Orford Park is set in 18 acres that once formed part of the
land and gardens of the no longer existent Orford Hall.
Information provided by Warrington Borough Council
Additional information, photos and captions Copyright © Gordon I Gandy
History of Orford Park
Until 1935 a hall had stood in the park grounds since the 13th century. The first hall was a timber and plaster building with ornate chimneys and a thatched roof. It was built for the Le Norris family in 1232. The Norris family remained in the hall until 1595, after which it was purchased by Thomas Tildesley who rebuilt it in a Jacobean style.
In 1639, owing to debts incurred during the rebuilding works, Richard Tildesley was forced to sell it to Thomas Blackburne.
By 1716 the hall had been greatly enhanced and it was during this period that it became renowned for its outstanding collection of rare plants, trees and unusual animals. The ‘Hothouse’ in the grounds was the first in the country to grow pineapples, coffee, tea and sugarcane. The hall grounds also boasted an orangery where citrus fruits were grown.
In 1833 William Beaumont, the first Mayor of Warrington, leased the hall. After his death his wife continued to live there until she died. For a short period of time after her death the hall was used by the Warrington Training College but then fell empty.
In 1916 the hall and 18 acres of grounds were purchased by a group of local gentlemen for the sum of £3,600 from Colonel Robert Ireland Blackburne as a gift and memorial for the town of Warrington – for “…the lads of Warrington who had fought and died in the Great War”.
The grounds were opened as a public park on 4 August 1917.
By 1935 the hall itself was in a state of disrepair and the costs of restoration were thought to be too high and it was sadly demolished.
In 2009, a £30m redevelopment project for the park was approved by Warrington Borough Council. Work began in May of that year and concluded three years later in May 2012. The project saw Orford Jubilee Neighbourhood Hub built on the western end of Orford Park, which was opened by Elizabeth II as part of her Diamond Jubilee celebrations.
New paved paths were installed to create a route for pedestrians and cycles between Winwick Road, Hallfields Road and School Road. A pond was added at the northern edge of the park. The original main area in the southeast of the park was updated; it now boasts a skate park, children’s playground, bowling green, ball court and football pitches.
Orford Park Today
Whether you want a gentle stroll, a game of bowls, or to attend one of the events organised by the Ranger Service, the park has something for all the family. The park has easy access for all, with tarmac-covered paths suitable for wheelchairs and buggies. There are large open spaces with picnic benches positioned adjacent to the children’s play areas. Car parking is available from Alder lane. The pitch and put golf featured in the photo, right, is no longer available.
The park supports a rich variety of wildlife. Trees, shrubs and hedgerows provide food, shelter and nesting areas for birds such as sparrow hawks, blue tits, mallards, black-headed gulls and song thrushes. Also visible are mammals, amphibians, fish and invertebrates, along with occasional visiting reptiles, as well as water voles and common frogs.
This little fella is waiting to pinch somebody’s golf ball. He’ll have a long wait. They don’t play it here anymore!
Pond dipping reveals an underwater environment teaming with water life which includes six species of dragonfly, four species of damselfly, water boatmen, great diving beetles and water snails. Larvae of a special rarity – the Emperor dragonfly – have been found in the pond.
In the summertime wildflowers attract and provide food for many species of insects such as butterflies, beetles and bees. In the northern section of the park there is a wildflower meadow.
Let’s take a walk round the park.
Take the A49 north out of the town centre. Go past the McDonalds restaurant on your left. Take the 2nd right turn, crossing the dual carriageway into Jubilee Way. Take the third exit off the roundabout, drive to the junction and turn left. The car park is half a mile down on the left.
From the M62 motorway, leave the motorway at junction 9. Follow the signs for Warrington towards the town centre along the A49. Take the first left after Warrington Collegiate into Jubilee Way and follow as above.
See Warrington Borough Council’s website for latest information on the green spaces around the town.
Check with Warrington’s Own Buses for up-to-date information on bus timetables.