The History of Queens Park




Queens Park is Bolton’s most important Heritage Park being one of four parks built across the north west during the cotton famine of the 1860’s.

In 1864 William Henderson from Birkenhead prepared plans for the park. In the same year the first piece of land was purchased from  The Ecclesiastical Commissioners, with a second portion being purchased from a Miss Pilkington. The final piece of land was acquired from the estate of a Mr Tipping.

It was built by a workforce of unemployed cotton workers during the cotton famine.

The cotton famine came about due to supplies of raw cotton being cut off as a result of the American Civil War.

Thousands and thousands of workers in Bolton (and the rest of the UK) were laid off due to lack of work and this prompted the government of the time to make a series of low interest loans available to local authorities which had to be used for civil improvement projects

The park was finally opened on May 24th 1866 by The Earl of Bradford and was a huge source of pride for the town. It also gave employment to many who would otherwise be destitute and also provided a great amenity for Bolton’s citizens.

The park was originally called “Bolton Park” but in honour of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee year was renamed Queen’s Park in 1897.

Chorley New Road

In the first photo you can see the main entrance to Queens Park from Chorley New Road.It is largely similar to how the entrance looks today with a few notable exceptions.

The park keeper’s lodge is no longer there having been demolished some years ago. It was quite an impressive building at the time, constructed from stone in Italianate style.

The two stone pediments on either side of the entrance way originally had lantern type lights sitting atop them.

Finally, in the second photo you can see that Chorley New Road used to have a tram line as indeed did many other areas in Bolton.

By 1928, Bolton boasted a fleet of 150 trams and the service was a credit to the town.

However, by the time of the second world war the writing was on the wall for the tram service as buses were considered to be more efficient and required less infratructure.

Entering the park from Chorley New Road

The top photo shows the unveiling ceremony of the war memorial at the front of Queens Park circa.1920

As can be seen from the photo there was a huge turnout which is understandable as the Great War had only ended two years earlier and many local men had died in that conflict.

It’s not unreasonable to think that some of the people in that photograph attended the ceremony as they had lost their husbands, fathers or sons.

In the second and third photo you can see the approach to the sunken garden.

As can be seen from these two photographs the two long parallel beds which are still present in this area used to accommodate six trees (unidentifiable at this moment) in each bed.

Those trees have long gone and the beds were converted to flower beds for some time until they were allowed to grass over and now the beds seem a little redundant in that area.

Hopefully, in time, the beds may be aesthetically improved once more.

There also used to be some park benches next to these beds as visible in both photos.

The central island is still there today although a retaining wall has now been built around it.

You can also clearly see the bandstand, another one of the lost buildings from Queens Park, in photo number two.

Sunken garden

In the first photo we can date it as being earlier than 1897 as Bolton Park was only renamed Queens Park in that year to commemorate Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee. 

The bandstand which can be seen in later photos is not present at this time and although the photo isn’t very clear it also looks like the Pavilion building isn’t there either. 

In the second photo the bandstand is now present and the rear of the Pavilion building can clearly be seen.

It’s an interesting observation as the common assumption is that when Queens Park opened it opened as a completed park but this proves that it was always a work in progress with features, buildings and even pathways added on (or removed) later.

The third photo probably resonates with most people as that is how many of us remember the Sunken Garden when we were children.

It shows the Conservatory or “Greenhouse” and was a very popular feature to many people during the 1970’s and 1980’s.

It housed a decent decent collection of tropical plants and cacti as well as a small pond with fish.

It later became a butterfly house which later moved to Moss Bank Park.

The building was sadly destroyed by arsonists in the 1990’s.

The Promenade Terrace

The Promenade Terrace has barely changed over the years.

The highest point in the park affords views over Bolton, views which will have changed many times over the decades.

The Pavilion building was located in the centre of the Promenade Terrace and was one of the most impressive buildings that ever graced Queens Park.

We’re still trying to establish what it’s exact purpose was although we believe it served as a cafe or refreshment area. 

A very similar looking structure was also built at Preston’s Avenham Park at around the same time.

The Pavilion building was demolished in the mid 20th Century and replaced with the Conservatory.

Just behind the Pavilion building used to be a Meteoroligical Observatory.

At the eastern end of the terrace is what is affectionately known as the “pie crust” which used to have seats on the edges.

On the sloping embankment, slightly east of the Pavilion building and in front of the Dorrian statue was another bandstand. 

The final photo is courtesy of Bolton Council archives.

Later years brought some changes to the area behind the Pavilion building.

The bandstand that stood at the head of the Sunken Garden was demolished and replaced with a bowling green and the Meteoroligical Observatory was moved behind the main bandstand (where the current bandstand is currently situated) just south of the large lake. 

Around 1939 new tennis courts appeared on the west of the sunken garden just behind the shrubbery that fronted the Cenotaph. This was in addition to the tennis courts already in place on the eastern side of the Sunken Garden which are roughly still in the same place to this day.


It’s easy to perceive Queens Park in Bolton as a a green oasis in what was originally a heavily industrialised town centre. Even today it’s the commercial centre of the town but people may be surprised to discover that around 1887 in the area around the Promenade Terrace a prehistoric neolithic hammerhead was discovered.

The fountain, ornamental lake and paddling pool

The stone fountain appears on very early maps of the area and it can be assumed that the fountain was built when Queens Park first opened in 1866. 

