Job creation schemes are not only a modern phenomenon; Oldham’s Alexandra Park is an example of such a scheme from the mid nineteenth century.
The American Civil War had prevented the export of raw cotton from America and created “The Lancashire Cotton Famine” or “Cotton Panic” (Link
) of 1861–1865 causing chronic unemployment in the Lancashire textile towns such as Oldham. The town council was offered a loan by the government of the day to purchase the Swine Clough Estate on condition that unemployed cotton workers were employed to carry out the work.
Work began in 1863 and the park was officially opened in August, 1865; an event commemorated by this blue plaque on wall of the North Lodge. Somewhat ironically, the American Civil War had ended earlier that year and cotton was once more being supplied to the Lancashire mills. The park was given its name in honour of Princess Alexandra who had recently married Albert, Prince of Wales.
Although the “Cotton Famine Park” became somewhat run down in the latter half of the twentieth century, it has now been restored to its former glory with significant investment backed by a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund and was reopened in 2004 with refurbishment bringing a return to the near-original landscape as envisaged in 1863.
Alexandra Park is a Grade Two site of national importance on the English Heritage Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest in England.
There is an excellent website (Link
) which provides a history of Alexandra Park in postcards and photographs showing comparisons between its current appearance and views from the late nineteenth/early twentieth centuries. Some other links are given below:
- The Cotton Famine (Wikipedia)
Alexandra Park (Oldham Council)