History of Friends of Chances Park

The History of the Manor

The original building dates from 1780 and was at that time a farmhouse.

The Fergusons bought Morton Manor and surrounding land as a family home in 1809. Robert Ferguson was for sometime M.P. for Carlisle. He was a literary scholar, and a personal friend of the poet Longfellow, who stayed at Morton in 1865.

Sir Fredrick Chance whose mother was a Ferguson became owner in 1875. The house was passed to Sir Robert Chance in 1920 and he presented the house and gardens in 1944 to the City Council for the people of Carlisle for development as a Community Centre to mark his family’s long association with the city. His bequest was eventually handed over to the Council after his death in 1960 and opened as a Community Centre in 1967 by Lady Chance. The City bought the parkland for a nominal sum.

The Grade II listed Manor house with its fine Georgian façade, gardens (landscaped by Gilpin) and surrounding parkland provides an ideal setting for community activities. One of the unique features of this park is the Ha-Ha, which serves as a fence without impairing the view, and prevents animals crossing into the garden from parkland. The grounds are also known for their many native and exotic varieties of trees.

History of the Friends of Chances Park

The Friends came into being as a result of a few members of the local community who use the park regularly and felt that it was falling into disrepair. The parks department had gone from having a local department situated in the centre grounds to having just one for the City. Cut backs had led to minimal maintenance, though the grass was cut regularly, the play area was kept reasonable and new trees were planted. There just weren’t enough resources to restore things like the Ha-Ha or to work on the drive.

We decided in March 2003 to hold a public meeting to see if there was any interest in starting a group.   We put up notices in the park, and about 30 people attended who recognised how lucky we are to have this beautiful area, but felt it should be better looked after. Both short and long term aims were identified. The short term aim was to combat some of the day-to-day things such as litter, broken glass, dog mess and vandalism and we have been largely successful in our efforts with these concerns.

Our main long term aims were realised in 2009 when we succeeded in securing a £1.18million Lottery Grant. This grant enabled the restoration of the Georgian Ha-Ha, a new path to link Langrigg House through to Morton Community Centre, all existing paths to be widened and improved, a new lighting system to be installed along major paths, new seating and bins, entrances on Wigton Road and Dunmail Drive to be improved with new gates built to a traditional pattern and many more improvements park users enjoy today. Please see below for further details

In 2016, a further Lottery grant of £50K allowed us to employ a designer to produce the new Activity Sheets for families and uniformed groups to explore the opportunities of the natural environment of the Park.

We are currently looking at recruiting more volunteers and at other ways to enhance the Park for the enjoyment of all.


In 2009 the Park was on track for a major transformation, after receiving a £869,000 National Lottery grant to back exciting regeneration plans. The funding came from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and Big Lottery Fund (BIG) under their Parks for People programme, with additional funding from Biffaward to promote the park’s biodiversity. The joint investment helped to make the park fit for the 21st century.

The City Council agreed a £40,000 contribution to the scheme. In addition to the main funders, generous support was also been received from Cumbria Wildlife Fund, Cumbria Community Foundation, Morton Neighborhood Forum and the County Council’s Carlisle Local Area Committee.

Extensive research lasting several years had taken place covering the Ecological, Historical, Cultural, and Arboricultural History of the park and a plan was developed by locally based Architects Johnston and Wright assisted by Garden and Landscape Design (David Redmore) as the Landscape Architects. A steering group made up of representatives from the Friends of Chance’s Park, Morton Community Centre and Carlisle City Council, used the funding to progress the £1.18million scheme making the park more accessible for visitors, opening up new views and improving path-ways.

R H Irving was appointed the main contractors for the work and the work was project managed by Carlisle City Council’s Facilities team. Sisters Ruth and Mary Chance cut the first sods to start the work in September 2009 and the official reopening took place in May 2010.

Click here to view a plan of the park.

From this map you will be able to veiw the improvements to the Park which include the following works.

  • Restoration of the Georgian Ha-Ha
  • A new path to link Langrigg House through to Morton Community Centre
  • All existing paths were widened and improved
  • A new lighting system installed along major paths
  • New seating and bins installed along paths
  • Entrances on Wigton Road and Dunmail Drive improved with new gates built to a traditional pattern
  • Arboricultural works to the existing mature trees
  • Thinning of the very overcrowded treeplanting to achieve clear views to and from Morton Community Centre
  • Forming of Georgian Roundels with the remaining trees from this thinning
  • Planting of an avenue of Handkerchief Trees along the main footpath to be underplanted with a hundred thousand bulbs
  • Eleven thousand bulbs planted by local nursery school children and volunteers
  • Planting of groups of trees in a typical Georgian style
  • Meadow areas developed close to Morton Community Centre to allow the re-establishment of the classical old meadow vegetation
  • The creation of a new community garden based on historical drawings close to the community centre
  • Bat and Bird boxes installed by local children
  • A performance area formed for plays, music ……
  • An events area formed within the immediate grounds of the community centre
  • Information boards installed illustrating the birds, the Ridge and Furrow, a site plan with topical notation, and the trees
  • Leaflets were produced covering the history, the trees, and the birds of Chances Park
  • Along with this work, a ten year management plan was produced and funding procured to ensure that work will continue to develop an outstanding Park for the City of Carlisle and the local community both now and into the future.