The 20th Century

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In 1902 Heaton Park was bought by the then Manchester Corporation for £230,000. It was very quickly transformed into a popular venue for relaxation and enjoyment with the addition of a range of facilities. By 1913 there was a 12 acre boating lake with the Grade 2 listed Town Hall Colonnade rebuilt at its southern end, a bandstand, children’s playgrounds, sports pitches, a stylish Edwardian tea room at the west end of the Hall and a Tram terminus.

In the intervening century millions of people have come to know and love Heaton Park. For most it has been a place for fresh air and enjoyment, but for others the park has played a more significant part in their lives. During the First World War 4 of the Manchester Pals Battalions signed up and did their initial training in the park. In the inter war years thousands of children from the inner city slums enjoyed holidays in the fresh air at the White Heather camps – and some of those children saw their first tree in Heaton Park. During the 2nd World War 133,000 RAF cadets were billeted in and around the park when the RAF turned it into a camp for trainee aircrew. In the late 1940s the park became a more permanent home for some for almost 20 years when two prefab estates were built on the southern edge; in 1982 Pope John 2nd celebrated Mass for over 100,000 people; in 2002 the Commonwealth Games Bowls competition was held in the park.

In the 1980's and 1990's the park became a popular venue for large open-air concerts, continuing the tradition started in 1909 when 40,000 people gathered to hear a gramophone recording of a concert given by the tenor Caruso.

These major events – many attended by thousands of people – and the constant use by thousands more for general relaxation and enjoyment over the years took their toll on the park. So in the late 1990's following a substantial grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, Manchester City Council was able to embark on a major project to regenerate what by that time had become a much used, worn out park. The first two phases of the work, involving the recreation of the 18th century landscape and restoration of 4 out of Heaton's 9 listed buildings were finished in 2004.