On our doorstep: the treasure that is Sefton Park. At its heart: the jewel, the Palm House. Twice a day dog and I loop around this beautiful building. In the weeks around Christmas the filigree dome is illuminated with coloured light, and the interior decorated with seasonal lights.
Completed in 1896, Sefton Park Palm House was a gift to Liverpool by Henry Yates Thompson, whose grand uncle was Richard Vaughan Yates who donated the land for Prince’s Park to Liverpool (the Yates were a wealthy family of merchants and lawyers, Unitarians, social reformers and prominent in the anti-slavery movement).
The Palm House is one of the country’s largest Victorian greenhouses and was designed in the tradition of Paxton’s glass houses and was stocked originally with a rich collection of exotic plants. There are nine marble statues on display inside, together with a marble bench. On plinths around the outside there are a further 8 bronze and marble statues of famous explorers and naturalists.
A period of decline and deterioration culminated in the closure of the Palm House in the 1980’s on grounds of public safety (I can remember the rusting metalwork and slipped panes of glass at that time, with brown palm leaves poking out of the dome through broken glass). T
In June 1992, a public meeting was held to protest the dereliction and calling for restoration. A petition of 5,000 names was presented to the City Council by what had become the Save the Palm House campaign. A fund raising campaign was established, with a ‘sponsor a pane’ programme, generating over £35,000. Eventually, the Save the Palm House campaign evolved into a registered charity, Friends of Sefton Park Palm House that is now the Sefton Park Palm House Preservation Trust.
A £2.5m lottery-funded refurbishment programme saw the building finally restored to its former glory and the building is now open to the public on most days, as well as being used for many other functions (it’s especially popular for weddings). A specially constructed performance area means that the building can be used to host concerts and performances (such as this one, with Eduardo Niebla, the brilliant guitarist from Andalucia).
So – Merry Christmas from Sefton Park, Liverpool!