A special exhibition opens at Wythenshawe Hall on Saturday 7 June celebrating the gift of the hall and its park to the people of Manchester in 1926.
'A Park for the People' captures the memories of local people who have a strong affection for the place going back through the generations. It shares the stories of splashing in the paddling pool, picnics, building dens, and dancing on the hall lawns.
At 91 the oldest contributor is Arthur Buckley. His first association goes back to the late 1940s when his family moved into a pre-fab where the football fields are now: 'It was great in the prefab. It had a fridge, and this was after living in a house without a fridge or a bath. It was like being in heaven.'
From 1963 until 2000 Arthur was a keen member of the bowling team, winning all the trophies one year. Even now he can be seen sitting in his wheelchair at the side of the bowling green on a Monday afternoon: 'The park means everything to me. I love going there. I love to watch the bowling. Knowing the park from 1947 you can't push it aside; it's there in your head all the time.'
Wythenshawe Hall was home to the Tatton family for nearly 500 years. As part of the exhibition new displays tell the story of the family and their servants prior to the sale of the hall.
One character who stands out is Charles Browning, the chauffeur. He is remembered by Betty Broun (nee Tatton), who used to visit her grandparents as a child: 'Mr Browning was the one we liked best. He had been a groom in the days before they had a car. We used to go and watch him wiping down the Daimler, and he always made that hissing that you do when you groom a horse.'
In 1926 Charles Browning was no longer needed as a chauffeur. The Tattons sold most of their land to Manchester Corporation for the building of new homes in the creation of the 'Garden City' of Wythenshawe. The hall and park were sold to Ernest and Sheena Simon, later Lord and Lady Simon, who immediately gave them as a gift to the City. Charles became caretaker of the hall, looking after it whilst his wife, Lucy, ran the tearooms. It was also part of his post-sale duties to tend the graves of the Tattons at St Wilfred's Church in Northenden, where he was buried himself at the age of 90.
Councillor Mike Amesbury, Executive Member for Arts & Leisure at Manchester City Council said: "With so much history and so many memories surrounding the park, the exhibition makes fascinating viewing for everyone of all ages capturing perfectly the spirit of local people and the affection in which the park is held."
This engaging exhibition is free and open all summer on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from June 7 to the end of September. It is also a chance to take a look around the historic hall and enjoy its special atmosphere. For more information please ring Wythenshawe Park on 0161 998 211 or visit www.manchester.gov.uk
Claire Keegan, tel 0161 234 4014