Inventory Garden & Designed Landscape

BAXTER PARKGDL00051

Status: Designated

Documents

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Summary

Date Added
31/03/2006
Local Authority
Dundee
Parish
Dundee
NGR
NO 41523 31474
Coordinates
341523, 731474

Baxter Park is the only complete park wholly designed by Sir Joseph Paxton in Scotland. It was designed between 1862-63.

Type of Site

A 19th-century public park

Main Phases of Landscape Development

1862-3

Artistic Interest

Level of interest
Some

The park has some value as a work of art, but this has been reduced over the years.

Historical

Level of interest
Outstanding

This park has outstanding historical value as it is the only complete park by Sir Joseph Paxton in Scotland.

Horticultural

Level of interest
Some

The trees have some arboricultural value in the park's urban context. The evergreen shrub planting, probably original, and the more recent planting provide some horticultural interest.

Architectural

Level of interest
High

The pavilion combined with the entrance gateways and lodge gives this site high architectural value.

Archaeological

Level of interest
None

There is no known archaeological evidence to be found at Baxter Park.

Scenic

Level of interest
Some

The park provides some scenic interest when viewed from the road. The views from Gallow Hill of the Firth of Tay are of particular note.

Nature Conservation

Level of interest
None

Baxter Park has no nature conservation value.

Location and Setting

Baxter Park is located east of the town centre of Dundee within an entirely urban setting. Baxter Park Terrace overlooks the park from the west. The houses of Dalkeith Road overlook the park on the east, their gardens backing onto the park except for the north-eastern corner which is bounded by Wortley Place. From Gallows Hill there is a glimpse of the former panoramic view over the Firth of Tay to Fife. The trees have all but obscured this view.

Before the building of the park this site consisted of two fields bounded on the north-east by Gallowhill Quarry, now Wortley Place. The eastern boundary of houses in Dalkeith Road sits on an old hedge line. The western boundary was originally irregular, being wider in the north than the south. Part of this ground was acquired for the building of Baxter Park Terrace, so creating a straight boundary to the west with the exception of a small area in the south-west corner where the park lodge was built. The boundaries of Baxter Park are mainly based on old field boundaries and remain the same today.

Site History

The land for the park – 37 acres of fields - was acquired in 1861 by a sale contract between James Guthrie Esq of Craigie and Sir David Baxter and his sisters, Eleanor and Mary Ann. The Baxter family owned flax and hemp mills. Sir David Baxter started his career in sugar refining, but later became a partner in the family linen firm, Baxter Bros & Co Ltd. The firm reached the height of its prosperity in 1871 when they employed some 5000 workers. Sir David Baxter funded the laying out of Baxter Park in memory of his father.

The title deed of 1863 states '. . . resolved to present to the Inhabitants of Dundee a public park in the immediate vicinity of the town, with the view of affording to the working population the means of relaxation and enjoyment after their hard labour and honest industry.'

The land was acquired and laid out at a cost of £40000 with an endowment of £10000 to be managed by a board of trustees. The park opened on 9 September, 1863, in the presence of the Prime Minister, Earl Russell and a two-mile long procession of local people.

The Baxters engaged Sir Joseph Paxton to lay out the park. Paxton began his career as head gardener to the Duke of Devonshire at Chatsworth where he was responsible for the 'great stove', a vast curvilinear glasshouse which was later demolished. By 1862 he was an acknowledged designer of public parks. He was also an expert in the creation of rockwork and most of his commissions incorporated it. Paxton is credited with the laying out of Birkenhead Park near Liverpool, which between 1844-7 was the first public park in Great Britain. In addition to Baxter Park, Paxton's other commissions in Scotland included Kelvingrove Park and Queen's Park in Glasgow in the mid to late 19th century, and the Public Park in Dunfermline, c.1863-4.

