In any city I will seek out the parks, those green spaces that are important for the health of people and wildlife. I therefore found my way through the streets of Salford to Chimney Pot Park soon after we had moved here. Although this handkerchief-sized park is not the most beautifully landscaped it is unusual and I always make the effort to walk through it when I am nearby as I love the airy views this elevated park gives across Salford. Everyone calls the park Chimney Pot Park, although Salford City Council call it Langworthy Park on their website and local people are familiar with and pass down the park’s singular story. That first day I came looking for Chimney Pot Park I was initially confused as at street level all I could can see was a long brick wall facing Liverpool Street. Exploring I found the sloped entrance from Highfield Street through St Ambrose Gate, with a plaque remembering those who worshipped at St Ambrose Church nearby and I climbed up to find a small park that has everything a park needs and an unrivalled view over Salford; to the south the lights of Salford Quays and to the north the neat rows of red brick terraced houses.
The park was opened in 1915 on the site of the former Highfield Reservoir and Salford Online reports that there were originally plans to create a boating lake here. Instead, a park with bowling greens and tennis courts was built for local people. Whenever I walk along the paths looking across the rooftops of Langworthy I think about the enormity of the task of filling in the reservoir to create this park early in the 20th century. Salford Online reports excerpts from the Mayor’s speech on the opening of the park, when he suggested that ‘ladies could “bring their sewing and mending to the park” and sit in comfort doing their work in pleasant surroundings.’ Today you are more likely to meet dog walkers in the park than anyone with a sewing basket.
Harold Riley, a local artist and friend of LS Lowry, dedicated his working life to documenting life in Salford in paintings and photographs, although he is best known as a portrait painter. His dark and brooding stylised painting of Chimney Pot Park shows the small park lost in the circle of terraced streets and tall chimneys. This isn’t the park I know today and on a sunny day it feels to me that the park suspends me above the bustle of the streets and the houses to somewhere just a little more peaceful.
The memory of the reservoir survives in the surrounding street names; there is a Reservoir Street, Wall Street and Highfield Street. The former two streets were part of a recent award winning and innovative redevelopment by Urban Splash that turned the terraced houses upside down, putting the living areas on the first floor and the bedrooms on the ground floor. The development got caught up in Urban Splash’s financial difficulties and failing to deliver the final phase this was handed over to another developer in 2014 and the houses are now almost completed. Many of the brick terraced houses here retain the attractive ornamental brickwork fans over the doorways that always catch my eye.