Monthly Archives: April 2013

The April History Workshop

A View of Towneley Hall by George Barret (1728 - 1784)The History Group workshop on Saturday April 13th looked at what makes Towneley special. The group listened to Sarah Law’s experiences of researching the Park’s 18th century history and how it is possible to see physical evidence in the Park today of the changes from that period.

Maureen Frankland described how much she was enjoying finding out more about changes that have taken place at Towneley in the 20th century. She emphasized that what was most important about the project was the involvement of the community and the sharing of knowledge about Towneley Park.

The project’s main deliverable is still a history leaflet but the workshop was also introduced to the topic of geo-caching and how this recreational activity could be another way of enhancing the visitor’s experience of Towneley. Find out more about geocaching on National Trust land at .

Hopefully there will be more about geocaching at Towneley in this blog in coming months.


 Barwise car park and picnic site, created in 1979, was named after Joseph Faulder Barwise (1874-1965) who ran a nursery on part of the site from about 1915 until his death in 1965.  Although I’ve lived in Burnley for over 60 years and often walked to Towneley Park along Rock Lane to the Golf Club entrance I hadn’t realised there was a nursery in this part of the park and first heard about Mr. Barwise from the podcast of the trail walk available at Towneley Park shop.  The Friends of Towneley Park were then starting to develop this history project and I decided to try and find out more about Mr. Barwise and his nursery.  I was surprised to discover that Mr. Barwise was famous internationally in the Dahlia world and that he had received countless awards and honours.

Joseph Barwise
Joseph Barwise

Joseph Barwise was born in Cockermouth and moved from Lancaster to Burnley sometime before 1911 when he is shown in the Census living with his younger brother Albert and family at Stoney Street. Albert is described as a joiner/cabinet maker and Joseph as a wood carver.  The two brothers started up a gardening business but Albert moved away from Burnley and in 1923 Joseph had become a nurseryman at Towneley Nurseries.  In a 1960 Burnley Express article Joseph says that he had cultivated the nurseries 50 years previously from a wild 2 acre “jungle” .


Working inside a greenhouse 1960 (Burnley Express Photo)

After some years he began to specialise in dahlias and his flair for hybridisation resulted in quite a number of remarkable varieties.  He had an international reputation – in 1965 many of his varieties were still being grown in Europe, Australia, New Zealand and the USA.  He was also apparently known for his roses although no information has been recorded about his achievements in their cultivation.

Medal winning group of Barwise Dahlias at Southport Flower Show 1949From a Westwell & Sons Catalogue of Barwise Dahlia (Burnley Library Ref:L35)

Medal winning group of Barwise Dahlias at Southport Flower Show 1949
From a Westwell & Sons Catalogue of Barwise Dahlias (Burnley Library Ref:L35)

He won many awards from the British Dahlia Growers Association and the Royal Horticultural Society and about 1959 was made an honorary member of the BGDA (of which he was a founder member) in recognition of his work.  One of his greatest honours was the coveted Victoria Medal from the RHS for his outstanding service to horticulture.  He named one of his dahlias ‘Burnley’ in recognition of this award.  He also received the National Dahlia Society gold medal for advancement of dahlia culture.

In 1946 Towneley Nurseries was chosen as one of 4 dahlia trial growing grounds in Britain and in 1947, out of 15 varieties accepted by RHS for trial at Wisley, 8 were from Towneley. In 1948 he was awarded the Dahlia Growers Blue Riband for new variety ‘Florist’ and his variety ‘Fortune’ gained him gold medal from RHS and NDS.



His former woodcarving career, given up for health reasons, seems to have been successful too – his wood carvings were reported to be seen in the Savoy Hotel, London; the Caledonian Hotel, Edinburgh; Simpsons in the Strand and in many Scottish baronial mansions.  He continued his carving as a hobby and presented an emblem carved from a cherry tree at Towneley Nursery to the BGDA in October 1964. A Burnley Express article in 1958 shows him holding a large carved wooden plaque which he had made to hold his Victoria Medal Certificate.  He also carved in 1949 a lectern for his local church, St. Stephen’s.


Lectern at St. Stephen’s Church

 An article in 1960 refers to Mr. Barwise in ‘retirement’ but still working 11 hours a day in summer and in 1961, aged 87, he was paid an official visit by the Mayoress in Burnley’s centenary year to recognise his achievements.  She commented on a salmon-pink new dahlia that he was growing and he offered to name it after her in honour of the visit – it was named Edith Sandy.

Download a list of the 236 Barwise varieties – 28 of them named after Towneley.  It is not clear how many are still commercially available but five varieties are included in the National Dahlia Collection and Burnley Borough Council, The Friends of Towneley Park and Towneley Hall Society have acquired four of these – Bloodstone, Reedley, Yellow Pet and Winsome for planting in the Towneley Hall Italian Garden bedding scheme in summer 2013.  We are very much looking forward to seeing them.

   Winsome      Yellow Pet       
   Winsome                               Yellow Pet            




A seat in the sun

After Towneley was opened as a public park in 1902, three things were at the top of the Parks Committee’s to-do list – cafe, toilets and seats. In 1904, there were complaints of insufficient benches and, on June 29th, the committee ordered 30 more at a cost of £39. This photograph, with Foldys Cross in the foreground, shows a large number of benches and dates from around 1905 to 1907. (The chimneys seen on the south tower and south buttress were removed in 1908.)

Foldys Cross

Over the years there has been a gradual replacement of old benches thanks to public gifts. One of the earliest such gifts came from the Burnley committee of the Women’s Gas Federation in 1960 to mark the 21st anniversary of their organisation. The form was a solid structure of teak and was placed in the courtyard at Towneley Hall. Then in 1965, the British Dahlia Growers’ Association offered a seat and plaque to mark the work of J F Barwise to improve the dahlia and this was followed by a similar donation from Burnley Horticultural Society the same year. In 1976, Towneley Tennis Club donated two 6 foot boulevard seats to celebrate 50 years of tennis at Causeway End.

It appears the first donation of a memorial seat from private individuals was in 1979, when according to the minutes of the Recreation and Leisure Committee “the Borough Recreation Officer reported that persons mentioned wish to donate a seat in memory of their son in one of the parks. The donation was gratefully received and the officers were authorised to deal with similar future donations on their merits and locate them on appropriate sites under control of this committee”.

There have been so many of these memorial donations since 1979 that the Heritage Lottery Fund have suggested that the modern benches were not in keeping with the historic landscape. As a result, the offer of benches is now discouraged.