Victoria Park Portsmouth
Heritage

Mckenzie’s landscape

The landscape and layout of Victoria Park is of historical interest having been designed by Alexander McKenzie who also created Finsbury Park, the Victoria and Albert Embankment and Alexandra Palace Park. The original design for the 3.5ha site created an excellent example of a late-19th-century ‘London’ style park which had begun to move away from stylised formal gardens towards a more natural planting scheme. McKenzie wrote about this in his pamphlet The parks, open spaces and thoroughfares of London (1869).

Although McKenzie included such features as the Rose Garden and lined avenue of trees, the pathways around the park took people to boundaries planted with bushes, shrubs and trees, as might be found in the natural landscape. He used this to create arbours and area of shade and employed a wide range of plants that tolerated the British climate but also flowered and bore fruit across the year to create seasonal interest.

This was a break with tradition and made the commission of McKenzie a radical choice for a city outside London at the time. To the best of our knowledge Victoria Park is only one of two parks designed by McKenzie outside London, the other being in Maidstone, Kent.

McKenzie’s design proposals were accepted in principle by the council in 1876 but there was some negotiation over the exact layout and cost of the park. McKenzie’s original design, coming in at £2,625 was considered too expensive and he was instructed not to exceed £2,000. As a result, aspects of the original design were omitted.

For Victoria Park, McKenzie specified the following planting:
• The central avenue to be lined with horse chestnuts.
• Groups of shrubs in beds comprising sumac, laburnum, acacia, flowering almonds, double flowering peaches, double and single thorns, copper beech, silver poplar, silver birch, scarlet oak and variegated Acers.
• Single examples of weeping elms, Kilmarnock willows and conifers.

The shrubs for the park were provided by Thomas Short of Southsea, who submitted the lowest of three tenders, at a cost of £265 and grass seed was supplied by Suttons of Reading.

McKenzie was retained to supervise the laying out of the park. The park was laid out under the direction of the council’s Road and Works Committee with Mr Hall, the Borough Clerk of Works, and Mr Adams, the Borough Engineer, acting on behalf on the council. Planting was undertaken in 1876 and included horse chestnut trees to line the central avenue.

The main part of the park, as shown on the 1881 Ordnance Survey map, is similar to the park which exists today. The tree-lined central avenue, running from the Lodge at the Anglesea Road entrance to the railway arch leading to the town centre, as well as axial paths are clearly shown and the shrubberies characteristic of McKenzie’s style are also still present.

The People's Park

Map of the park

    Key

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    Monuments

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    Aviary

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    Fountain

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    Adventure Playground

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    Rose Garden

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    Cafe

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    Woodland Area

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    Nearest Bus Stops

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    Nearest Train Station