Visiting Victoria Park, Widnes, England: Scenic Area Reflecting Over a Century of British History
A cameo of the British past at a healthy, scenic Park
[This visit occurred a number of years ago.]
Today within Liverpool City Region, England, Widnes's Victoria Park (1) was opened in 1900.
Interestingly, the year '1897' is chiseled into the brickwork of its gates, indicating the year of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee, the ostensible reason for the creation of the Park.
A Memorial to a number of local citizens who won the Victoria Cross (2) in military action is present in the Park. This memorial commemorates:
Private Thomas Jones of the 22nd Cheshire Regiment, 1916;
Sergeant Thomas Mottershead, of the Royal Flying Corps, 1917 (3);
Lieutenant Thomas Wilkinson, of the Royal Naval Reserve, 1946.
A larger war memorial stands in the Park, dating from 1921, by Harold E. Davies.
A large fountain commemorates long-serving British Prime Minister William E. Gladstone, who when the Park was opened had recently died in 1898.
Facilities at the Park include those for tennis and bowling. Steam enthusiasts regularly congregate at the Park around preserved steam machinery.
Some people identify Widnes with Lancashire. Others with Cheshire. Others still, with Merseyside.
Who is right?
The answer: all three. Historically, Widnes was part of Lancashire; later, it was incorporated into Cheshire. Later still, it became part of Merseyside County Council. However, when, 12 years later, Merseyside County Council was abolished, Parliament did not actually abolish Merseyside as a legal identity, and thus — for those who cared to think so — Widnes continued to subsist at various, subliminal levels within Merseyside, and Cheshire and — more historically — Lancashire.
These developments at Widnes are illustrative of a peculiarly British flair for rolling local government reorganization. Canadian readers can only imagine with bewilderment the idea of Ontarians being suddenly told they were Québécois, or vice versa. With regard to a comparison with the United States, the only oblique comparison would — I suppose — be the fact that Liberty Island, on which the Statue of Liberty is built, counts simultaneously as being in New York and in New Jersey: New York, because Liberty Island is an exclave of that state; New Jersey, because the Island is surrounded by waters belonging to New Jersey, since it is much nearer to the Jersey Shore than to Manhattan. However, unlike in Widnes, no one actually lives on Liberty Island (except perhaps for night janitors, whose views are not consulted). It would seem also that the sensibilities of the people of Widnes have not been a priority, either, for the British Civil Service and Westminster politicians, with their Medieval Star Chamber tendencies, seemingly permanently riding roughshod over local identities and feeling, in pursuit of their interminable local government reorganizations.
The latest reorganizational act has been to put Widnes in Liverpool City Region, which historically it was not part of.
To clear the mind of all such organizational fog, local citizens have the excellent option of strolling in Widnes's Victoria Park.
My visit to Victoria Park coincided with daffodil season, on a bright, spring day with healthy breezes. Before visiting Widnes I had the mental impression of a northern, industrial town close to Mersey shipping activities, where the notion of photogeneity was supposedly far distant.
After visiting Widnes's Victoria Park, I rightly had to change this inaccurate and unfortunate impression.
Victoria Park is situated at Birchfield Road, Widnes, WA8 7SU, administered by Halton Borough Council.
April 30, 2020
(1) See also: https://clubspark.lta.org.uk/VictoriaParkWidnes
(2) The Victoria Cross is Great Britain's most distinguished award for valour (usually to military recipients; sometimes posthumously), instituted in 1856 — as the name suggests — by Queen Victoria. Canadians may note that this is the award which the quixotic Dominion Militia Minister Sir Sam Hughes tried to arrange for himself to be awarded; after which, together with a whole series of unedifying incidents in World War One, Prime Minister of Canada Sir Robert Borden fired him from the Cabinet.
(3) There is also a statue of Sergeant Mottershead at the Park.
Some sourcing: Wikipedia
Also worth seeing
In Widnes itself, the Town Hall, executed in red brick, dates from 1885, with significant gable, pilaster and pediment details; the Catalyst Museum is a science centre which focuses on the heritage of the chemical industry; Spike Island contains woodland and parkland.
In Liverpool (distance: 13 miles/ 20.9 kilometres) ecclesiastical buildings of note include the Anglican Liverpool Cathedral and the Roman Catholic Metropolitan Cathedral. The Liver Building has become a noted commercial property along the Mersey River, often seen as symbolizing the city.
How to get there: Flights to regional destinations are available from Liverpool John Lennon Airport (distance from Widnes: 6.5 miles / 10.4 kilometres), where car rental is available. United Airlines flies from New York Newark to Manchester Airport (England; distance from Widnes): 24.7 miles / 39.7 kilometres), where car hire is available; rail service is available from Manchester Airport, Manchester Piccadilly and Manchester Victoria railroad stations. Please note that some facilities may be withdrawn without notice. You are advised to check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.
MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.
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