A paper by the Friends of Allestree Park (2007)
The Friends of Allestree Park is a group of residents not only of the Allestree area but of all people who have expressed an· interest in the Park.
Allestree Hall and Park are important assets of the City of Derby.· The Hall with its surrounding landscaped Park is a valuable ‘lung’ of the City providing the people of Derby and visitors with space to ‘breath’, interact and relax from the pressures of modern life.· Unfortunately the potential benefits that the Hall and Park could provide to the City as a centre supporting a wide range of business, cultural, recreational and social activities are not fully realised, mainly because the Hall is largely unused and neglected.
The Friends believe that the City (with the support of English Heritage and other heritage, conservation, industrial and funding bodies) should bring the Hall back into use for a wide range of activities beneficial to the people of Derby.· Sensitive and imaginative renovation of the heritage Hall buildings is required together with more maintenance and conservation effort to the Park.· The result would be Hall and Park facilities that provide maximum benefits to the people of Derby and that the City of Derby can refer to with pride to demonstrate the city as a modern city of the 21st Century.· The enhanced Hall and Park would show that Derby recognises the value to present and future generations of cultural activities, heritage, sustainability and conservation of the natural environment.
Brief comments on the Friends’ views and concerns and possible ways forward towards the vision and objectives described above are given below.
The Derwent Valley from Cromford to Derby, including the Mills at Darley Abbey, has been designated a World Heritage Site because of its industrial history.· Allestree Hall and Park stand on a slope of the Derwent Valley and are a part of that history in that the Evans family who founded the Mills at Darley Abbey resided at the Hall.
Allestree Hall is designated as a Grade II Starred Listed Building for its architectural importance.· Unfortunately it is being allowed to decay and disintegrate even though it is an important heritage building and, we believe, the sole surviving historic country house within the City of Derby.· Other historic buildings within the World Heritage Site are attracting funding for their restoration and upkeep, but Allestree Hall appears not to be.· A cursory inspection of The Hall indicates some dilapidation of floors, plaster falling off walls and electric cabling hanging free.
The Allestree Golf Club and the Professional’s shop occupy a small section of the ground floor of The Hall.· This part of The Hall appears to be well maintained and patronised by Club members and visiting players.
The gardens around The Hall are complementary to it and provide, together with the practice putting area and the bird and animal pens, pleasant areas for relaxation of children and adults.· These areas in the immediate vicinity of The Hall would benefit from more maintenance resource.
Whilst the Friends are aware that the City Council is exploring the possibilities for developers to move into the Hall and its surroundings to create a commercial development, no details of actual proposals have been published for comment by the general public or organisations, such as the Friends, who are closely concerned and involved with the care of The Hall and Park.· The Friends understand that discussions with a favoured developer have been lengthy.· Discussions regarding the development of The Hall and surroundings appear to have been taking place behind closed doors for a number of years.· The Friends believe the future of The Hall and Park should be the subject of public consultation with the people of Derby.· The extent and nature of any proposed developments should be made known to all before commitments are made.
Allestree Park is the largest public park in the County of Derbyshire.· It has valuable wooded and open areas, acts as a nature reserve (part of it is designated as a Local Nature Reserve) and provides a natural environment where people can relax and enjoy open space and local wildlife.
The Park makes available to the general public a different range of outdoor amenities to those found in other Derby parks.· Other parks within the City boundary have different recreational facilities, thereby satisfying a totally different set of needs, e.g. paddling and boating pools, swings, bandstands and games pitches.
The Golf Course is an outstanding feature of the Park.· It is well patronised particularly by the members of the Allestree Golf Club. The ground staff are to be congratulated on the standard of the Course.
Trends and context for the future of the Hall and Park
Central Government and Derby City Council are endeavouring to make the general public more aware of our changing environment and the growing challenges to future life on the planet.· We are being urged to recycle, control our carbon emissions, be nature friendly, save and nurture the countryside, and protect species of wildlife and flora before they become extinct. Government and Councils are developing legislation to control pollution and provide a recycling infrastructure with bins, transport, processing etc.· An important requirement for the success of these policies is the acceptance and understanding of the public of the need for these developments.· For this purpose, present and future generations must be encouraged and educated to preserve what we have including provision of examples for them to look back on and to learn from.· It should not be left only to the schools and organisations like the National Trust to remind the public of their heritage and the needs for care of the environment. Allestree Hall and Park could have a valuable role: it has fine natural areas and examples of our heritage that are in danger of being overlooked, e.g. ice house, farming methods, land development and building styles.
We suggest that The Hall and Park have great potential to enrich the life of the City by supporting a wide range of activities which together could yield income sufficient to offset the costs of upkeep, if not totally at least to a large extent.· Such activities need to be complementary to and not to duplicate other initiatives in the City.· We briefly describe some ideas below.
In outline, renovation of The Hall, respecting its heritage, could yield accommodation reflecting the decorative style of the original owners.· The lower floors could be fashioned for a wide range of civic, cultural, educational and social events and activities, and the upper floors could be allocated to displays, meeting rooms (possibly with restaurant/catering) and administration.· We envisage the Hall being a lively interactive place, busy daytime and evening throughout the year.
Some years ago we understand the City Council looked forward and suggested a museum project for Allestree Hall entitled ‘Derby Nature Museum’.·· Maybe a change of Council occurred but the idea was scrapped only to be later resurrected as a Nature Gallery in the City Museum.· Twenty years have passed and now a greater emphasis is being placed on our care of the natural world, its resources, the environment and on the mitigation of the effects of pollution and climate change.· Clearly an important use for The Hall and Park in the future could be to provide modern educational and cultural facilities (industrial and engineering heritage, natural world, conservation, sustainability etc.) for the people of Derby.· What an excellent venue also the Hall could be for musical and arts events and for weddings and other celebrations. The functions of the Hall could also include a focus for meetings of Derby societies and clubs (in addition to being the home of Allestree Golf Club). ·
The Friends of Allestree Park urge Derby City Council, English Heritage and other interested bodies to renovate Allestree Hall and bring it back into use in consultation with, and for the benefit of, the people of Derby.
This paper has presented the Friends’ vision for the future of Allestree Hall and Park.· Our vision is exciting but, we recognise, challenging.
The possibilities outlined need detailed study before a plan of implementation could be prepared.· This paper has been prepared necessarily without knowledge of studies by, and views of, Derby City Council or English Heritage on the issues raised.
The Friends of Allestree Park would be interested in receiving views on the above outlined details and are prepared to assist in the future development of The Hall and Park.
We believe the people of Derby would support our vision and urge the City Council to consult the public on the futureof The Hall and Park.
·If you have any views on the above, we would be glad to receive them and to pass them on to the City Council.