A Fuller History of Ashton Park

The park was first conceived by the Urban District Council of Hoylake and West Kirby when they announced their intention to build a large town park in West Kirby. Ashton Park was not the first park in West Kirby. This was Sandlea Park on the corner of Dee Lane and Banks Road. Progress was slow on the creation of the new West Kirby Park (as it was known then). The park was planned against a background of Council investment expended on the development of West Kirby and Hoylake as places to live and visit. The change of West Kirby from a sleepy little rural village overlooking the River Dee was driven by the arrival of the railway and the rapid development of Liverpool and Birkenhead as seaport, commercial. trading and  manufacturing centres. In 1890 the Hydropathic Hotel was built and extended in 1896, in 1899 both Hoylake and West Kirby promenades were finished, West Kirby Marine Lake was opened and electric lighting introduced in 1901. The provision of a town park was a natural addition for a bustling little town developing as a health and seaside resort.

Most of the land (9.8 acres) was leased from Miss Emma Mary Ashton, a wealthy spinster residing in Kensington in London who owned a sizable area of West Kirby land, land that was over the years to be developed for housing. The other part (3.1 acres), at the Church Road end, was glebe-land and leased from the Church. 

Miss Ashton was the daughter of a Liverpool merchant called Ralph Ashton, who in turn was the son, and for a period, partner of Henry Ashton. Henry was a wealthy merchant but was born in Wigan into a family of linen manufacturers. It seems he moved to Liverpool and made his fortune by trading with the West Indies, in particular Dominica where he owned coffee plantations and imported goods for sale in the fledging colony and exported coffee and other locally produced products. At one time he lived at Manor Farm on Village Road.  

The park was eventually started in 1900 and opened in 1901 when still only partially completed. The development of the Upper Park was slowed after over-spending on the works and planting in the Lower Park.

The park continued to develop – tennis courts, bowling-greens, pavilions and shelters were provided, eventually a children’s playground was built and a range of tennis courts provided in the Upper Park in the 1920’s on a levelled platform to cater for the popularity of tennis and for the development of annual tennis tournaments. These developed from tournaments for locals and visitors, to regional competitions and ultimately hosting international stars such as Virginia Wade, Evonne Goolagong, John McEnroe and Billie-Jean King.

The park also saw over the years a First World War One tank in the Upper Park, model yachts on the lake, brassbands, Concert Parties, Pierrot Shows, flower shows and coronation celebrations. The look of the park has changed substantially over the years with the growth of the trees, remodelling and provision of additional sports and play facilities. But also the decline in standards of care and maintenance after the creation of the Metropolitan Borough of Wirral and Merseyside County Councils and the dissolution of the Urban District Council of Hoylake and West Kirby followed by recent successive cuts in the parks budget have taken their toll.

Miss Ashton died in 1935 after which the land on which most of the park stands was bought from Miss Ashton. Some of the land remains in the ownership of the Church and is still leased to the council.

The park has enjoyed something of a revival since the creation of the Friends of Ashton Park in May 1991.      

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