- History of the Estate, Building on the Past
- History of the Company, Building From Nothing
- Natural History of the Park, Buildings Amid Nature
History of the Company, Building From Nothing
The purchase of Alderley Park by Imperial Chemical (Pharmaceuticals) Ltd. was announced in The Times on 22nd June 1950, although planning permission had been applied for on 25th October the previous year. The newspaper article said: “Of the total area of 350 acres [since enlarged twice, over the last 15 years, to its present 410 acres (166 hectares)], some 150 consist of woodland and water, and will be left undisturbed. Of the remaining 200 acres of parkland, only a small proportion will be allocated to buildings.” While it may have seemed a lot at the time, the purchase price of fifty-five thousand pounds might now appear rather a bargain!
The site was intended as the new home of ICI’s small but growing pharmaceutical business (begun as part of the Dyestuffs Group on 1st October 1936). It was to be seven years before the new Mereside laboratories were opened on 1st October 1957. Even before their creation, a huge restoration task was underway on the woodland, gardens and particularly the surviving old buildings of the former mansion’s virtually self-contained home farm. The latter, surrounding the present Alderley House upper and lower courtyard, comprise Grade II listed coach-houses, cottages and barns of hand-made English orange brick, including the fine six-sided Columbarium or Dovecote. The first Mereside buildings themselves were built on the site of a derelict Deer House by Radnor Mere.
In 1963, construction of the present Alderley House was begun. Outline planning permission had originally been granted for the building of Alderley House next to Mereside on the shore of the lake; from aesthetic and environmental points of view there can be no doubt that the right decision was taken to build instead on the much more historic site, in the south of the Park.
The site grew steadily. By the mid-1970s the total staff on site had reached 2150, the car park spaces 1400 and the trees planted 150,000.
In 1977 the Conference Centre was converted to its present use. Used originally as a ballroom and for the annual estate Tenants’ Christmas Party, later as a badminton court and once (during the Great War) as a hospital, its sensitive management has always been a priority. In 1989 it was renamed in favour of Sir James Black, who had been awarded the Nobel Prize in the previous year for his discovery of the beta-blocker drugs. Although the valuable furniture and paintings it contained were removed at the time of the 1938 sale, it still possesses, with its many coats of arms, an air of history unparalleled by any other room in Alderley Park. However, the rare stuffed rhinoceros head left by the Stanleys now has a different place of honour, in the grateful Manchester Museum!
Some young mulberry trees were sent to Alderley Park in the early 1600s by King James I, who was trying to establish a silk industry in England. The trees grew for very many years on a site now adjacent to Alderley Park’s large, modern staff sports centre. When the new sports hall and impressive gymnasium was finished, it was appropriate to christen it with the attractive name of Mulberry’s. Together with its associated cricket pitch, tennis courts and two football pitches, it is a centre of excellence for encouraging a healthy staff.
The open farmland on the estate once was a facility for ICI’s thriving Animal Health business. It is now stocked with a commercial flock of 300 breeding ewes and a small herd of rare breed cattle, adding significantly to the rural ambience of the Park.
In 1977, a remarkable project was the building of the Clinical Pharmacology Unit (without significantly disturbing the ducks!) on concrete legs over RadnorMere. Continuing development retained as much as possible of the original environment. When the present Lord Stanley visited the Park on September 1988, he declared that ICI had “done a superb job with the estate.”
1990 saw the opening of the sensitively designed and beautifully sited Mereview Restaurant, overlooking Radnor Mere. Many species of birds, from great crested grebes to goosander and even the occasional kingfisher, can be observed without disturbance from its windows.
In 1993 Alderley Park changed hands when Zeneca was created as a divestment from ICI. That year the site population reached 3500. In April 1999, the newly merged company of AstraZeneca became the latest owner of the site. Investment in the site has continued over the past decade leading to the creation of a modern Research and Development site that provides employment for approximately 4200 staff and 1000 contractors.
As the global lead centre for Cancer research, Alderley Park houses the global Advanced Lead Discovery Centre, which includes innovative compound management and high throughput screening facilities to assist with the drug discovery process. Anti-cancer treatments that have been developed at the site include Nolvadex, Zoladex, Casodex, Arimidex and Iressa. Alderley Park is an important centre for many other global business functions such as Operations, International Sales & Marketing, Product Strategy & Licensing and Information Services (IS).