'People's Parks' by Paul Rabbitts & Hazel Conway
Over the last 25 years, there has been a significant rise in interest in public parks across the UK, partly as a result of Heritage Lottery Funding (£1 billion) and the many restorations that have followed; partly as a result of Green Flag and the emphasis on high-quality parks; but also because of the renewed threat to many of them with austerity measures biting hard – and the results of the 2017 Parliamentary inquiry overtaken by Brexit. More recently, the value of our public parks has been heightened due to the global Covid-19 pandemic. Parks were our saviours during and post lockdown. Never before have they been so important.
There are 27,000 public parks in the UK and the interest in them has never been greater with intense coverage in the national media. Since 1991, when Hazel Conway's iconic book 'People's Parks - The Design and Development of Victorian Parks in Britain' was published by Cambridge University Press, there has been a proliferation of research matter on public park history including a refresh of the English Heritage Register of Parks and Gardens. There has been a wide range of research examining every aspect of the importance of parks over the last 30 years with a high level of expertise and analysis – by landscape architects producing conservation management plans as part of lottery-funded projects, historical researchers such as Dr Katy Layton-Jones as well as Garden Trusts, Friends of Groups and other volumes like ‘The Regeneration of Public Parks’ (2000). Academic research into the benefit of parks for health and well-being has been prolific as well as research into new models for managing public parks. The wealth of research and information available has never been greater than at present. This research needs to be thoroughly examined, appraised and re-evaluated 30 years after Hazel’s book was written.
Yet to date (2023), no publication exists that wholly covers the history of our public and municipal parks – including what came before, the rationale for them during the Victorian era and specifically their legacy and what followed with the Edwardians, First World War, interwar era and post-war to 2022 when the last public park of any significance was developed at Mayfield, Manchester. Hazel Conway’s book ‘People's Parks: The Design and Development of Victorian Parks in Britain’ is still seen as the definitive book on parks and there has been little since this was published in 1991 covering the history and detailed development of parks that takes into account another 100+ years of parks history, including the impact of Covid-19.
This project has focused on the development of public parks and is proposed to be an update of Hazel Conway’s milestone book. It was published in 1991 by Cambridge University Press (CUP) and copyright and publishing rights were passed to Zara Conway, Hazel’s daughter when Hazel recently passed away. CUP has no interest in re-publishing the book and Zara has given her blessing to an updating of the book. The original book is incredibly rare and expensive and no longer available. The original book focussed on Victorian Parks, but this updated book has covered beyond the Victorian era and up until 2022.
New chapters include the impact of the garden cities on open space design, pre-war and inter-war, parks management, and most recently the decline, revival and impact of austerity and the global pandemic.
The book will be published by John Hudson Publishing https://johnhudsonpublishing.com/, the former Head of Publishing from Historic England and produces very high-quality books with notable and respected authors such as James Stevens Curl and Christopher Webster.
The manuscript is completed including over 400 historic and current images, and 170,000 words and WILL be published in late 2023.
As many will know, we (myself and John Hudson) are keen to raise some funding towards the publication costs of this high-quality book and have set ourselves a flexible target of £5,000.
You will of course be acknowledged in the book as a contributor.
Paul Rabbitts is currently Head of Parks and Open Spaces at the City of Southend-on-Sea and is also a prolific author on public parks, architecture, and local history with significant publications on the iconic bandstand, the Royal Parks and the architects, Decimus Burton and Christopher Wren. He has published for Historic England, Amberley Publishing, Shire Publications, Lund Humphries and The History Press. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society. www.paulrabbitts.co.uk
Please note no raffles, sweepstakes, giveaways, or promotions are offered in exchange for any donations made to your GoFundMe.
DonationsSee top donations
Become the first supporter
Your donation matters