Manchester’s first public park for more than a century will use recently uncovered wells from the Victorian era to provide a sustainable source of water.
The 2.6-acre (6.5-acre) Mayfield Park will sit behind Piccadilly station and provide play areas and floodable meadows. The £ 1.4bn development’s greenery will be watered using three Victorian wells that were discovered while archaeologists were on site to catalog historical features of the site.
The area has been mainly derelict since the 1980s but is being redeveloped as part of a “transformational” 5.7-hectare regeneration scheme that includes plans for 1,500 new homes, retail, leisure and office space.
The water produced by the well has been declared safe for irrigation use, meaning it can be used to sustainably keep the park’s trees and plants lush, thereby reducing the burden on the mains supply.
The wells are among several important discoveries made at Mayfield, including a large Victorian bathhouse, as work on the redevelopment gains momentum.
In total, 12 wells have been located across the site but many were backfilled or damaged, with only three wells remaining viable. The largest of these was used originally to supply the Britannia Brewery, which was based on the east of the site in the late 19th and early 20th century.
The Britannia Brewery was one of the most important in Lancashire, according to an 1888 report in the Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser. At its height, the brewery was capable of producing more than 300 barrels of beer every week, meaning it played a significant role in keeping the city’s factory and textile workers well lubricated after their long shifts.
Graham Mottershead, the project manager at Salford Archeology, said: “Mayfield continues to provide new insights into how Manchester’s community of industrialists innovated to make the Mayfield area a major focal point for the textiles industry.”
Sir Richard Leese, the leader of Manchester city council, said: “There are some development projects that have such transformational potential that we await their completion with great anticipation.
“This part of the city center has been underused for decades and it’s great to see the development move on at pace to deliver a new green sanctuary at the heart of our city – followed by significant investment in new commercial space and new homes.
“It’s also been a pleasure to see the early work uncover some relics of Manchester’s rich history, which has allowed us to celebrate our heritage while looking forward to the city’s future. Who could’ve predicted that this small piece of Victorian infrastructure, once lost to time, would be brought back into use to quench Manchester’s first city center park in 100 years?
“The cycle of city life at play is a lovely thing – and should be celebrated.”