View across the lake to the Roman Boathouse in Birkenhead Park, The Wirral
The Roman Boathouse, Birkenhead Park, The Wirral © Birkenhead Park
The Roman Boathouse, Birkenhead Park, The Wirral © Birkenhead Park

Celebrating 40 Years of England's Register of Parks and Gardens

Historic England is celebrating 40 years since the first 27 parks and gardens were added to the 'Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest in England'.

The register now includes over 1,700 parks and gardens, recognising and celebrating their importance to England's heritage story and their vital role in our everyday life, health and wellbeing.

On this page

  1. Missing Pieces Project: Adding a new perspective
  2. Find a public park near you: 7 stories from parks across England
  3. Watch: History is made in our parks and gardens
  4. Why exercising in historic green spaces is good for your health
  5. Why protect our parks and gardens?
  6. Fields of battle

Missing Pieces Project: Add a new perspective to a public park near you

The Historic England Archive holds thousands of images of parks and gardens across England, including a collection of historic public park postcards from the Nigel Temple Collection.

We need your help in adding a new perspective to these unique heritage viewpoints - helping to tell the story of change and stability across our historic parks.

What to do:

  1. Find a location near you on the map below.
  2. Click on the location marker to find a link to the Parks and Gardens Register entry, including a postcard from the Nigel Temple Collection.
  3. Take a photo of the same view the next time you visit.
  4. Upload it to the Missing Pieces Project and add your unique piece of the picture.

See some of our favourite ‘then and now’ contributions so far for inspiration!

7 stories from parks across England

All parks and gardens have a special story to tell. We have chosen 7 from across the country that demonstrate the power and importance of these special places in everyday life.

Find a public park near you

You can also add your own stories to your favourite spaces through the Missing Pieces Project.

Birkenhead Park is the world’s first publicly-funded park. It opened in 1847 and was designed by the celebrated English garden design Sir Joseph Paxton, who aimed to create a ‘park for the people.’ Birkenhead was a major influence on Frederick Law Olmsted's design of Central Park in New York.

Chosen by architect and presenter George Clarke a part of Historic England’s A History of England in 100 Places, it is popularly known as the 'People’s Garden'. Today the park retains its original objectives and there are things to do for all the family, including heritage walking trails, a playground, and many inclusive activities.

As well as being included in the Parks and Gardens Register, Birkenhead Park is home to 11 listed buildings, including grand and beautiful structures such as the Swiss Bridge, The Roman Boathouse, and one of the oldest cricket pavilions in the country. It was added to the UK World Heritage Tentative List in April 2023.

Next steps

Read the list entry for Birkenhead Park

Visit Birkenhead Park

Listen to the 100 Places Podcast 'Public parks, allotments & a very grand design'

As the subject of one of celebrated landscape artist John Constable’s masterpieces, Wivenhoe Park has long held an important place in both local and international life as a cherished representation of tranquil, rural life.

However, as the home of the University of Essex, it is also at the cutting edge of research on the importance of nature and exercise, known as ‘Green Exercise’.

With an environmentally-diverse environment, including ancient trees, rare species of animals and plants (it also holds a hedgehog gold award!) Wivenhoe Park is a space dedicated to people, nature and education, for generations to come.

Next steps

Read the list entry for Wivenhoe Park

Visit Wivenhoe Park

Set within the Sussex Downs National Park, Stanmer House’s 18th-century registered gardens and landscape is one of Brighton & Hove City Council’s much-loved public parks.

As well as the gardens, the house, and 25 other historic buildings as well as the house, Stanmer Park boasts acres of beautiful woodlands for the whole community to enjoy.

Restored in 2021 with funding from the National Lottery, the historic walled garden includes a farm shop and a café as well as a hub for horticultural teaching, learning and volunteering.

Next steps

Read the list entry for Stanmer Park

Visit Stanmer Park

Inspired by Crystal Palace Park in South London, The 'Alexandra Park Committee' was formed in 1863 with ambitions to create a place for public recreation and amusement.

The main building from the Great International Exhibition of 1862 was transported from South Kensington and re-erected in the grounds as the ‘Alexandra Palace’.

Today, Alexandra Palace sits at the centre of nearly 200 acres of public grounds capable of hosting events and providing relaxing spaces and stunning views to millions of visitors every year.

Next steps

Read the list entry for Alexandra Palace

Visit Alexandra Park  

Running through the heart of Leamington Spa, Jephson Gardens are formed by a series of riverside walks and parks.

Created as a ‘people’s park’ to promote Leamington’s position as a leading English spa town, the gardens contain a number of historic buildings including including lodges, memorials, bridges, and an aviary

Today, Jephson Gardens maintains its position as a centre for health and wellbeing within the town, with educational programmes, a sensory garden, and a boating centre.

Next steps

Read the list entry for Jephson Gardens

Visit Jephson Gardens 

Originally opened in 1836, Sheffield’s Botanical Gardens was initially available only to subscribers, but is now open to the public throughout the year.

With 18 different areas of planting replicating environments from all around the world, the gardens also host a number of listed buildings, including three stunning, original glasshouses.

Now run by the volunteer-led Sheffield Botanical Gardens Trust, there is an extensive calendar of inclusive events throughout the year, as well as a dedicated education programme based at the Dorothy Fox Education Centre.

Next steps

Read the list entry for Sheffield Botanical Gardens

Visit Sheffield Botanical Gardens    

The Grade II* listed garden cemetery Arnos Vale was created in 1837-40 by the Bristol General Cemetery Company, with professional landscaping and planting incorporated at the heart of a design developed to suit the needs of a growing city. 

The site contains 25 listed monuments, as well as many others of great historic interest. The Grade II* listed Rajah Rammohun Roy Chattri sits within the grounds is a significant Bristol landmark.

Today, the 45-acre site is a rare urban haven for wildlife and plants. The cemetery helps tells the story of the city, with lots of historically-important architectural styles and sculptures to discover in this leafy, tranquil place.

Next steps

Read the list entry for Arnos Vale Cemetery

Visit Arnos Vale Cemetery    

Watch: History is made in our parks and gardens

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Why exercising in historic green spaces is good for your mental (and physical) health

In this guest article by Dr Carly Wood, Lecturer in Sport and Exercise Science at the University of Essex, we continue our celebrations of 40 years since the development of the Register of Parks and Gardens by looking at the associated health benefits of historic public parks and green spaces through the concept of 'Green Exercise'.

Read the Historic England Blog

Why protect our parks and gardens?

From public parks to historic landscape gardens protected for the nation, the Register of Parks and Gardens, part of the National Heritage List for England, champions and helps to protect these natural environments for generations to come.

Our technical guidance provides advice on how to care for and manage historic parks, gardens and landscapes.

Find advice and guidance on protecting historic parks and gardens

Fields of battle

The Register of Historic Battlefields, which was also first established through the National Heritage Act 1983, currently includes 47 important English battlefields. Its purpose is to offer them protection through the planning system, and to promote a better understanding of their significance and public enjoyment.

Battlefields have frequently been the setting for crucial turning-points in English history. For example, the Battle of Hastings in 1066 led to the Norman Conquest, while the Civil Wars in the mid-17th century changed the roles of monarchy and parliament, consequences that are still at the heart of life in England today.

Read more about the Register of Historic Battlefields