‘Jewel’ still shines after 100 years

Barbara Pagett (front) with fellow Supporters of Ashton Gardens with Barbara Pagett and the centenary calendar
Barbara Pagett (front) with fellow Supporters of Ashton Gardens with Barbara Pagett and the centenary calendar

It’s a real jewel in Fylde’s crown and this year marks a century since it was established in its current form.

Ashton Gardens was formally opened in the summer of 1916 after being acquired for the people of St Annes by Lord Ashton.

The anniversary will be marked by a fun day in the Gardens, including features such as live music, folk dancing, gymnastic, floral and croquet displays, as well as the final stages of a new crown green bowling tournament for the Supporters of Ashton Gardens Centenary Trophy, which will be contested through the season.

The celebrations, to be held on Saturday August 6, are being organised by the Supporters of Ashton Gardens (SOAG) group, who have also published a special calendar, and chairman Jon Harrison said: “It is a very special year and we are all very much looking forward to marking the centenary.

“The bowls tournament will be a major feature and will be contested through the season with the semi-finals and final on August 6.”

Now a Grade II-listed venue on English Heritage’s Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest, the Gardens had originally been established as St George’s Gardens by the St Annes Land and Building Company on the formation of the town in the 1870s.

As part of his donation, Lord Ashton bought a strip of land which allowed the Gardens to be connected to Clifton Drive North and the area was redesigned to incorporate a greater diversity of spaces.

Large areas of ornamental planting replaced the native sand dune vegetation, although the undulating topography was retained in most areas and can still be seen today.

The Gardens, which recently underwent a £2m major refurbishment with most of the money coming from the Heritage Lottery Fund, is maintained by Fylde Council and Council leader Sue Fazackerley, who grew up in St Annes, has fond memories of the venue.

She said: “For the whole of my childhood, we lived within a short walking distance of Ashton Gardens. It was a very regular place for us to play in all weathers as it was equally, if not more, enjoyable when it snowed than in the summer months.

“We loved climbing on the rocks and playing hide and seek around the little bridge. We eagerly pressed the ‘tummy button’ on the cherub in the Rose Garden to get a drink of water.

“We particularly loved the ‘far end’ of the Gardens with the lake and the stepping stones and the feeling that we were a long way from civilisation. In my childhood there was a putting green and an aviary too which kept us happy for hours on end. The annual panto in the Pavilion Theatre was something we anticipated with delight each Christmas and added to the belief that the Gardens were a magical place of endless possibilities.

“They feature very prominently in my happiest childhood memories.”

SOAG vice-chairman Barbara Pagett said: “I grew up in the Manchester area and one of the first holidays I recall was coming to St Annes and enjoying the many features of Ashton Gardens.

“I was delighted when the opportunity came many years later to move over to St Annes to live.”

Phil and Corrin Green, proprietors of the Pavilion cafe, said: “We often joke that we have the best office in the world and the best walk to work in town.

“The Gardens are a real asset to St Annes and are impeccably maintained by Fylde Council’s gardening team.

“We see them working hard whatever the weather. Ashton Gardens has so much to offer a wide variety of people, young and old, regulars and tourists.

“Whether its a yomp over the playground for the children or a relaxing walk through the rose garden, there is something for everyone.

“We are proud to be part of such and integral part of our community and look forward to many more exciting years to come.”