This article contributes to scholarship on liberal governance during the nineteenth century through the much-neglected area of the public park. Using Preston as a case study, it seeks to answer why parks were considered necessary, but also to argue for the need to understand micro-level issues that determined their precise formation and governance. In line with this, attention is paid to how space was orchestrated to encourage self-regulation, and the elite appropriation of this space to bolster the fragile social order that industrialisation had engendered in the town. Finally attention is paid to the outcome of this, and the ways in which people could enjoy the park, without internalising the intended norms.