Visitors from America – the 1880s and the flower garden

Towneley Hall - croquet lawn in the 1860s

This is one of the earliest photographs of the gardens at Towneley in the 1860s. In the foreground are croquet hoops, while a flower garden enclosed by a wire fence can just be made out to the south east of the house .

In the 1880s, the fictitious Lawrence-Townley Estate was used to separate thousands of people in North America from their money in a great fraud. It was suggested there was a large estate in England held in the Court of Chancery because the rightful heirs had gone to America. These heirs were the descendant of Mary Townley who married John Lawrence. All the heirs needed was the loan of money to prove their claim in the English courts and, when successful, the heirs would repay the loans ten times over.

While this does not concern Towneley Park directly, it tells us that Towneley was well known throughout America and some of those duped came over to England and recorded their visit to Towneley. Amongst these records is one giving a good description of the gardens around 1884. It is the only known written account of the flower garden to the south east of the Hall in the 19th century:

“”From the side windows of both drawing rooms there is a beautiful grass plat surmounted by a fine wire fence to keep the hares out. This is changed into a beautiful garden in the center by beds of flowers which are arranged into different designs each year. The design at present is a crescent about two feet wide by ten feet curve, filled with red and yellow flowers; opposite the curve, some three feet away, is a rosette some four feet in diameter filled with flowers; then to the right of the first crescent is another facing the other way and a rosette in front of it, and on the opposite side another one with a rosette in front of that; beyond the three is a diamond. The same arrangement is on the other end, while in the center the crescents are reversed; the whole with the bright colored flowers making a beautiful picture. In the rear of the gardens are large sized forest trees bordered by numerous rhododendrons. In the rear of the building is a smooth, well kept, grassy plot of nearly an acre in size bordered in the distance by large forest trees, several paths lead in different directions through the woods; one to the farm-house, one to the kitchen garden, one to the flower garden, and others to other portions of the estate.” [Other Days, Charles Valentine Townley, Olathe, Kansas] .

The flower garden and the wire screen fence appear in many postcards of Towneley Park after it was opened to the public. These show that Burnley Corporation retained the Victorian flower garden, as can be seen in this postcard from the 1920s, before the War Memorial was built.

Flower Beds, Towneley Park, Burnley

During World War II, the fence was removed for scrap metal, and then in 1944 a fountain-type bird bath added to the garden. In 1950, the current hedge of green and golden yew was planted. The photograph below shows the Italian Garden, as it came to be known, in 1987.

Italian garden in 1987

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