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 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 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
DO YOU REMEMBER JOSEPH BARWISE AND HIS NURSERY – PERHAPS YOU STILL GROW ONE OF HIS VARIETIES?