Houghton Hall Park


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The day has finally arrived - landscape restoration works will be starting in the park this week.

Initial works will involve scrub and tree clearance and the establishment of the site compound.

Whilst the kitchen garden restoration works are taking place the route into the park from the cricket pavilion through the formal garden will be temporarily closed as significant construction work will be taking place inthis area.

The diversion route will be clearly maked on the ground.

All other areas of the park will be kept open as far as possible.


Council awarded Lottery funding for prestigious Houghton Hall Park project

Central Bedfordshire Council was awarded £2.196m to deliver a prestigious project for Houghton Regis.

The Parks for People programme - a joint initiative between the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and the Big Lottery Fund - will support Houghton Hall Park – Renaissance and Renewal Project which aims to restore the vitality of the historic Houghton Hall Park.

Parks for People funding helps conserve the heritage that makes both historic parks and cemeteries special, giving local people a say in how they are managed in the future.

Projects improve people’s wellbeing and knowledge of their area and make communities better places to live, work and visit.

Central Bedfordshire Council’s Countryside Access Service, in partnership with Houghton Regis Town Council and the Greensand Trust, intends to celebrate the heritage of Houghton Hall Park while improving facilities to meet the needs of the community. 

The project will include exciting initiatives such as the restoration of the kitchen and formal gardens (see latest news) and the construction of a Heritage Centre.

 There are also plans for heritage based activities and a volunteer programme, among a range of innovative approaches to engage hard to reach communities.

The major award will fund the project until 2020 enabling Central Bedfordshire’s Countryside Access Services to work with partners to create a unique leisure space. 

With local development pressures increasing, the plans will also create an important strategic green space for residents. 

Cllr Laura Ellaway, from Houghton Regis Town Council said:

“On behalf of the Town Council and residents we are delighted to have been given the opportunities that this Lottery funding offers, not only will we be seeing the protection and enhancement of a valuable piece of our towns heritage but we will be seeing the creation of a valuable community asset for us all to enjoy now and in the future.

The award of this grant is the direct result of a considerable amount of hard work from Central Bedfordshire Council, Houghton Regis Town Council and many local organisations and local residents.”

 Cllr Brian Spurr, Executive Member for Community Services at Central Bedfordshire Council said:

 “The awarding of this joint HLF and BIG funding is an endorsement of Central Bedfordshire’s innovative approach to serving its community, an encouraging sign of confidence in the area and testament to the sterling work of the Countryside Access Service and our partners.

 “Houghton Hall is a key, legacy project with real economic impact in terms of employment and developing assets. With increased pressure from population growth, the project also offers premium green space, with history and heritage, of lasting benefit to current and future residents.  We’re delighted to be able to deliver a leisure facility that will be used by residents for generations.”

Carole Souter, Chief Executive of HLF, said on behalf of HLF and the Big Lottery Fund: 

 “Since HLF's 'State of UK Public Parks 2014: Renaissance to Risk' report was published, it’s become even clearer that parks are facing an uncertain future, in spite of being more popular than ever. Today’s investment - including £2.19m for Houghton Hall Park - will not only help regenerate seven historic parks, ensuring local people have access to high quality green spaces, but also brings to life several exciting plans that will see parks used for training, events and activities.”

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Information on the : The Houghton Hall Park ‘Renaissance and Renewal’ Project

Houghton Hall Park (OS map 166 / grid reference TL025235) is a hidden gem; a semi-natural parkland located in the midst of the urban community of Houghton Regis, yet within walking distance of the town centre. The park has an interesting history with deep ties to the cultural and economic development of the town.

Owned and maintained by both Houghton Regis Town Council and Central Bedfordshire Council: landscape management has traditionally been split between pragmatic utilitarian community use and wildlife conservation.

The ‘Renaissance and Renewal Project’ includes both The Green and the area formerly known as the Renault Sports Club (football fields).

Amongst other distinct areas the park currently has a Kitchen Garden Orchard, Eastern and Western Woodlands and a network of scenic walks.

Free car parking provision is located at the Park Road North entrance; entrance to the park is free and it is open all year round.

Transformation of the park is through a funding bid to Heritage and Big Lottery Funds ‘Parks for People’ grant scheme.

