Birkenhead Park has moved a step closer to achieving the coveted UNESCO World Heritage Site (WHS) status.
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, has announced the Park will be included on the Government’s newly announced ‘UK Tentative List’ for potential nomination for inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
At a time when most parks were private estates and not accessible to the public, Birkenhead Park was purpose-built and publicly funded by the local municipal authority to provide a high-quality green space anyone could use and enjoy.
Birkenhead Park was laid out by Joseph Paxton, one of the most important landscape designers and architects of the 19th century. In public use since 1845, its official opening on 5th April 1847 received significant press coverage and attracted people from far afield – with a special train chartered from London so that visitors from the capital could attend the event.
Frederick Law Olmsted, an ‘American farmer’ who later became the co-designer of Central Park in New York, also visited Birkenhead Park in 1850 and said he had never seen such a ‘People’s Garden’, and that he could not think of anything comparable in ‘democratic America’.
From releasing space for air-raid shelters and allotments during World Wars, to providing a much-needed sanctuary for people during the coronavirus pandemic, Birkenhead Park has continued to serve the social purpose for which it was created.
David Armstrong, Assistant Chief Executive, said: “Already Wirral residents hugely value Birkenhead Park and this is shown by the fact that it is visited by nearly two million people every year.
“For several years, it has been an ambition of Wirral Council and partners – including the Friends of Birkenhead Park – to seek UNESCO’s recognition of the Park and its immediate surroundings as a World Heritage Site. To be included on the UK Tentative List for potential nomination to UNESCO for World Heritage Status is fantastic news and shows we are one step closer to achieving that ambition.
“A successful application for WHS status would also bolster the wider regeneration of Birkenhead and if ultimately accepted as a World Heritage Site this flagship Park have its place in history cemented even further, as well adding further to its international recognition.”
The UK Tentative list includes sites which could become future UNESCO World Heritage Sites over the next 10 years, and although joining the Tentative List by no means guarantees that a site will progress to be nominated to UNESCO, Birkenhead Park’s inclusion on this highly selective list is seen as a significant step closer to that goal.
UNESCO is the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, and one of its roles is to make a final decision on which locations become World Heritage Sites based on lists of potential locations submitted to it by governments.