AN ACTION plan has been launched to help preserve the history of Rivington’s magical terraced gardens for future generations.
The proposals suggest how the area’s historic landscape of ravines, winding paths, magnificent bridges and faded grandeur can be gently safeguarded.
The exciting ideas come from a report which will form part of an application to get a £3.3 million lottery grant, which, it is hoped, will allow the treasured area to be protected.
The project has already received initial support for the project from the Heritage Lottery Fund of about £64,000.
Groundwork Lancashire West and Wigan and the Rivington Heritage Trust, two local charities leading the bid, will now use this conservation management plan to consult with local people and get them to help shape the future of the terraced gardens.
The plan suggests work should include repairing and conserving buildings and managing woodland and vegetation to highlight and protect the popular beauty spot.
New information signs and webpages would bring alive the history of the area.
Bryan Homan, chairman of the Rivington Heritage Trust, said: “We’re really excited about these plans and telling people about them.
“The terraced gardens are rich in history and with thousands of visitors each year, it’s really important we try and preserve this amazing place for future generations.”
The terraced gardens are a landscape of international significance.
They were the brainchild of two prominent early 20th century figures — Bolton-born soap magnate Lord Leverhulme, who owned the land, and internationally renowned landscape architect TH Mawson, who was commissioned to design the area.
The gardens have been open to the public since 1948 and 11 of the structures are now listed by English Heritage.
Construction of the gardens took place on both sides of the First World War, starting in 1905 and completed in 1925, with many of the features, such as the Pigeon Tower, bridges and steps, still visible today.
Among the conservation plan’s recommendations are:
- Repairing and conserving buildings and structures, making some buildings safe so people can go onto the roofs.
- Sensitively managing trees and vegetation to reveal and protect structures.
- Improving signage and information about the history of the gardens on site and via the internet.
- Activities and volunteer programmes to get local people involved.
Mr Homan said: “We’ve heard a very clear message from local people already that the atmosphere of faded grandeur and mystery is what people find enchanting about the gardens and we’re not going to do anything to compromise that.
“However, we need to look at managing the area differently or the heritage and people’s enjoyment of the gardens could be affected.”
Rivington Heritage Trust is working with landowners United Utilities and environmental charity Groundwork to promote the new conservation plan.
Ben Williams, project manager with Groundwork Lancashire West and Wigan, said: “The launch of this plan is a very exciting milestone for us.
"We now have clearly set out proposals which we can take out to the public and really engage them in the detail of the project.”
And heritage expert Maria Luczak has been the driving force behind the development of the plan.
She qualified as a landscape architect and has made a career out of conserving historic landscapes.
Among her work is the Fleetwood Memorial Gardens in Lancashire.
Ms Luczak said: “Historically, the terraced gardens are an incredibly significant piece of landscape.
“With their breathtaking views towards North Wales and the Lakes, their location on the edge of the West Pennine Moors and the sheer ambition of creating Italian and Japanese-influenced gardens in such a dramatic location means they can genuinely be described as unique.”
The trust secured funding last year from the HLF to put together the plan.
It will find out later this year whether they will receive more grants to carry out the plan’s recommendations.
A summary of the plan is available by going to Rivington Heritage Trust’s website — rivingtonheritagetrust.co.uk.
Also, details of events and activities where people can come and find out more about the gardens and the proposals will be put on this website and on Twitter - @RivingtonTG, and at facebook.com/RivingtonTG.
The trust will be hosting guided tours of the terraced gardens, where people can meet the project team and ask questions.
A community forum meets monthly in Horwich to discuss the proposals.
To register your interest in the group, visit the “Get Involved” section of the RHT website.
1900 Lord Leverhulme buys the Rivington Hall estate comprising 2,100 acres of tenanted farm and moorland, Rivington Hall and Barns. First terracing of the site for the bungalow undertaken by Architect Jonathan Simpson.
1910: Pigeon Tower designed and construction begins. Second floor added to Roynton Cottage.
1913: Roynton Cottage burned down.
1914: Construction of the Bungalow begins.
1915: Stone House Lodge constructed.
1923: Japanese Garden construction.
1925: April 27 Lord Leverhulme dies.
November – Bungalow and Gardens bought by John Magee, local brewery owner.
1926: Abandoned third lake project converted to shale tennis courts.
1938: John Magee dies — Bungalow and Gardens put up for sale.
1939: A consortium of local authorities fail to agree a purchase of the site. World War Two begins and access to Government loans is barred. Liverpool Corporation buy the site.
1947: Bungalow and ancillary structures are demolished.
1974: Liverpool Corporation Water Board responsibility is transferred to North West Water Authority.
1996: Terraced Gardens become part of the development proposal for the Rivington Area piloted by North West Water Limited (now United Utilities plc).
1997: Rivington Heritage Trust set up.
2005: Defra control order issued for eradication of Rhododendron on site. First attempt to secure funding for a restoration project.
2013 Backing secured from the Heritage Lottery Fund (Stage 1) to develop a full proposal for the site to take to Stage 2 of the funding process.
ATTRACTION PROVIDED A WINDOW ON THE WORLD
- Known as The Chinese Gardens, Leverhulme’s terraced gardens at Rivington are a collection of themed gardens designed by the renowned TH Mawson.
- His vision created a dramatic hillside garden, featuring a heavily-wooded area including a network of footpaths that provide the terraces that give the Terraced Gardens their name.
- In fact there was never a Chinese garden but some of the actual garden themes were an Italian garden, Japanese garden and various smaller themes represented such as the African inspired seven arched bridge, great lawn, boating lake, terraced gardens and several large stone summerhouses.
- There is a man-made ravine and cascade, with several bridges and fords crossing it. The upper section of the park contains the remains of the formal lawns and gardens which surrounded Lord Leverhulme's residences.
- With the outbreak of World War Two, the Bungalow, which had been Lord Leverhulme’s home until he died, was requisitioned as a billet for wounded troops, and Nissen huts were erected in the grounds.
- The Bungalow's wartime residents were less than attentive to the Bungalow's upkeep during this period, and upon the cessation of hostilities the damage to the structure was such that Liverpool Corporation decided to demolish the building.
- Many years after Leverhulme and up until the mid 1990’s the gardens where overgrown with rhododendron bushes giving the place an air of lost jungle ruins with hidden paths to follow.
- The rhododendron’s where destroyed and the gardens cleared in the 1990’s amid fears of the spread of Sudden Oak Death.
- Buildings in the gardens included The Cottage, which was an example of traditional arts and crafts but which has now fallen down, and the Pigeon Tower, which has fallen into disrepair.