Simple slate plaque will mark Royal visit to Preston just a day before Queen Elizabeth II passed away
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The plaque, kept a closely-guarded secret for three months on the orders of Buckingham Palace, will mark the visit of the Earl and Countess of Wessex on September 7 to re-open historic Avenham and Miller Parks after a major refurbishment.
The trip, which also took the Royal couple to the indoor Market Hall and its Wallace and Gromit statue, was timed to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Preston being granted city status. Sadly the following day Edward and Sophie dashed up to Balmoral with other members of the Royal Family where Her Majesty passed away aged 96.
The plaque, made of Kirkstone Green Slate quarried in Cumbria, will be set into the wall of the grand Grade II Listed steps and sweeping balustrades in Miller Park which were built in 1865. It will measure 500mm in diameter and has been kept deliberately simple in design so it does not visually dominate the monument.
Around its edge will be the inscription: "In the Platinum Jubilee Year of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and the 20th anniversary of the award of city status to Preston." In the centre it will read: "To commemorate the visit of Their Royal Highnesses the Earl and Countess of Wessex on 7th September 2022. Celebrating the completion of the restoration of Avenham and Miller Parks."
An application for listed building consent has been submitted by Preston City Council to its own planning committee for permission to erect the plaque on the historic structure. A heritage statement says: "The design of the plaque has been kept simple. The engraved letters have not been painted or gilded which makes them less pronounced.
"The slate plaque roundel has been made from Kirkstone Green slate. It is a contrast to the existing sandstone wall, but was chosen as it is stone found in the NW of England and is eminently suitable for engraving due to its hardness.
"Visually it will not dominate, but act as a point of interest for anyone wishing to explore what it represents. It is considered that the installation of the plaque in this location will not change the character to the detriment of the wider area."
Prince Edward and Sophie visited the Avenham and Miller Parks to see the renovation work which has been carried out. During their visit the Royal couple planted a tree. The plaque will be high enough for access to be limited to avoid any accidental or intentional damage being caused to it.
A report to the planning committee says that if listed building consent is granted, the plaque will "recognise the official opening of both parks following a refurbishment funded by the National Heritage Lottery Fund and commemorate 20 years since Preston was granted city status. The commemorative plaque will provide a memory that will add to the parks' rich layers of history.
"The project was treated in confidence for much of the planning stage of the design due to the protocols required by the Royal Household. However some consultation has now been undertaken with the Friends Group (Friends of Avenham and Miller Parks) regarding the proposed location of the plaque."