The park was established on the site of the Dean Lane coal mine, part of the North Somerset coalfield. The Dean Lane pit closed in 1906 and the land was transferred to Bristol City Council who opened the park in 1909. Like much of Bedminster, the mines belonged to the Smyth family who were based at Ashton Court Estate. The family developed mining and other industries in the area but also gave substantial amounts of their estate to the city for use as parks and green spaces, often as a response to social and environmental conditions. The park was named after Dame Emily Smyth who was a family member. The site of the main pit head can be clearly seen under a large concrete cap in the middle of the park.