Avenham Park is one of a pair of Victorian-era public parks in Preston, Lancashire. The River Ribble bounds it to the south and the city centre to the north. Its sibling, Miller Park, lies immediately to its west.
History of Avenham Park
Avenham Park and Miller Park have a rich history dating back to the mid-19th century. Their creation was a response to the devastating Cotton Famine that resulted from the American Civil War, affecting cotton towns in the northwest, including Preston. Unemployment was high, and the socio-economic fabric of the town was under severe stress.
Public works projects were undertaken to employ former cotton workers and address these social issues. Projects in Preston included the creation of Avenham and Miller Parks.
Both parks were designed by the renowned English landscape architect Edward Milner. The municipal parks incorporated a pre-existing riverside path laid out in the 1840s. The park officially opened in 1867.
A 5-year refurbishment project was completed in 2011. The project aimed to return the Avenham and Miller Parks to their original 1860s appearance. The project also included the construction of the Avenham Pavilion, completed in 2008.
The restoration project cost £5 million and was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the North West Regional Development Agency.
Avenham and Miller Parks earned their first Green Flag Award in 2008 and have retained it ever since.
Attractions and Landmarks
Avenham Park is the largest of the two riverside parks and lies within a natural bowl. Its wide open spaces are ideal for picnics, walking dogs, or relaxing in the sun.
Around the park, there’s a wealth of historical features.
The Japanese Gardens
The Japanese Gardens showcase the beauty of Japanese garden aesthetics. Originally, this space was a duck pond before being remodelled in 1936. Carefully arranged rocks and plants surround serene water features.
The Japanese Gardens can be found on the western side of the park.
The Belvedere, at the park’s eastern end, is a Grade II listed Italianate structure. It was originally located in Miller Park. In 1875 it was moved here to make way for the statue of the Earl of Derby. It is now often used as a wedding venue.
Old Tram Bridge
The Old Tram Bridge lies south of the Belvedere and crosses the River Ribble. The present bridge is a 1960s concrete structure built to the same design as an earlier wooden bridge.
The original bridge was built in 1802 by the Lancaster Canal Company to carry goods between Preston and Walson Summit. The arrival of the railways led to its closure in 1858. Preston Corporation purchased the bridge in 1872. It subsequently became a footbridge, linking the park to the south side of the river.
The bridge closed in 2019 due to safety concerns. At the time of writing (July 2023), funds have been secured to replace the bridge with a completely new structure. The new bridge is scheduled for completion in 2025.
The Swiss Chalet was built in 1850 and predated the park. The structure is located at the park’s northern end and provides shelter from inclement weather.
Boer War Memorial
The polished pink and red granite Boer War Memorial pays homage to those who fought in the Boer War (1899 – 1902). The obelisk was erected in 1904 on the Flag Market in the centre of Preston. It was relocated to the park in 1926 to make way for the Preston Cenotaph.
The tree-lined Riverside Walk passes through Avenham and Miller Parks, offering picturesque views that have long-charmed visitors. The footpath is well-maintained, level, and pram-friendly.
Avenham Pavilion and Pavilion Cafe
The Avenham Pavilion is a modern addition that officially opened in 2008. Architect Ian McChesney designed the building.
The Pavilion houses the park’s offices, providing a base for the park manager and rangers. It also houses the Pavilion Cafe. The cafe is open seven days a week throughout the year, serving breakfast, lunch, and snacks.
For those seeking a venue for private gatherings, the Avenham Pavilion also features a large function room. This versatile space can be transformed to host various events, including private parties and wedding receptions.
There’s a children’s playground right next to the cafe. The equipment here is aimed at toddlers. The Frenchwood Recreation Ground, just east of Avenham Park, offers a larger playground for older children.
Avenham Park is a welcoming space for dog owners and their four-legged friends, provided that certain rules and guidelines are followed.
Owners are required to keep their dogs on a lead in designated areas. These areas include the Japanese Garden and the area around the Avenham Pavilion. Dogs are not permitted in any children’s play area. Park rules also require owners to clean up after their pets.
Rules are displayed on the park noticeboards and Preston City Council’s website.
Preston Guild Wheel
Riverside Walk runs along the southern edge of Avenham Park and Miller Park. It is part of the Preston Guild Wheel, a 21-mile cycling and walking route that circles Preston. Other points of interest on the route include Riversway and Brockholes.
Events and Community Engagement
Avenham Park is more than just a place of natural beauty; it’s also a vibrant hub for community events and engagement.
Check out the official Avenham and Miller Parks Facebook page for details of upcoming events.
Location of Avenham Park – Parking, Public Transport
Avenham Park is located on the bank of the River Ribble, at the southern end of Preston city centre. The main entrance to the park is on Ribblesdale Place, close to Winckley Square and easily reached from Fishergate, Preston’s main shopping street.
The park can also be accessed from Miller Park.
The nearest car park is the Avenham Multi-Storey Car Park. The entrance is on Glover Street (postcode PR1 3TJ). Fees apply.
Other Parks in and Around Preston
Preston has a good selection of parks and nature reserves. Parks in the area include Miller Park, Moor Park, Haslam Park, Worden Park, Brockholes, and Beacon Fell Country Park.
Miller Park is adjacent to Avenham and was established at the same time. Miller Park is the more formal of the pair and features a magnificent fountain, bandstand, stone grottos, and colourful flowerbeds. The East Lancashire Railway Viaduct separates the parks.
Moor Park is north of the city centre, next to Preston North End FC’s Deepdale Stadium. It is the largest and oldest park in Preston. Facilities include playgrounds, a cafe, an outdoor gym, a skatepark, tennis courts, bowling greens, basketball courts, and football pitches. The park hosts the city’s observatory and is often used for music festivals and large events. The car park at Moor Park is free.
Haslam Park lies northwest of the city centre, on the banks of the Lancaster Canal. It features a nature reserve, lake, play area, tennis courts, and a free car park.
Venture a little further, and you’ll find Worden Park in Leyland. This lovely dog-friendly park combines an adventure playground, a miniature railway, and a maze to provide a unique family-friendly environment. It also houses the Worden Arts & Crafts Centre, which boasts numerous studios offering a variety of arts and crafts.
To the east of Preston, you’ll find the Brockholes nature reserve. With an array of habitats, including woodland, meadows, and wetlands, Brockholes is a birdwatcher’s paradise.
Each park within and around Preston has its unique charm, character, and history. They offer Preston’s residents and visitors an exceptional range of environments to explore, relax in, and enjoy.