About the project:
This project is a collaboration between the University of Manchester Department of Archaeology, The Manchester Museum, the Whitworth Art Gallery, Friends of Whitworth Park and the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relation Resource Centre. It is supported by a generous grant of £39,700 by the Heritage Lottery Fund. In addition the project is supported by the University of Manchester and Manchester City Council. The Council for British Archaeology has also awarded us a Challenge Funding Grant towards the cost of the specialist artefact analysis.
It aims to uncover some of the fascinating history, archaeology and biodiversity of Whitworth Park, an 18 acre public park off Oxford Road on the Rusholme/ Moss Side border. Opened in 1890 as part of the Whitworth Institute, the park was originally considered to be one of the finest in Manchester, boasting a boating lake, pavilion, observatory, bandstand, elaborate flowerbeds and many other features. Like other urban parks and green spaces Whitworth Park was intended to be a place for activities to promote health and well-being, as well as providing clean air and an access to nature in the midst of the industrial city.
The park was heavily used from the outset by adults and children from all social classes, becoming an important part of people’s lives and identities. As well as providing the closest green space to the city centre, the park has had many other roles, providing a space to remember the war dead, aiding the Civil Defence of the city during the Second World War, and later on providing a venue for political marches and civil rights rallies in the twentieth century. This all makes Whitworth Park an important part of Manchester’s history: a place that stands out in many people’s memories.
The basic layout of the original park design still survives, yet many of its historic features have been removed over the years. After a period of decline, the Friends of the Whitworth Park have spearheaded the park’s revival, installing new play equipment, renovating seating and planting new flowers and shrubs.
The park is heavily used once again by the local community as well as by the staff and patients from local hospitals and University staff and students who work and study close by. Furthermore a recent biodiversity study has highlighted Whitworth Park’s importance as a habitat for a wide-range of bird, plant and animal species.
Our project aims to celebrate the past and present of the Park, to encourage its greater use by local communities and involvement in its future. We will be looking to increase public knowledge and understanding of its history, architecture and biodiversity.
We will explore its relationship to the history of urban public spaces and culture/leisure institutions in Manchester and elsewhere. This will be done through a two-year community programme involving volunteers from the local community, schoolchildren and students, park users and the Friends of the Whitworth Park, alongside the project leaders. Background research, archaeological fieldwork and oral-history recordings will be undertaken and used to inform our findings which will then form a series of exhibitions, open days and events to showcase the final results of the project, this will include a detailed historic archive for Whitworth Park, a temporary exhibition in The Manchester Museum, production of a project booklet, this blog and improved display information in Whitworth Park itself.
Ultimately it is hoped that this project will help to enhance the Park’s use and appreciation of its heritage.