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.)
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.