THE Landscape gardener who brought Birkenhead Park to life has been honoured with a blue plaque in his memory.
Edward Kemp was selected by Joseph Paxton – gardener to the Duke of Devonshire and creator of Crystal Palace – to supervise the development of Birkenhead Park.
Born in Streatham, Surrey he arrived in Birkenhead in 1843 to begin laying out the park, and remained living on its edge for the rest of his life.
His contribution was remembered with the unveiling of a plaque at the park day – 170 years to the day of its formal opening in 1847.
Performing the unveiling ceremony was carried out by the Mayor, Cllr Pat Hackett. He said: “2017 is not only the 170th anniversary of the opening of the park but the bicentenary of Edward Kemp himself so it’s fitting we will be remembering him on this special day.”
Paying tribute Elizabeth Davey, from Conservation Areas Wirral, told the Globe: “Edward Kemp was probably one of the leading Victorian landscape gardeners.
“He trained in what was then the very best place; the Horticultural, not Royal then, Society Gardens in Chiswick.
“He then worked there under Professor John Lindley and was selected from there to go and work with Paxton at Chatsworth and worked with him on his publications.
“So when Paxton was commissioned by the Birkenhead Improvement Commissioners to come a design this Park, obviously he didn’t have the time as he was busy doing all sorts of other things.
“So he recommended that Kemp be appointed and, with various ups and downs, Kemp remained, nominally really, Superintendent until the day he died.
“He would have been responsible for engaging staff to dig out the lakes, create all the landscaping, laying out the paths and getting the planting right.
“He had quite a large labour force and quite a big budget. This was really the jumping off point for his career as an independent landscape gardener.
“He was a very good family man; at various times he had his mother-in-law, sister-in-law, his sister all living with him”.
Professor Robert Lee, chairman of Friends of Birkenhead Park, added: “This is a momentous day, again, for Birkenhead Park.
“We’re celebrating the start of the bicentenary of Edward Kemp’s birth in 1817 and the start of the 170th anniversary of the opening of Birkenhead Park on April 5, 1847.
“In a sense that represents the uniqueness of Birkenhead Park; the first publicly-funded park, not only in Britain but in the whole wide world.
“It recognises the incredible skills and expertise that Kemp developed; not only here but elsewhere.
“He was initially asked by the commissioners in New York to advise them on the applications for the design of what became Central Park.
For photo’s of the event see the link below:-