Birkenhead Park

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About the conference

Paxton was a pioneering gardener and landscape gardener who designed the first public park at Birkenhead in 1843, and which afterwards became a prototype. This conference marks 150 years since Paxton's death and re-assesses the legacy of public parks. It focusses on Paxton's heritage but addresses overarching themes that have wider implications for public parks internationally.

These involve issues such as heritage and modern uses; social requirements and health and safety issues; historic fabric and the desire to modernise and leave a mark; increasing maintenance costs and reduction of public funding; privatisation of public space and community engagement, etc.


Over the past twenty years there has been considerable interest in public parks in Great Britain encouraged by Heritage Lottery Funding; as a result there was even talk of a renaissance in public parks. Lottery funding has ensured restoration schemes in large numbers of parks, based on historic research and other survey work. While there have been various efforts to publish material, there is as yet no scholarly work that has emerged from this recent period; there are no popular books. As lottery funding is slowing down and council cuts are beginning to bite, public parks are beginning to suffer from a lack of management and maintenance. It is even more important to record this legacy of public park restorations; the purpose of the present conference is to provide a mechanism for the publication of a critical history of public parks.

About the organisers

The conference is organised by Lecturer Jan Woudstra and PhD Student Camilla Allen at the Department of Landscape at the University of Sheffield, and is sponsored by Historic England, The Landscape Institute and the National Trust




Day One, Friday 11th September

The papers presented on this day address Joseph Paxton’s main public parks and his foreign influences and influence, this is followed by a dinner at INOX, to which all conference delegates are welcome. Level 5, Students’ Union Building, Durham Road, Sheffield, S10 2TG. Enter through the West Entrance of the Students’ Union Building.

Day Two, Saturday 12th September

The papers presented on the second day address the future of public parks and will end with a lively discussion, a play by John Greatrex, and a picnic and walking tour of historic parks in Sheffield designed by Paxton’s competitor, Robert Marnock.


Jan Woudstra
Paul Elliott
Clare Hickman
David Bawden
Robert Lee
Robert Holden
Michael Lee
Stéphanie de Courtois
Luca Csepely-Knorr
Sandra den Dulk
Carol Grove

Adrian Wikeley
Brent Elliott
David Lambert
Drew Bennelick
Katy Layton-Jones
Tom Seaward
Victoria Bradford-Keegan
Bob Bagley
Roo Angell
Nicola Dempsey
John Greatrex

Click here to download the full weekend programme





The conference takes place Lecture Theatre Four in the Arts Tower, Western Bank at The University of Sheffield. The lecture theatre is on the lower ground floor and can be reached by stairs or lift. Lunch and refreshments will be served in the atrium outside the lecture theatre, Friday night’s conference dinner will be at INOX and the Saturday picnic lunch will be served in Weston Park , weather permitting.




Sign Up

A number of packages are available so delegates can make as much of the conference as possible, as well as a special student rate:

Standard Rate Friday & Saturday £90
Standard Rate Friday & Saturday + Meal £122
Standard Rate Friday day delegate only £50
Standard Rate Saturday day delegate only £50
Student Rate Friday & Saturday £60
Student Rate Friday & Saturday + Meal £92
Conference Meal Only £32

To book a place visit The University of Sheffield’s online shop

If you have any questions, please contact Camilla Allen at


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