Edward Kemp 1817-1891


Kemp was an English landscape architect and author who together with Joseph Paxton became one of the most renowned landscape architects in Britain during the mid-Victorian era. He was born in Streatham, London (now Lambeth), the son of Charles and Ann and first comes to light as an apprentice gardener at Chiswick under John Lindley. He subsequently became apprenticed under Paxton at Chatsworth House in the 1830s.

In 1843 Paxton was appointed to plan and construct Birkenhead Park, accepted today as the world’s first publicly funded park and Kemp was appointed superintendent of the site at the age of just 25 to supervise the preparatory work and oversee the implementation of Paxton’s plans. By 1845, the work was almost completed and Paxton recommended to the Birkenhead Commissioners that Kemp be appointed as the permanent superintendent. This proposal was accepted and Kemp moved into the Italian Lodge located adjacent to the grounds of the park.

He soon found that the job did not keep him fully occupied so became involved in private works too. He negotiated to continue to work as superintendent for a reduced salary and be allowed to live in the Lodge but also to be given some land to cultivate for his own personal use. Furthermore, he then built his own house in Park Road West thus being able to move from the free accommodation he had been given.

In 1857 the New York Park Commissioners consulted Kemp on their plans for what became Central Park and it is suggested that he was offered the post of superintendent there.
In 1845, Kemp married Sophia Bailey, the daughter of Henry Bailey who was the head gardener at Althorp House, the home of the Spencer family and now the resting place of Princess Diana of Wales of course.

To enhance his income he subsequently undertook many private commissions for parks around the region including Grosvenor Park in Chester, Stanley Park in Liverpool, Hesketh Park in Southport and Carlett Park, which was then a planned residential estate for John Laird. He was also successful in being appointed to design and deliver Wirral’s first municipal cemetery, Flaybrick, which having originally been planned twenty years earlier but deferred, was eventually opened in May 1864 with a Catholic section and chapel added to the initial proposals. In all, he was responsible for some 38 sites, 29 of which were in Merseyside and Cheshire.

Kemp and his wife moved to 74 Park Road West in 1859, a villa designed by local architect Walter Scott and the property, now a nursing home, still bears the inscription E.S.K. (Edward/Sophia Kemp) and the year 1859, the year they moved into the house, over the doorway.

Kemp’s sister Mary Anne lived with the couple and she died in 1885 and was buried in a newly acquired family plot at Flaybrick; Sophia died two years later in 1887 and when he died at home on 1st March 1891 he was laid to rest with them both in the grave which is now maintained in his memory by The Friends of Flaybrick; he left a fortune of over ten thousand pounds which in today’s valuation would make him a millionaire.