Clifton House and grounds were built for Joshua Walker in 1783/4. The grounds originally comprised walled gardens, pleasure grounds, and a fishpond; almost all have been lost through interventions in the park layout in later periods. The original layout made the most of views from the House, with clear views over the parkland to the east. The House and grounds remained in the ownership of the Walker family until the death of Joshua’s son, Henry in 1860; Henry had been responsible for changes to the drives and approaches to the House to improve the setting of the House. The House and parkland passed into the ownership of the Owen family between 1864 and 1883.
In 1891 Rotherham Corporation resolved to purchase Clifton Park at a cost of £25,000 and adapt the layout to a public park, the second public park in Rotherham, the first being at Boston Park around a mile away across town. Clifton Park was opened on the 25th June 1891 by the then Prince of Wales (later Edward VII). Between 1891 and 1893 structural changes to the landscape were introduced, including the addition of paths, entrances, avenues and facilities with the loss of a number of features remaining from the original period, including the walled kitchen garden. By 1893 The House was converted and opened as a Museum.
In the 1830’s around the time of Queen Victoria’s coronation year a commemorative beech tree was planted which is still well loved feature within the park.
Throughout the first half of the 20th century a range of features were added to the park, including the Main Entrance (1900), the Cenotaph (1922), Templeborough Roman remains re-sited to the Museum area (1925), the new replacement Bandstand (1928), the Paddling Pool (1939), the Memorial Gardens (1948) and the Rock Garden (1951).
Between 2009 and 2011 the park was restored at part of the Heritage Lotter Fund’s Parks for People programme at a cost of £7.6m and a water play, new play areas, Garden House and walled gardens were added to a restored Victorian parkland landscape.