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Moor Park is Preston’s largest and oldest park, originally common land derived from the Royal Forest of Fulwood by the Charter of Henry III in 1235.
Known as Preston Moor, the area has been the centre of many of the town’s historic and memorable events for hundreds of years.
In 1642 a meeting held on the Moor to read the King’s Commission of Array was attended by 5,000 people. A disagreement broke out between supporters of the King and those in favour of the parliamentary side, a precursor to the hostilities that were to break out in the country.
Between 1736 and 1833 horse races were held annually on Preston Moor, the course itself started at a large stone, which is still in its original position today.
In 1833 Preston became the first of the new industrial towns to create a municipal park by enclosing some 100 acres of Preston Moor and renaming it Moor Park. The park already had an avenue of lime trees (known as Ladies Walk) on the south boundary of the park and the Serpentine Lake on the northern boundary. The park was very rough due to the grazing of freemen’s cattle on this land.
Between 1862 and 1865 the park was landscaped by Edward Milner, notable landscape architect who also designed Avenham, Miller and Grange Parks within the city, with the work carried out by cotton workers at the height of the cotton famine. The works involved many improvements and cost £10,826.
The inclusion of sporting facilities encouraged sports teams to locate here. During 1867 a cricket team rented a wicket on the park. The team was Preston Nelson better known as Preston North End. A move to Deepdale Farm across Deepdale Road and changing from cricket to rugby and football marked the beginning of the city’s historic football team.
In 1907 Moor Park had a new feature, Preston Open Air Baths, which helped alleviate the pressure on Saul St baths in the town centre during the summer months. It is sad to say this was closed in the early 1970’s.
During the First World War, the park became the site of a hospital for the war wounded. The hospital treated some 1,150 patients in its busiest years and was closed in 1919. In the Second World War the park was the site of a prisoner of war camp, though no escapes were committed there.
In 1927 the Observatory was located in the north west corner of the park. This was just in time for the 1927 total eclipse of the sun that was one of a few that was visible by most of Britain. Today the observatory is owned by the University of Central Lancashire.
In 1997 Tom Benson became the new world champion distance walker by walking the perimeter of the park covering a total of 314 miles, this broke the previous distance record of 309 miles.
During 2004 improvements works were carried out to the drainage of the football pitches and a new football pavilion was built, following a fire which had destroyed the old pavilion.
Funding for these works, which cost over half a million pounds, came from a partnership between The Football Foundation, Preston City Council, Lancashire County Council and local schools.
These new facilities were officially opened in May 2005 by Sir Tom Finney and the Mayor of Preston
In May 2007 the park played host to Radio 1’s Big Weekend when over 35,000 people descended on the park over two days to watch this free (ticketed) event which attracted a raft of Radio 1 DJ’s presenting some of the biggest names in pop music of the time.
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