History of Ford Park
Ford House, situated in the centre of the park, is designated as a Grade Two listed building. It was built between 1857-60, on the site of an earlier building known as Hoad Cottage. Although this earlier building was called a cottage, it must have been quite sizeable as the owner had a large number of children, as well as a maid and a servant. The old Coach House is the most probable site of Hoad Cottage.
Ford House was built for Montague Ainslie who owned Grizedale Hall and the estate near Hawkshead. Ford House was originally built for his son, William G. Ainslie who was Chairman and a major shareholder of the North Lonsdale Iron and Steel Company in South Ulverston, which stood on the site which is now occupied by GlaxoSmithKline. W.G. Ainslie became the first MP for Lonsdale and moved to London in 1865. Ford House was then used as a town house by the Ainslie family.
In the 1870s, the building was let to a local solicitor, John Poole, who later bought it. In the early part of the 20th century it was owned by Richard Crosthwaite who was a local timber merchant – he occupied the estate until the late 1920s and then in the early thirties, the whole estate was passed to Ulverston Urban District Council. There was anecdotal evidence that the estate had been gifted to UDC, but as records have not been found, we cannot say if this was true.
In 1942 the Ministry of Defence took over the estate to house the US army, and then after the war it was passed back to UDC.
The house was then used as an annex for Ulverston Victoria Lower School, which was administered by Lancashire County Council. In 1948 UDC sold the whole estate to the county council for use as a school.
The building suffered some very unsympathetic alterations shortly after this and nowadays it is difficult to say exactly how the interior used to look. We found an inventory in the local records office drawn up before the MOD took possession in 1942, which suggested that the house was crammed with paraphernalia.
Many of Ulverston’s present generations were taught in the rooms and grounds of Ford Park which carried on as a school annex under Cumbria County Council until 1997. The adjacent school, Victoria Lower School, closed in 1997 and Ford House and the Coach House were boarded up. Kosovan refugees spent time in the house having English lessons. Later the site fell into disrepair until it was rescued by Ford Park Community Group.