Before the early 1960s, the site chosen for the park was right on the edge of the city of Dundee. An 1862 speech by W.C. Leng, at a Baxter testimonial before the park was built, takes the imagined view of the city weaver finding solace in the new park:

'Northward he looks, and sees the swelling plain show like a sea of verdure breaking against the dusky sides of the frowning Sidlaws. Seawards he casts his eyes, and sees the dwarfed ships flecking the sea like a flock of sheep pastured on a sapphire plain. Westwards he gazes, and from the foot of the noble hill on which our town is built to the wooded gorge where the Tay ripples under the crag of Kinfauns, and from that again to the Ochils… his eye commands the whole scene. Southward he turns and there, snug as a nest of fledglings built in leafy nooks lies Newport… St. Andrews Bay, the twin peaks of the Fife Lomonds, the far-reaching East Neuk of 'The Kingdom' and, last, the surf of the distant sea shining like a string of pearls on a robe of blue satin. The Tay, dimpling and smiling between the arching branches of the trees: the birds, showering down music with merry patter, as spray is showered from a fountain; the bright, cheery sky; the frolicsome breeze playing at hide-and-seek among the flowers; the long, deep banks of flowers, dressed like coquettes, and waiting to be seen, would tend to make our weaver forget his dingy close for a while and cry out, with that other weaver in 'Midsummer Night's Dream', “Bless thee, bless thee, Bottom, thou art transformed!”

Baxter Park was laid out in two distinct parts: the northern part as a pleasure garden composed of walks with open areas of grass and flower-beds; the southern area as a parade ground. A central terrace runs east-west with a central pavilion overlooking the parade ground. A circuit walk around the perimeter of the park joins the northern and southern areas.

The planting has inevitably changed over the years. The 2nd edition OS 1:2500 (25”), 1874, shows tree planting mainly confined to the edges of lawn areas, although there are also occasional clumps. By 1903 entrances had appeared at either end of the terrace walk. Photographs and maps indicate that the bank below the pavilion was planted. The OS 1:2500 ( 25”) series maps, 1903, suggest trees on this bank, however a postcard c.1903 shows evergreen shrubs on the bank with standard trees and dome-clipped trees along the top. A postcard c.1914 shows formal beds of annuals on either side of the pavilion. The background of evergreen trees and shrubs can clearly be seen, but with clipped hollies between the formal beds, although these are not shown on the OS 1:2500 (25”) series. It is not possible to record here the many other changes authorised by the parks committees over the years.

Baxter Park was granted £3.25 million in 2003 through the Heritage Lottery Fund, which enabled a restoration plan to be implemented, starting with the re-instatement of the gates and railings, and also the design and construction of a brand new Exhibition Centre building on the site of the old bandstand.

The Lottery Fund grant, and the additional funding provided by Historic Scotland and Dundee City Council, has been used to restore the park, as far as possible, to Paxton's original layout. Although the general layout of the park remains faithful to Paxton's design, many details have been eroded over the years. From as early as 1903, as noted in a report to the council's Recreation and Cemeteries Committee, the park has suffered from vandalism, although it is now hoped that the community involvement with the restoration project will lead to more responsible enjoyment. Increased demands on the park have led to additions such as bowling greens and tennis courts which have been reasonably integrated.

Landscape Components

Architectural Features

Baxter Park Pavilion, designed by G H Stokes (son in law of Paxton) c.1860, and built of Bannockburn freestone, has a partly open arcaded front. It originally comprised a refreshment room, gardener's room and ladies' room. Steps lead to a balustraded gallery on the roof from which there are views to the Firth of Tay. Historically, the pavilion and Sir David Baxter's statue within it, have suffered vandalism, however, the building has now been cleaned and restored, and forms an impressive centerpiece to the park. It houses a small cafeteria and will host weddings and other functions. The front Steps to the Pavilion were originally stone but are now concrete. The original balustrades have been replicated, and this feature has been reinstated, alongside the four pattern book, 19th-century cast-iron fluted Urns, which sit on the step plinths. The recently-built Activity Centre building to the northwest of the main Pavilion, is in a modern style which contrasts with the older pavilion. It is of single-storey construction with slate roof, stone pillars and glass frontage.

