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Preston Park, Brighton

The grade II Preston Park is one of Brighton’s major public spaces. Cafes, gardens, sports pitches, play areas and a MUGA are all heavily used. acta prepared a conservation plan in 2005 and revised it in 2016. The plan is now being implemented through individual projects for the key areas identified.

The site is very well documented. There are original plans for almost all features and hundreds of photographs. We put this material into a comprehensive gazetteer and worked with the Friends of Preston Park’s oral history project on documenting changes and changing attitudes.

The park’s future lies with engaging community groups directly in its management and in setting conservation priorities. Activity has to be centred on ‘hotspots’ like the walled garden where high standards can be achieved and there are opportunities for training. The plan explored where the hotspots should be and the best ways of ensuring committed volunteer groups.

Brighton is the home of the National Collection of elms and there are some fine trees within the park. Nature conservation priorities were based on adding to, and interpreting, the collection. In addition there are places such as redundant bowling greens where it has been possible to create very good and very popular wildflower meadows.

The park is host to the UK’s biggest Gay Pride festival. One of the key issues has been to ensure that the infrastructure for the big occasions can also be used year-round for much smaller-scale and more local events.

Particular emphasis was given to enabling people to engage with the history of the park. For example, it has a good group of Moderne buildings which can be related to similar buildings elsewhere in the city and to the contemporary ideas of streamlined design, heathy living and dispelling Victorian gloom.

  1. A successful wildflower meadow formed on a redundant bowling green
  2. This area was originally part of the grounds of Preston Manor House and cultivated in the nineteenth-century wild garden style of William Robinson. It has become rather neglected without clear management objectives and is to be redeveloped as a modern wildflower meadow
  3. The tile house was made to demonstrate different patterns of tiles at the Bath and West Show, purchased by Brighton Corporation and re-erected in the park
  4. The original plans for the 1920s rose garden survive and there are many illustrations
  5. The rockery is a horticultural hotspot managed to a very high standard and is the largest in an English public park
  6. Among the many elms forming part of the National Collection there are the Preston Twins champion wych ems over 300 years old