The 'Renaissance and Renewal' project aims to restore the vitality of the park, by bringing together different user groups, increasing accessibility and pride, celebrating park heritage and improving facilities to meet the needs of a growing modern community.

Houghton Hall Park is ‘the green-lung of Houghton Regis’, and as such its value to local residents cannot be underestimated.Potential development areas might include exciting restoration projects (such as the creation of a working kitchen garden and historic formal garden); a heritage-based community activity programme; interpretation, learning and training opportunities; and a volunteer programme. ‘Renaissance and Renewal’ is not about looking back, but creating a legacy, built on the park’s ‘living heritage’, to protect it for future generations. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

You have been awarded a £215,000 Parks for People grant (jointly funded through the Heritage Lottery Fund and Big Lottery Fund)- what are you doing with the money?

The cost of delivering a ‘Renaissance and Renewal’ project at Houghton Hall Park is massive (the second round bid will be in the region of £2.4 million). In order to ensure value for money, when applying for what is a serious investment from ‘public’ funds, the Heritage Lottery Fund want to see evidence of need, motivation, enthusiasm and above all the will, ability and capacity to financially sustain any developments. HLF requires projects to show: that the community values the park as part of their heritage;that the park meets local social, economic and environmental needs; and that the development and sustainability of the park actively involves local people.This ‘Round One’ money is being used to collate evidence through public consultation, historical research, ecological, topographical (land) and arboricultural(tree) surveys, and the development of a fully costed10 year ‘management and maintenance’ plan – all of which are necessary to support a successful Round Two bid.The Heritage Lottery and Big Lottery funds want to see the local community developing a sense of pride and ‘ownership’ in this “potentially game changing” project for Houghton Regis. Your involvement is invaluable.

Who is responsible for the management and governance of the project?

To steer the ‘Renaissance and Renewal Project’ a governing board of individuals representing project partners (Houghton Regis Town Council, Central Bedfordshire Council, and the Greensand Trust), and the local community has been established. The local community is represented through ‘The Friends of Houghton Hall Park’, ‘The Stakeholder Group’ and Houghton Regis community engagement worker Jan Cooper. Day to day project management is the responsibility of ‘Renaissance and Renewal’ Project Manager Lorraine Smith. You can contact her at Lorraine.Smith@centralbedfordshire.gov.uk (telephone 0300300 4706 or 07580417124).

Who owns Houghton Hall Park?

The park is owned and maintained by both Houghton Regis Town Council and Central Bedfordshire Council; and landscape management has traditionally been split between pragmatic utilitarian community use and wildlife conservation. Distinct areas of the park and disparate use have lead to a fragmented landscape. Alas, the Hall, an important landmark, is now privately owned and does not form part of the park. Commissioned in 1700 by Alice Brandreth, Houghton Hall originally looked south onto estate parkland stretching toward the A505 (since developed for housing and industry). Historic changes in ownership (including council boundaries) have left the parkland diminished in size and this project aims to halt the degradation of landscape, refresh heritage features – and preserve (and protect) the park for future generations.

What is the timescale of the Houghton Hall Park Project?

Between January and April 2014, project consultants will be working with the local community to both research and survey the landscape and heritage of the site, and to develop inspirational design plans. From April onwards there will be a more formal public consultation before these plans are submitted to the Heritage Lottery Fund in August 2014.Decisions about the Round Two bid will be announced in December 2014 and, if successful the ‘delivery’ stage will begin in January 2015.

