The History of Rhyddings Park
Rhyddings Park is a recreational area located in central Oswaldtwistle, now home to lovely walks, two fantastic parks, a sports pitch, a coach house, and an amazing community. The park is also home to the brilliant group, Friends of Rhyddings Park. FoRP are a community of local people and volunteers, working together to “enhance the park, represent the community on all park matters and raise funds to put on events and activities in the park whilst promoting and supporting the well being of the community of Oswaldtwistle”.
Not only this, but Rhyddings Park holds a rather interesting history.
Originally, the grounds of Rhyddings Park belonged to a local mill-owning family, however, in 1853, a local textile manufacturer named Robert Wilson took ownership. Watson possessed Stone Bridge Mill, and later came to own Rhyddings Mill, of which his new house came to face. The residential building was rebuilt in the style of an early Victorian country house, inspired by Pugin, and set in landscaped grounds; it was described as a mansion, containing dining rooms, drawing rooms, breakfast rooms, a library, nine bedrooms, servants rooms and much more. A range of other buildings accompanied the mansion, consisting of a conservatory, a stable block, wash house, cottages, a laundry, vinery and greenhouses.
Watson was responsible for the development of housing within the area of the park to provide accommodation for his workforce, hence had a strong influence on the area around the park.
The mansion, also referred to as Rhyddings Hall, was used as a domestic residence, up until 1909, in which Oswaldtwistle Urban District Council took ownership, with the aim to provide a recreational facility for the public. Later on in the year, the grounds were reopened as a park. It housed many features over the years, including a children’s playground, added to the northern corner of the park in 1914, permanent tennis courts opened in 1925, and paths installed in 1931, and later a putting green. There was also a museum and art gallery, bandstand, aviary, children’s paddling pool, croquet lawn and areas of land used for growing foods during the war time. The building that was formerly Rhyddings Hall was constructed into a museum and art gallery, however, due to maintenance expenses becoming too costly in 1932, the building was demolished in 1938.
In June, 1967, the newly built bandstand in Rhyddings Park was officially opened on a Sunday, by Cllr John Stell, the then chairman of the Council. After opening, the community gathered to enjoy the music of the Haslingden Borough Band.
In January 2014, support from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Big Lottery Fund provided initial funding for a project to restore Rhyddings Park. Development funding of £102,400 was secured by the local charity Newground Together, to progress plans for a £1.4million bid by Newground, the Friends of Rhyddings Park, Hyndburn BC and Lancashire CC.
Their mission was to restore the park, whilst maintaining the protection of its heritage and encouraging the local community to use the restored buildings, facilities and activities in and around the park. Work was completed to restore the coach house building, creating a community run cafe and garden. There is now a glasshouse structure and an area of raised plant beds, some plants of which are grown to be used in the cafe kitchen. The park grounds have also been improved, including enhancements and features to reflect the beauty of the Rhyddings Park.