Peel Park is undergoing a transformation. Once the city park of Salford this was the place to stroll by flower beds, watch the fountains, play quoits, listen to a band and watch the ducks on the river while the children frolicked on the playground. Named in honour of Robert Peel, the prime minister who died in 1850, the year before Queen Victoria visited Salford and Manchester and Peel Park was at the centre of the celebrations. It is reported that 80,000 Sunday School children sang the national anthem for the royal visitors. The park was paid for by public subscription and was the first of three parks to be opened on 22 August 1846, the other two were opened later that day in Manchester. Peel Park was built on the gardens of the former Lark Hill Villa, which overlooked the park and later became a public library and is now the Museum and Art Gallery. Lark Hill Villa was built in the 1790s high above the river to make the most of the then rural view. The year after Peel Park opened, in 1847, 30,000 people visited the park in one week, in 1901 there were 29,385 bowlers using the greens. Salford was proud of its park and over the years improved and modified the original design and LS Lowry painted Peel Park a number of times in the early 20th century.
Being alongside the River Irwell and in the river’s floodplain Peel Park has flooded a number of times, the first of these in 1866 and again in 1870. Most recently the park flooded in the Boxing Day floods of 2015.
The University of Salford buildings now hide Peel Park from the traffic of the A6 and visitors have to make their way through the campus to find the park. When we moved to Salford we sought out Peel Park and found a neglected green space which despite this was still pleasant to walk through following the path by the River Irwell. Heritage Lottery funding now means that this summer a refurbished Peel Park will open and will once more be a park that Salford can be proud of.
If you are interested in supporting Peel Park there is a Friends of Peel Park group.