We like the park as it is, we don’t want it to change

Historic changes in ownership (including council boundaries) have left the parkland diminished in size with a degradation of landscape and heritage features. One aim of the ‘Renaissance and Renewal Project’ is to increase local pride in the park by bringing it up to benchmark national standards, such as The Green Flag Award and the English Heritage Register and Green Heritage Site Award - thus protecting the park for future generations; another is to improve and develop the park in a way that is sympathetic to its heritage and protect its current value. The outline proposals developed at Round 1 were based on public consultation and were widely supported. We will continue to consult with local people, parks users and a range of other people to ensure the plans continue to reflect local views.Central Bedfordshire Council’s Countryside Access Services team have an existing site management plan including maintaining wildlife and increasing biodiversity of the site.As part of the natural seasonal cycle, annual conservation management and maintenance activities include both mowing the meadow and scrub clearance). In the woodland areas a constant balance is managed: between opening up the tree canopy to benefit the people, flora and fauna below, and maintaining cover for resident and migratory birds. The diversity of landscape habitats are a heritage feature of the site and will be enhanced and protected by this project. The project’s consultant ecologist, and landscape and heritage specialists, have undertaken habitat mapping, landscape surveys, breeding bird and bat surveys. Wildlife in the park will be protected and accommodated, whilst landscape heritage features will be identified, restored, explained and interpreted for future generations. The project may involve both tree felling and tree planting (in order to open up historic site-lines and to protect certain species from disease). The Heritage Lottery Fund ‘Parks for People’ programme supports heritage parks to improve their condition, become better managed, and better recorded, interpreted and explained: with a view toward long term sustainability.

Get Involved

  • Become a ‘Friend of Houghton Hall Park. The Friends of Houghton Hall Park are a sociable group of dedicated volunteers. They are the champions of the park, who currently focus on practical conservation work. The ‘Renaissance and Renewal Project’ offersvolunteers both skills training and the opportunity to get involved in developing management and activity plans for the site. For details contact Alexe Rose of The Greensand Trust (Alexe.Rose@greensandtrust.org Tel: 01525 234260).
  • If you are interested in history The project partnership is working closely with members of the Houghton Regis Heritage Society, who are currently collating historical evidence about the site. They are doing this in two ways: through primary research of historical records; and an oral history project (collecting socio-cultural ‘living history’ memories of the park). If you are interested in the history of the project area you can contact Houghton Regis Heritage Society via their website (www.hrhs.org.uk) or via Houghton Regis Town Council, Peel Street, Houghton Regis, LU55EY.
  • Keep in touch. For up to date information about the project -how you can get involved with consultation and activities - and to sign up for regular e-newsletters please visit www.houghtonhallpark.org or contact Adrian Spray at CFP (Adrian@cfpuk.co.uk).

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The Town Council holds some historic documents that show how Houghton Regis Village Green and Houghton Hall Park played a part in World War I.

In January 1916 the Clerk to Houghton Regis Parish Council, George Jones, wrote to the Commons and Footpaths Preservation Society for advice. He noted that the Military Authority had taken possession of the Village Green, erecting huts and using it for manoeuvres. No approach had been made to the Council, its owners, about this. The Council was concerned about any infringement of their rights, the expense of reinstatement and that private owners of adjacent land (such as Houghton Hall park) were being paid rent. 

The Society responded saying the Council should communicate with the Authorities noting that the Green should be restored ‘as soon as national exigencies permit… as it is a valued Open Space’. 

Later in the year a letter from the Colonel Commanding Royal Engineer Bedford District, noted the ‘question of reinstatement will receive favourable consideration from the War Office on the termination of Military occupancy’.

The story continued into 1918, when the Parish Council contacted the local MP, Cecil Harmsworth. He was MP for Luton from 1911-1922 and in the Secretariat of the Prime Minister Lloyd George from 1917-1919. Harmsworth suggested that the Council ‘try to get to the soft side’ of the military authorities rather than using the Preservation Society. He contacted colleagues in the War Office to obtain their assurance that the Green would be reinstated, and he enclosed their letter with a note of his own, on 10 Downing Street paper!

However the Council had already contacted the Preservation Society. The Society advised they had succeeded having safeguards put in the Defence of the Realm Acquisition of Land Act 1916 for exactly this purpose. They then sent a reminder to the Council to pay their subscription. 

The YMCA and YWCA erected recreation huts on the east side of the Green for the military personnel stationed nearby, with similar assurances to the Council that they would reinstate the land. Postcards from these personnel posted in Houghton Regis are held in a private collection. We hope to share some of these stories in the future. 

The Parish Council must have eventually succeeded in having the Green reinstated. Modern survey techniques such as LIDAR show extensive disruption to the land of the Green and Houghton Hall Park, which may be due to all the activity in World War I. The open spaces of Houghton Regis played their part in the war, and were as valued 100 years ago as they are today.

Last updated about 1 year ago