The Gardener's House, a gabled two-storey cottage is situated on the northern boundary of the park on Pitkerro Road. The Main Gates and gatepiers have been fully re-instated at the Arbroath Road entrance in the southeast corner of the park. The four rusticated gatepiers are topped with urn finials and the wrought-iron Gates and overthrow are complemented by matching side gates and overthrows. There are low Park Boundary Walls around all sides of the park except a stretch on the east side, and the cast-iron railings have been re-built. New gatepiers and gates have been built on the north, west and southwest sides of the park too, of a much simpler style than the main gates.

Other architectural features no longer extant include three Drinking Fountains. The marble statue of Sir David Baxter, erected by public subscription, has been reinstated in the pavilion, brought back from its position in the McManus Galleries in the centre of Dundee. A Flag Pole is situated beside the bowling green pavilions at the north end of the park. The earliest bowling green is indicated on the 1903 edition of the OS 1:2500 (25”) map, in the north-east corner of the park in what was then a circular area of open grass. A block of three more recent bowling greens stands just inside the circuit footpath at the south end of the park. All three greens have pavilions. An Adventure Playground is currently nearing completion to the west of the main pavilion. There are 20th-century tennis courts to the southeast of the park, beside a single-storey harled cottage-style building.

Paths & Walks

The layout of the walks which form one of the main features of Baxter Park remains largely the same as the original design. The main paths from the southeast entrance have been re-surfaced recently with crushed aggregate, to be more in-keeping with the Victorian style of the original park. The paths in the northern half of the park are currently surfaced with tarmacadam, but this may change as the programme of works nears completion. The paths are curving except at the entrances to the park. In the early 20th century, a straight path was made across one of the areas of grass to the north of the pavilion. A 'desire line', or a preferred choice of path, created naturally by many feet, across the centre of the parade ground first appears on the revised edition OS 1:2500 (25”), 1938.

The Gardens

The park retains much of its original tree planting although this has thinned over the years through natural decay. The structural planting includes lime, particularly around the perimeter of the parade ground. Other species relating to the earlier plantings include Scots pine, common and copper beech, sycamore, weeping ash, and silver birch. The topiaried evergreen hollies which were a feature of the terrace in front of the pavilion, are being reinstated, as are the twin formal flowerbed areas on either side of the pavilion, which had been planted with curving formal rose beds. These former flowerbed areas are backed by semi-circular beds of shrubs including Berberis, Cotoneaster, purple plum, Buddleia and broom. Shrub borders seen to have largely replaced the trees along the eastern perimeter, and these are in the process of being re-planted. Leylandii hedges screen the bowling greens at the north and south ends of the park. There is still some landform evidence of the sunken rock garden which was created on the edge of the old quarry. This was filled in, with limestone blocks and low-growing rockery-style planting added. This feature could be restored at some point in the future.

References

Bibliography

Maps, Plans and Archives

1st edition OS 1:2500 (25”), 1857

2nd edition OS 1:2500 (25”), 1874

Revised edition OS 1:2500 (25”), 1903

Revised edition OS 1:2500 (25”), 1922

Revised edition OS 1:2500 (25”), 1938

Sources

Printed Sources

Cronshaw, A – Old Dundee, Picture Postcards, Mainstream 1988

Engraving of Baxter Park looking south-west c. 1865

Groome, F W – Ordnance Gazetteer, 2nd edition, 1885

Historic Scotland – Listed Buildings Survey

Illustrated London News, 19 September 1863

RCAHMS, Aerial Photographic Department - Aerial Photographs, contact scale 1:24000,6.5.88, 8.5.46. RAF, 540 Squadron

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Images

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Printed: 21/09/2019 12:16