Chorlton, Didsbury & Whalley Range Community Index

The following article about the Friends of Longford Park was written by Jean Byrne and featured in the November 2008 edition of the Chorlton, Didsbury & Whalley Range Community Index

Longford Park is a green oasis nestling on the border between Chorlton and Stretford. Autumn’s a great time to visit and admirethe abundant display of colourful leaves as they fall from the numerous mature trees.
Many of the magnificent trees in the park were planted in the 1850s when Longford Hall and the surrounding parkland was the home of John Rylands, one of the richest entrepreneurs of the Lancashire Cotton Industry. In the 1870s he owned the largest textile manufacturing business in England and was Manchester’s first multi-millionaire. After his widow’s death in 1908 Stretford Council acquired the hall and park for £14,500.

In Victorian times it was fashionable for the newly rich industrialists such as John Rylands to import exotic plants from all over the world and display them in their gardens. Many of these exotic specimens still remain in the Longford formal gardens. Unusual species include the Chinese ginkgo biloba tree planted adjacent to an Indian bean tree and dwarfed by a nearby Canadian redwood.
Longford Hall was demolished due to structural problems in 1995 and all that remains are the portico and front steps. These look out onto a grassed area known as the Grand Lawn, which is the location of the Stretford Pageant, an event which has been held annually since 1919.

Beyond the once grand lawn is the ha-ha, a sunken wall, which prevented the sheep that used to graze on the lower fields adjacent to Edge Lane from eating the plants in the formal gardens. The only livestock remaining today are geese, rabbits, ducks and Horace the goat that live in the popular pets corner. Colonies of bats also live in the roof spaces of some of the old stable buildings and foxes are regularly seen running across the playing fields at dusk.

Lottery Bid
Over the last 20 years Longford, like most public parks, has suffered from lack of investment and eight years ago the Friends of Longford Park was founded by a group of volunteers to try to improve things and arrange regular community events. Recently over £70,000 was spent by Trafford Council to improve the under 5’s playground, but what seems quite a substantial amount of money doesn’t go very far these days. Hopes for further improvements are dependant on the outcome of a bid for over £2 million recently submitted to the Heritage Lottery Fund. The Friends Group have worked in partnership with the Council and organised a petition that was signed by over 1,500 people in support of the bid. The outcome should be known by Spring 2009.
Park Groups
In addition to being a great place to visit for a bike ride, football game or a picnic, the park is also home to a large number of community groups and associations. This includes groups as diverse as Trafford Athletics Club, the Firswood Leisure Art Group, Brownie and Scout Troops, Tai Chi, Touch Rugby and the Towns Women’s Guild. See the Friends web site or contact Trafford Council on 912 2000 for further information.

Jean Byrne
Friends of Longford Park