In the first three photos we can see images of the stone fountain from various angles.

The location of the first photo is easily recognisable and people within the photo can be seen dressed in period clothing of the time.

The second photo is taken from an angle looking upto the Promenade Terrace and the imposing Pavilion building.

The third photo is taken from the far side of the ornamental lake which used to be located where the kids playground is currently sited. The lake was quite sizable and had a small island.

In the fourth photo, (courtesy of Bolton Council) looking towards the iconic gas holders on Spa Road we see that the lake was being used amongst other things as a model boating lake.

This idea of changing the purpose of the lake from only an ornamental one to something that was more fun for children led to the lake being converted to a paddling pool.

There are still probably many people in Bolton today who remember splashing around in the pool in what always seemed like a hot summer’s day.

Unfortunately, health and safety wasn’t much of a priority in those days and as the photos testify, dogs were allowed to also enjoy the pool which understandably became a hygiene concern.

As times changed and maybe it could be said that people started to lose respect for public works then the paddling pool started to fall into a state of disrepair. Broken glass was often maliciously left under the water and the decision was taken to close the pool for good. 

The old children’s playground and Chadwick museum

Many of us living in Bolton will remember fondly the old children’s playground that was located on the site of the current Queens Park cafe.

By today’s standards it wasn’t particularly well equipped but it was still extremely popular with local children. The merry go round, the climbing frame and the swings were especially popular.

It often had a slight air of neglect about it and the Councils at the time probably had no budget to maintain or improve it yet it still remained a well used and well loved feature of the park.

In the second photo is the architect’s drawing of the Chadwick Museum.

The museum was bequeathed by Samuel Chadwick, a local doctor of considerable wealth. He had also gifted an orphanage to the town which bore his name.

He left £ 5,000 to Bolton Corporation to build a natural history museum in the grounds of Queens Park (known as “Bolton Park” at the time).

The money came with two conditions. The building had to be erected within four years and entrance had to be free to members of the public.

The museum was over three floors with the basement dedicated to items that had come out of the ground e.g. fossils, minerals rocks etc.

The ground floor housed the zoology exhibits such as taxidermied animals, insects etc

The first floor contained the Egyptology exhibits many of which still form part of the celebrated department within the Le Mans Crescent museum today.

At the time the museum on Le Mans Crescent didn’t exist so the Chadwick Museum must have been a fascinating place for Boltonians to come and visit.

The Chadwick Museum had been considered too small to house the museum’s growing collection and so work began on the building at Le Mans Crescent. This new museum opened in 1947. It’s opening had been delayed by the war.

For a while exhibits were split between the Chadwick and Le Mans Crescent museums but the Chadwick museum started to fall into a state of disrepair and it was considered too costly to repair and maintain.

Sadly, the decision was taken to demolish the building and transfer all contents to the museum at Le Mans Crescent. Perhaps it was a necessary move but it also shows that it isn’t only today’s society that sometimes fails to protect our architectural heritage-it was happening 70 years ago too! 

The bandstand

The bandstand was located where the current ampitheatre sits (just below the main lake).

Early maps of the time show that the bandstand wasn’t present when the park first opened however there was a series of small ornamental lakes there the larger of which would go on to be a foregound attraction to the bandstand (as can clearly be seen in the second photo).

The bandstand would have been built between 1907 and 1928. We cannot be more precise at this time so we have to rely on maps which were not surveyed every year. We know that a 1907 map does not show a bandstand in the area whilst by 1928 the bandstand and seating area are clearly visible.

By 1928 the two pavilion bandstands that appeared both behind and in front of the Promenade Terrace were removed and replaced with the main bandstand. 

It’s clear that at this time open air music was a popular form of entertainment and there always used to be free concerts every Sunday in the park.


The upper and lower lakes aka the duck pond

The Lower Lake sometimes commonly referred to as the “Duck Pond” is probably the most popular feature of the park and has been for well over a century.

The first photo looks towards the Sunken Garden with the bandstand in the background.

The second photo appears to be from the other side of the lake looking roughly in the direction of Chorley New Road. An ornamental stone fountain can be seen in the foreground on a small rocky island.

The third photo is also from the same side of the lake but at a slightly different location and probably with a number of years difference between the two. Again this appears to be looking towards Chorley New Road as the rooftop of a rather grand building can be spotted in the background.

If you look closely then you can see a horse drawn cart in the photo.

The fourth photo is taken from the side of the lake opposite the where the viewing platform is currently (between the upper lake and lower lake).

The number of benches spaced along the lake are a testament to how busy Queens Park would have been in those days.

The fifth photo is a coloured image of the lower lake and appears to be looking towards Chorley New Road judging by the row of large houses on the horizon. 

Unlike the other photos the photo of the rustic bridge is in an area that has changed quite drastically.

Today, there are two ponds in the area. The Lower Lake (duck pond) and above it the smaller Upper Lake which leads to Park Road and runs parallel with Westgate Avenue.

There originally used to be a smaller third lake above that. This has now been tarmaced over and forms part of the pathway entrance into the park from the top of Park Road (near Westgate Avenue).

This smaller lake would run into the Upper Lake creating a small waterfall. There is still a trace of this overflow now if you look and this is where the rustic bridge used to be located.

The final photo appears to be the Upper Lake showing quite an elaborate fountain. Off centre and to the right could be the waterfall flowing from the now missing third lake.