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PRESTON PARK is one of Brighton’s largest parks, with 63 acres (250,000 m2) of lawns, formal borders and rose gardens, bowling greens, tennis courts and a small pond

It was bought in 1883 by Brighton Corporation (then Brighton’s local authority) from Mr William Bennett-Stanford who owned the Preston Manor estate and had begun to develop the park as enclosed pleasure grounds. The costs of the purchase (£50,000) and initial layout (£22,868) were funded with a bequest of £70,000 from a local bookmaker, William Edmund Davies in 1879. The park was formally declared open on 8 November 1884.

The Brighton and County Polo Club, started by Lt. Col. Robert McKergow in 1904, was based in Preston Park. An earlier club, the International Gun and Polo Club, founded by George Marshall in 1874, used grounds in Preston, probably Preston Park, though the club itself was based in the Bedford Hotel.

The park remains green throughout the summer because of a non-drinkable underground water source, known as the Wellesbourne, which runs below Preston Park, London Road and The Level. The source dates back many centuries and is often referred to as Brighton’s lost river. In 2000, after torrential rain, it rose and caused considerable damage.

The park is host to various annual events including the festival at the end of the Brighton & Hove Pride parade, the start of the Brighton Marathon, a circus during the Brighton Festival, a large starting event for the Take Part sports festival and from April 20 2013 park run, a free, 5k, open to all runners and joggers at 9am every Saturday.

Opposite the park, across the main London Road, is The Rockery—the largest municipal rock garden in Britain built up the side of a steep railway embankment. Various pathways and streams wind through its grounds. It was originally a wooded area which had been purchased along with the land used for the main park; it was landscaped into its present form in 1935 by Captain B Maclaren. Originally, the area was known as “The Rookery”, referring to the tall trees in the former wood which were frequented by rooks. Over time, the name was modified into “The Rockery”.

The surrounding neighbourhood is also widely referred to as Preston Park. It is distinct from the further outlying Preston Village.

The park includes a velodrome, situated in the north-east corner, thought to be the oldest cycle track in the UK, having been built in 1877. It was constructed by hand by the British Army and originally had a surface of cinders, replaced in 1936 by a tarmac surface. During the 1950s, Bank Holiday events would attract large crowds to watch riders such as Reg Harris race.

Unlike most modern velodromes which have two straights separated by a curved bend at each end, Preston Park velodrome has four straights of unequal length. A single lap is 579.03 metres.