The Boathouse was built around 1842, probably by John Robertson supervised by, Park designer, Joseph Paxton. Originally timber framed on a rock-faced stone base, stone chimney under a tiled roof. The design was in the chalet style with overhanging eaves over external stairs. A fretted balcony was included to square windows on the land side and enriched mouldings as a frieze. By the mid 1980’s the balcony was
missing and fire destroyed the remaining fabric in the 90’s.
Approaching Princes Park along Princes Avenue, the first glimpse the visitor has of the Park is the Sunburst gates. These original gates, loving restored, are an excellent example of mid nineteenth century workmanship and lead into the most wonderful of public spaces in Liverpool. The interested observer will note that the gates are decorated with sections in 23.5 karat gold leaf.
The park was, for nearly four hundred years, part of the hunting forest of Toxteth and was a Royal Park. Not like the park we see today, the area would have been densely forested but in the 17th century the Royal Park status was removed with farmers and industrialists soon moving in to take advantage of the area. In the early part of the 19th century a private developer Richard Vaughn Yates, a prominent citizen of the city purchased an area of land which we now know as Princes Park. Yates planned to site grand houses on the park’s perimeter which, once sold, would cover the park’s cost. Designed by Joseph Paxton, the park was opened in 1842 with features which are to be found in many other of Paxton’s designs such as the perimeter carriage drive, lake, impressive entrances and footpaths which bring a surprise on every turn of one’s perambulations.
At the Sunburst Gates entrance there once stood the Doric Lodge, though again nothing remains due to it being bombed in 1940. Not too far into the park from the main Sunburst Gates entrance you will find the grave of “Judy” a donkey which gave rides to the children, who visited the park, for over twenty years. The gravestone is dated 1926.
The Serpentine like lake has been a feature of the park right from its original design. With an island and boathouse, of which sadly only the base remains, the lake has been a source of enjoyment for generations. Now, in 2020, the lake is nearing the end of a restoration project which has seen much work done to improve the banks and the installation of a bore hole to keep the water, in the lake, at a stable level.
Once linked to the mainland of the park via a Chinese style bridge, the island has, in recent years, become a part of that mainland with the combined build up of debris and loss of water. Alongside the lake restoration, plans have been put in place to re-bridge the island as part of a permanent memorial to the well known freedom fighter, Nelson Mandela. The island will be home to an installation which will reflect Mandela’s love of gardens and will provide an area for learning and reflection events can be held. .
For most of the time the Friends have existed, we have managed the trees of the Park and have planted many different species which relate to those which Paxton would have had available when the Park opened in 1842. The Cherry tree walk is something special to see in the weeks the trees are in blossom. If you would like to help us with our tree management, please go to our Volunteer page.
As can be seen from the original plan, drawn at the time the park was constructed, little has changed for the visitor to Princes Park, with its lake, Sunburst Gates, memorial to Richard Vaughan Yates, Carriage Drive and numerous paths through the Park. Today the visitor will enjoy enhancements such as tennis courts, a children’s play area, labyrinth and the much acclaimed Henge.
Please consider joining us as a volunteer!