing their own vegetables. In the 1960s, the allotments were removed and Council maisonettes built, the streets being named after famous poets. The estate was hugely unpopular; the layout was a disaster which encouraged anti-social behaviour and the flats were demolished in the early 1990s to be replaced a decade later with a modern housing estate which now flanks Longfellow Drive.
The park suffered from cutbacks in maintenance budgets during the latter half of the 20th century. The bowling green disappeared, along with the flowers and the blind garden. Part of the park disappeared when the original New Ferry clinic was built on it.
Although the play area was improved in the early 1990s, and the tarmac kickabout area created in the dip, the park has seen little investment since. The football pitch was improved in the early 2000s when some land drainage work was carried out, and the pitch is now the popular home of local teams.
The park is also home to New Ferry Village Hall, which – as well as being a popular venue for local clubs and societies – houses the successful and award winning Wirral Farmers Market on the second Saturday of every month.
Between 2005 and 2008, and from 2017 to today, New Ferry Residents Association has organised the New Ferry Festival in the Park. The first event in 2005 featured a team of World War 2 re-enactors who performed a battle between British and German troops; 2016 saw a Viking re-enactment camp; and in 2008 local young people were featured, giving them the chance to perform on a specially built stage.
The festival was revived in 2017 following the explosion in New Ferry and regularly features a fun-fair, choirs, dancing, music from local bands, stalls selling a variety of gifts, dog show, vintage buses from the Wirral Transport Museum, a collection of military vehicles and more. The funds generated are used to pay for the repairs to New Ferry's annual christmas lights.
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