Situated at West Beach and across the coast road from Lytham Green Lowther Gardens is the oldest park in Lytham St. Annes. Covering an area of almost 14 acres the gardens were provided by Squire John Talbot Clifton in honour of his wife Eleanor Cecily of the Lowther family in Cumbria, and also in memory of her father who died in 1868. Laid out on what was previously poor grazing land known as Hungry Moor the gardens were designed under the supervision of a Mr Tomlinson, who worked on the nearby Clifton estate, and were opened to the public on August 27th 1872.
In 1905 the gardens were given to the local council by Clifton’s son with the bowling greens being laid out the same year, and though several changes have been made throughout the years since then most of the original design and layout is still in place today. The first Lowther Pavilion was built in 1922, tennis courts were added in 1929, an aviary was constructed in 1934 and in 1936 a new main entrance and a car park were added. In 1981 the original Lowther Pavilion was replaced with the current pavilion, which is the borough’s only theatre, and in 1999 a long herbaceous border was planted to replace the rose bed near the pitch and putt area. Current features also include a crazy golf course, children’s play area and a cafe serving hot meals, light refreshments and soft drinks.
I’ve been past Lowther Gardens many times over the years on my visits to Lytham St. Annes and though I’ve often promised myself that I would stop off there and have a look round I never have – that was until three weeks ago when I was able to tie in a visit there with my quest to photograph the old boats and tractors featured in my Monday walk last week. Lowther Gardens was the nearest place to where I wanted to be so I parked there and spent quite some time wandering round before going across the road to the promenade.
Close to the main entrance was the Lowther Pavilion where I had to get my car park ticket from but it’s not a particularly attractive building so I didn’t bother taking a photo of it. A path round the side of the pavilion took me through a wooded area where I came across what was once a bandstand in a clearing, then farther on I emerged behind one of the bowling greens.
Crossing the grass to the main path I came to a rather unkempt flower bed featuring an old bike with a basket on the front and the natural ‘sculpture’ of a man sitting reading. This was ‘Between The Tides’, the recreation of a (much tidier) display celebrating the tradition of shrimp fishing on the Ribble estuary and which won Silver Gilt in the Flower Bed category at Tatton Park Flower Show in 2014. At the time Russell Wignall was the only full time ‘shrimper’ in Lytham and he can still be seen most days with his bike at Church Scar where he keeps his boat Grace, and which, coincidentally, is where I later photographed the old tractors.
A short distance up the path and across the grass to the left was the long and wide herbaceous border with its gently curving edges rather than straight lines. Just like the Between The Tides flower bed it was rather unkempt but it was full of bright and attractive flowers with the Cobble Clock in the centre. Designed by Maggy Howarth of Cobblestone Designs, who also created the Paradise Garden mosaic in Lytham town centre, the clock was unveiled in 2005 to mark the 100th anniversary of Lowther Gardens’ status as a public park, though unfortunately it currently has no hands.
Backing the border was a long box hedge with its neatly trimmed wavy lines giving shelter to the flowers and behind the hedge I came to the rose garden, a large expanse of lawn with an elevated seating area at the far side and individual circular beds each with a different colour of rose.
Back on the main path and in the centre of the gardens was the large Victorian lily pond with its life size bronze statue, not in the centre but towards one edge. Unveiled in November 2003 ‘Shrimper’ by sculptor Colin Spofforth was commissioned as part of a heritage lottery project for Lowther Gardens, with the history of shrimping in the area having been meticulously researched to ensure that the sculpture’s clothing and accessories stayed true to an 1880’s shrimper from the area. Swimming lazily in the pond were several large fish but the water was a bit too cloudy to get any clear shots of them.
From the lily pond I headed back out of the gardens and across the road onto the green; before I went in search of the old boats and tractors there was something else I wanted to look for which I’d also seen on someone else’s blog.
Back in the early 20th century there was a prosperous fishing industry in the Ribble estuary but as the river gradually became more polluted several outbreaks of food poisoning were linked to the consumption of shellfish so to combat this three mussel cleansing tanks were constructed by Lancashire County Council and opened in 1935, operating for just over twenty years before being closed in 1957.
A restaurant was built on the site of the western tank, with the building later being used as a nightclub then as a roller skating venue but by the mid 1990s it had become derelict and vandalised so was demolished and the area paved over. The old central tank became occupied by the Ribble Cruising Club and the eastern tank by the RNLI Lytham lifeboat and its crew, then in 2017 Lytham St. Annes Civic Society sponsored the refurbishment of the paved area to retain the views and celebrate the heritage of the site.
With the tide having now retreated I took the opportunity to walk right down to the end of the long lifeboat jetty; it was quite a distance across the sand and thick mud and looking back to the promenade it was easy to see why the lifeboat is launched using a tractor and trailer.
With a final long distance shot of Lytham windmill and the old lifeboat station in the distance I headed back along the jetty to the promenade – it was time to go in search of the old boats and tractors back along the beach somewhere.