Designs for a new park for Plymouth

Plymouth Corporation appointed Mawson and Sons of Westminster to design the new park on 27th March 1928.  Thomas H Mawson was one of the most prolific and influential landscape architects of his time and his appointment shows the Council’s determination to have the very best for the city’s new park. 

It was to be Mawson’s last public park commission as his health was starting to deteriorate and most of the design work was undertaken by his son, E Prentice Mawson.  He followed his father’s style very closely whilst Thomas Mawson kept oversight of the firm’s work until his death in 1933.   

The fee for the commission was £800 and it included:
• A general layout of the park
• Drawings of the main plantations
• Sectional drawings
• 1/8th scale drawings of any structures
• Ideas on the layout of a golf course.

The work was presented to the Hoe and Parks Committee on 31st October 1928. The minutes of the meeting record the presentation as coming from E Reuben Mawson but this is almost certainly a misprint as there is no family member of that name.  The committee approved the report and resolved to apply to the Minister of Health for sanction to borrow £92,639 for laying out the park. 

Mawson’s surviving drawings are in the TH Mawson Archive held by the Cumbria Records Office.  They are exquisitely detailed and accompanied by what appear to be preliminary sketches.  Two of the drawings are dated November 1928 and thereafter Mawson’s involvement with Central Park appears to have ended.  

The plan published in the programme to mark the formal opening in 1931 bears the name of “J Wibberley, City Engineer, Surveyor and Architect” although it retained and added features which characteristically belong to Mawson.  A presentation copy of this plan was found in a house in Plymouth and donated to the Devon Rural Archive at Shilstone, Modbury where it is held under reference DRA.LC.P12.0084. 

Aspects of the plan which were in place at the 1931 opening included the children’s play and sports facilities. Some of these have since been removed or modified, notably the area around the Milehouse junction, which was originally the main entrance to the park.

The main features that survive today from Mawson’s work include the pattern of broad straight paths across the park’s undulating topography, the bowling greens and the semicircular car-park on Outland Road.

Preliminary sketches 

Reproduced with permission of the TH Mawson Archive

Mawson’s Final Plans

Reproduced with permission of the TH Mawson Archive

Detailed designs by Mawson 

Reproduced with permission of the TH Mawson Archive

Ground Model

City Engineer’s plan c1931

City Engineer’s plan – presentation copy

Reproduced with permission of the Devon Rural Archive