Photographer helps restore list town treasure

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SONY DSC

Avid amateur photographer John Dales has always had a keen eye for some of the notable features in his home town of Fleetwood.

But little did he know that one of his photos would play a key role in the restoration of the grand main entrance of the town’s Memorial Park.

Admirers of the park are celebrating the completion of the first chapter in its ambitious £2.4m restoration, including a sweeping upgrade of the main entrance and gates.

Two plaques depicting a soldier and sailor were originally displayed on these entrance gates, but when it was decided to upgrade the gates there was a problem - the sailor figure was lost.

However, there was a home-grown solution. An appeal for artefacts and personal memories about the park led John to bringing in some of his photos.

One of them captured the old sailor plaque in such fine detail that designers were able to use the image to completely re-model the plaque and return it to its rightful position.

John, 57, whose Belmont Road home is just around the corner from the park, said: “I feel so proud to have been able to help. In fact when I walked past the gates and saw that new plaque, I almost welled up!”

He added: “I grew up with the park and have taken lots of photographs over the years. The sailor and soldier plaques mean so much to people and are a poignant reminder of what the park is all about.”

The sailor symbolised Fleetwood’s naval role in the First World War and heavy loss endured by the community as a result of the many trawlers lost at sea.

The main Warrenhurst Road entrance to the park and the war memorial in the centre of the park had been restored to their original 1920s design in time for Remembrance Sunday.

Wyre Council has been awarded £2.4m from the Heritage Lottery and Big Lottery Funds to restore the Grade II listed park and create a five year programme of community activities.

Designed and built in 1925 by renowned town planner Sir Patrick Abercrombie, the park was created in commemoration of the First World War and is one of only a few listed war memorial parks in the country.

Coun Vivien Taylor, Cabinet member with responsibility for parks at Wyre Council, said: “We’ve reached a significant milestone in the project thanks to a lot of hard work by all involved to carry out authentic restoration work that conserves the park’s original features.

“The sailor plaque is vital to our understanding of the war memorial and a symbol of everything the park stands for, so it was very important that we were able to bring it back.”

The gates, arches and railings have all been painted neutral colours to mirror the park’s beginnings and in stark contrast to the familiar green colouring that was in place since the 1980s.

The war memorial, which bears the names of 329 local men killed in conflict, has been painstakingly cleaned and repointed, and the concrete steps and planters repaired.

The restoration is only part way through - the pond, pavilion and tennis courts are all set to be transformed, a greater range of sports and play facilities will be introduced and there’s a programme of community activities running alongside.

Follow the park’s journey at wyre.gov.uk/memorialpark.