The history behind a striking part of the Fylde’s heritage

Fairhaven Lake.
The Mawson Japanese Garden. It is thought the garden remains buried under the present landscape
Fairhaven Lake. The Mawson Japanese Garden. It is thought the garden remains buried under the present landscape
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It is considered to be the third oldest marine lake in Britain and it represents a very important part of the heritage of Fylde.

And now Fairhaven Lake and gardens could be on the first step to being restored to its past glory.

Significant engineering works are to take place to provide a new sea defence at Fairhaven and the Heritage Lottery has approved funding to assist in building a case for the restoration of the lake and its gardens.

Fairhaven has a unique history, originally designed as an “up-market” planned resort – envisaged as containing extensive residential development complete with a lake, recreational facilities and community provision.

In this regard, it follows a pattern established along the Fylde Coast – following in the footsteps of the planned towns of Fleetwood and later St Annes.

In 1891, Thomas Riley, a Fleetwood businessman, conceived the vision for a new coastal resort.

Riley, aware of the development of St Annes, seized the opportunity to propose, plan and then develop the marine resort of Fairhaven.

Architect Arthur Carter was commissioned to produce a ‘master plan’ for the new resort, in 1893.

The new resort was envisaged as being a genteel “watering place” – offering the virtues of spaciousness, clean air and community facilities, including a hotel, recreational provision and affording extensive views of the sea over the estuary.

The development was to be marketed across the North West.

An illustrative architectural sketch was produced as part of the marketing literature for Thomas Riley in 1893.

Riley’s architect, Thomas Crook, created a dramatic impression of the new resort of Fairhaven, which envisages the lake and marine drive as being a major focus for the development.

The creation of the lake was a fundamental part of the development of the resort and utilised the natural features of the estuary to create it.

This included the extensive shingle bank known locally as a ‘stannah’ which naturally enclosed a tidal lagoon.

The aim was one of extending the stannah to provide a completely enclosed lake.

This became the outer sea wall and Promenade.

Fairhaven is considered to be the third oldest marine lake in Britain, designed as a centrepiece of a resort with its recreational facilities including a golf course.

The present café was originally the golf course club house.

The original lake was half the size of the present one and followed the natural contours of the site.

The site also included some notable buildings, such as the original boat house – now Ribble Discovery Centre – dating from 1901 and the large boat house, designed by way of an unusual prefabricated system, dating from 1921.

The original boat house was designed by William Wade, an eminent St Annes architect.

Well-known to readers is the fact the former two urban districts of Lytham and St Annes were merged in November 1922, and to illustrate its forward-looking ambitions, the new local authority purchased the whole site from the Fairhaven Estate.

A price of £34,000 had been agreed and at this point, the generosity of Lord Ashton (having already provided funding for the purchase and upgrading of what was to become Ashton Gardens, in St Annes) enters the story. He generously donated the £34,000 for the Corporation to purchase the whole site.

The ambitions to enhance this newly-acquired recreational facility led to the commissioning of Thomas Mawsons and Sons, who had an international reputation for high quality landscape and town planning design.

Their scheme was presented in 1924 and included ambitions plans to extend the Promenade Gardens, as well as the lake and its immediate environment.

The lake was doubled in size in a picturesque format, with bays and inlets and featuring extensive landscaping, plantations and a re-plan of the recreational facilities.

The ambitious plan was fulfilled and the lake as it now appears follows the Mawson Plan.

In line with many construction schemes of the era, much of the labour for the creation of the lake and its gardens was provided through a government scheme for the unemployed.

An interesting feature of the Mawson Plan – which can be seen here – was the proposal and implementation of the Japanese garden/lagoon, situated on the south-westerly side of the lake.

This former feature is fondly recollected by many residents who are familiar with the lake and its gardens.

There is the strongly-held belief the feature was simply “covered over” in the mid-late 1960s, as it required repair.

This firmly held view seems all the more credible as there is archaeological evidence, in the form of stone protrusions, which are visible and directly coincide in location and appearance to the former garden rockery.

Fairhaven Lake and its gardens are well-known and loved by residents and visitors and considered to be of regional significance.

After 90 years, the opportunity to enhance the lake is opportune by restoring it and fulfilling its recreational potential.

The creation of a new sea defence, to commence this year will provide a new, attractive sea wall and Promenade, to allow residents and visitors to enjoy the panoramic views of the estuary and over the lake.

It is hoped these works will be complimented by a significant programme of refurbishment to buildings and features, to be prepared over the next year or so.

These plans would include the reinstatement of features of interest such as the café building, the historic landscape, Japanese Garden and the lake itself – to maximise the use of the extensive body of water.

The engagement of the community in the development of the lottery funding proposals, the council says, will be an essential part of the process.

Fairhaven Lake and its gardens are a very important part of the built heritage of the Fylde borough and the plans for improvement and restoration will look to preserve and reveal the important historical development of Fairhaven, which is unique across the region, if not on a national scale.

The resort – now suburb of Fairhaven – contains a range of interesting buildings, many of which have historic importance in their own right and now form an historic reminder of the potential of the locality as envisaged by the visionary Thomas Riley.