Mercer Park

History of Mercer Park


Mercer ParkThe land occupied by Mercer Park was originally common land between Great Harwood and Oakenshaw which was enclosed to provide grounds for Mercer House which was built in 1802 by Thomas Hargreaves. The house was originally called Oakenshaw Cottage. Thomas Hargreaves was also responsible for the building of Oak Hill Mansion.

Mercer House took its name from its most notable occupant John Mercer (1891-1866) who became famous as the father of textile chemistry. Among many achievements he is most remembered for developing a process for the treatment of cotton fabric which was to become known as Mercerisation. The invention of this process contributed to the then gathering momentum of the Industrial Revolution and is still used today for the production of some quality fabrics.

John Mercer is also remembered as a local benefactor, he provided land and funds towards the building of All Saints Church, adjacent to Mercer Park and helped to finance a public library and reading room for the benefit of local people. John Mercer died at Mercer House in 1866 at the age of 76. Fifty years after his death, local subscription paid for the erection of the commemorative clock in the Town Hall Square, Great Harwood, as a tribute to him in the place of his birth.

Mercer House and Park were left for use as a public museum and park under the terms of a charitable trust established in 1916 under the will of Miss Maria Mercer, John Mercers’ last surviving daughter, who died in 1913. This trust deed was varied by the Charity Commissioners in 1981.

Richard Broughton, a historian and trustee of Maria Mercers’ Will officially opened Mercer Park in June 1916. The house was opened as a museum and contained a mineral and fossil collection and also a fascinating collection of coal derivatives such as perfumes and dyes which were presented to the museum by the Altham Colliery Company.