Postcard of Woolton Wood and Camp Hill. (Date unknown)
The land, which now makes up the park, has seen a variety of uses over the
last 1000 years, with one of the original uses being as an Iron Age fort situated
on the crest of Camp Hill.
Woolton Woods originally formed part of the estate of Woolton Hall, which
from 1772 was owned by the Ashton family, prominent Liverpool citizens, the
earliest of whom can be traced back in Liverpool to the 16th Century.
Henry Aston is the first recorded owner of the estate which became Woolton
Wood and established Woolton Wood Estate house in 1837. Following his death
the Estate passed to William Shand, a merchant and broker who married Elizabeth
Ashton around 1850. Shand was Mayor of Liverpool, 1856-7 when his duties included
a meeting addressed by Dr David Livingstone.
From 1871 the Estate was owned by Holbrook Gaskell of the large chemical firm
Gaskell-Deacon, producing caustic soda in Widnes. Gaskell indulged in horticulture
– a keen orchid grower his walled garden included a fernery and from
1888 he was supported in this work by head gardener Harry Corlett.
By 1917 the Estate had been acquired for £12,000 from Col James P Reynolds
of Dove Park (Reynolds Park). Col. Reynolds sold most of the estate to Liverpool
Corporation, but dedicated the 10 acre strip of land fronting Woolton Woods
on the north easterly side at High Street to be used as a recreation ground
for local people. This was in recognition of the privilege he felt in living
in a beautiful residential district for over 50 years of his life.
Mr Corlett continued to develop the Garden which opened in July 1921 to the
claim ‘the finest garden in the city’. In 1927 Col Reynolds inaugurated
the famous Floral Cuckoo Clock presented to the public by the family of James
Bellhouse Gaskell in memory of his long connection with Woolton Woods, and
for many years Mr Corlett provided rhyming floral quotations which adorned
the feature in bedding.
The 8 hectare section of the park known as Camp Hill owes its origin to the
belief that from 150 BC an Iron Age camp occupied this high land. The estate
was owned in 1862 by Charles Myers and by 1891 was the home of Frederick Herbert
The last owner, from 1911, was Charles James Williamson JP and he bequeathed
his estate as a gift to the City of Liverpool upon his death in 1921. One
of the interesting features of Camp Hill was the ‘Dutch Garden of Meditation’,
created in 1928, and although the pool and garden ornaments have gone, it
is still a sheltered and tranquil spot.
The park today
Woolton Wood and the adjacent Camp Hill combine to create a park landscape
not found elsewhere in the city. This popular blend of semi-natural, mature
woodland, garden areas and sweeping grassland are embellished by outstanding
views of the south city suburbs and the Mersey coast beyond.
Once a destination for tram ride day-trips, the parkland remains a high profile
attraction to both visitors and residents in South Liverpool, complementing
the many fine parks and gardens in this area.
The site presently consists of four large grassy meadows, surrounded by trees.
The main features are the Walled Old English Garden, with a floral clock,
the fish pond and Woolton Woods itself. There is also the sunken garden and
pond situated in the centre of the site which has undergone renovation following
years of decline.
The large open fields visible from the surrounding roadways are edged by wild
flowers planted by the local community. The centre of the site is occupied
by the main woodland area, situated at the top of a series of sloping fields
falling away on all sides.
The Woolton Village/ High Street (NE) entrance to the the Wood includes reproduction
ornamental iron gates based on a design from Victorian times.
The main woodland site sits at the peak of a south westerly facing sloping
field known as Camp Hill, the site of an ancient Iron Age Fort. The park is
used for informal recreation, with several public events held on the site
each year. In addition to serving the local Woolton area, many visitors are
attracted to the site to enjoy the ‘country’ atmosphere.