Central Parks

Southampton

Central Parks

Description

Central Parks are divided into five parks by an existing road network first established in the mid 19th century. The five parks are, from north to south: West Park (also known as Watts Park), East Park (also known as Andrews Park), Palmerston Park, Houndwell Park, and Hoglands Park. The first four parks are linked by two strong, tree lined avenues, one running north-south and the other east-west. These intersect at the centre of the 'Ring', a circular promenade at the top of East Park. A series of additional footpaths aligned along major pedestrian routes also crisscross the parks.

All of the footpaths have been resurfaced and rationalized by reinstating lost routes identified in historic layouts. Additional routes have also been created in response to changes in the adjoining urban fabric and the new movement patterns that this has generated. The parks have also benefited from improved provision of seating, lighting, litter bins, new boundary railings, and a tree management strategy which together ensure a coordinated uniformity across the parks. Other works have focused on improvements to key elements in the five parks and enhancement of the individual character that each has evolved.

West Park

This 'civic' park derives its character from the adjacent City Art Gallery, Library and Civic Centre buildings that dominate the southern boundary. The main east-west promenade runs through the centre of the park with a Sir Edwin Lutyens designed Cenotaph marking its eastern most point before it crosses into East Park. The setting to the Cenotaph has been improved with new paved areas for ceremonies.

A sculpture of Isaac Watts, one of Southampton's most famous sons, sits at the centre of the park. LDA addressed the setting of this feature by removing four fastigiated hornbeans (a later addition to the original design), and reinstating the grass, display beds and railings surrounding the sculpture.

At the western most point of the central promenade a new sculpture was commissioned and now acts as a full stop to the east-west avenue. The sculpture, 'Enclosure' by Paul de Monchaux, is built of Portland Roach stone to match the Civic Centre building and Cenotaph, and is designed to frame four prominent landmarks in and around the park.

The one major alteration to West Park is the re-establishment of the park entrance and linking footpaths from the south-east corner. This necessitated the removal of existing underground toilets, dense vegetation and the relocation of the Age Concern building. An additional footpath has also been implemented linking the Watts memorial with the Library and Art Gallery. Elsewhere boundary planting along the northern and western edges provides a buffer to the park against the busy adjacent roads.

East Park

In terms of character, East Park can be divided into two areas; the horticultural hub to the north, centred on the 'Ring', and an area containing traditional park related activities to the south. Improvements to the northern part of the park have focused on restoring the original design layout within the 'Ring'. This has led to the reinstatement of the inner, meandering footpath and the island beds, which now contain an attractive mix of shrubs and herbaceous perennials. New features within this space include a small circular mosaic garden, located on the site of a previous water feature, and a new fountain positioned on a slightly raised area of ground at the termination point to the north-south axis. At the centre of the 'Ring' stands a statue of Richard Andrews five times mayor of Southampton. The original plinth had been removed in 1971 reducing the height and visual prominence of this feature, but it has now been restored to its original height and grandeur through the introduction of a simple Portland Stone plinth. Other works in the area include an improved setting for the Titanic Engineers Memorial, removal of screening vegetation around the Rock Gardens and Sensory Garden, and the introduction of a robust pergola along one of the exiting footpaths.

Works to the southern part of East Park have focused on the refurbishment and extension of the existing park building to accommodate the Park Ranger service and new park café; improvements to the access and setting of the adjacent bowling green and all weather tennis courts, and; the reorganization of the lawn tennis courts to the west. Improvements have also been made to the park's relationship with the Southampton Institute campus, with new and better access to the park plus additional footpath links to accommodate the flow of students between the campus and the Institute building in Guildhall Square. The existing putting green and rose gardens have been retained, and additional benches in the rose garden provide a pleasant and tranquil seating area.

Palmerston Park

A complex arrangement of island planting beds and narrow grass pathways provides an attractive entrance from the busy shopping area of Above Bar Street to the north-west corner of the park. A major diagonal footpath cuts through this area and emerges into the main open lawn areas of the park, which contrast with the more intimate spaces at the park entrance. Existing mature trees help to screen the service yards and backs of buildings along the western boundary, whereas shrub and hedgerow planting performs a similar job along the eastern and southern boundaries as buffers against Palmerston Road and the bus stops along Pound Tree Road. The relationship between the main body of the park and the high levels of activity at the edges encourages users to colonise the open grass areas for informal seating and relaxation without feeling either isolated from or overwhelmed by activity. A variety of seating is provided to cater for the high demand, especially at lunchtime, and this includes benches along footpaths, informal picnic benches, and a circular seating area at the intersection of the main north-south axis and the major diagonal cross route. The focal point of the park is the new bandstand, which proved a popular demand during the public consultation exercise.

Houndwell Park

This park is characterized by its high levels of activity generated by pedestrian movement between the bus terminus along the northern and western boundaries, and the main retail core. A previously existing entrance and linking footpath have been restored at the south-west corner of the park and a new sculptural gateway marker has been designed to reinforce this key entrance. New metal railings, installed at the back of roadside footpath, now provide a continuous park boundary and help to prevent the pedestrian shortcuts which had led to fragmentation around the edges of the park. Attempts have also been made to reincorporate Vincent's Walk, an area that over time had become detached from the main body of the park, back into the overall layout through its refurbishment and the incorporation of desire lines.

At the southern end of the north-south axis, the William Chamberlayne Gas Column, a 50 feet high fluted Doric column, has been relocated from the adjacent vehicular roundabout to now form the visual end point to the axis. The other main feature in Houndwell Park is an existing children's play area, which under the old guidelines for HLF applications could not be included for upgrading as part of the HLF works.

Hoglands Park

Despite visual connections between Houdwell Park and Hoglands Park, this last park feels more separate from the other four. The park is more open in character with trees restricted to the edges, a form derived from the parks function as the focus of sporting activity. Two diagonal paths link each of the four corners with an existing pavilion building located at their intersection. A cricket pitch occupies each of the northern and western quarters with a football pitch to the east and skate board ramp to the south. HLF work was restricted to improvements to the boundary fencing, footpaths, furniture and lighting.