History of Moor Park
Moor Park is the largest and oldest parkland in Preston. Originally Preston Moor Common, it formed part of Henry III’s Royal Forest of Fulwood, which received a royal charter in 1235.
The area has been at the centre of many historic and memorable events for hundreds of years. Between 1736 and 1833 horse races were held annually on the moor and the original start point, a large stone, still remains.
It was in 1833 that the park was officially recognised when Preston became the first of the new industrial towns to create a municipal park. A hundred acres of the common was enclosed and renamed Moor Park. An avenue of lime trees (Ladies Walk) created the southern boundary with Serpentine Lake at the northern edge.
At a cost of £10,826 the park was landscaped between 1862 and 1865 by unemployed workers at the height of the cotton famine. The architect Edward Milner, later designed Avenham, Miller and Grange parks in Preston. Sporting facilities were also included and used by Preston Nelson’s cricketers, in 1867, who were later known as Preston North End. The subsequent short move to Deepdale Farm and a switch to rugby then football marked the beginning of the city’s historic football team.
The park’s new Open Air Baths opened in 1907 and alleviated pressure on the Saul Street town centre baths and survived up to the early 1970s. The observatory opened in 1927, in time for that year’s spectacular total eclipse of the sun, and still remains today.
During the First World War, Moor Park housed a hospital for the wounded, with 1150 patients treated in its busiest years. The Second World War saw the park provide a home to a prisoner of war camp.
In 1970s, Preston’s ‘King of the Road’ Tom Benson became a world champion distance walker. Walking the perimeter of the park numerous times he covered 314 miles, breaking the previous record by five miles, one he bettered by 100 miles by the time of his sixth world title.
In recent years major works have improved drainage of the park’s sports pitches with a new pavilion built which was opened in 2005 by Sir Tom Finney and the Mayor of Preston.
Moor Park also hosted BBC Radio 1’s Big Weekend, a free two day live music event which welcomed 35,000 people to the park.
Image: Serpentine Lake, Moor Park, 1896