Saving the terraced gardens at Rivington

Pigeon Tower, Lever Park, Rivington, Lancashire

The Pigeon Tower at Rivington - Credit: Kirsty Thompson / Archant

A campaign has been launched to preserve a famous Lancashire landmark for future generations.

A new chapter is being written in the topsy-turvy story of one of Lancashire’s best-loved landmarks. Since they were created in the early years of the last century, the terraced gardens at Rivington have seen almost as many ups and downs in their fortunes as there are twists and turns on the paths through the magical landscape.

The gardens were created by Thomas Mawson for the industrialist and politician William Hesketh Lever, Lord Leverhulme. He bought the land in 1899 and had a wooden bungalow built there for weekend visits and shooting parties and developed the gardens over the next two decades.

The Pigeon Tower and the loggia at Rivington Terraced Gardens, Lancashire, as Lord Leverhulme would have known them

The Pigeon Tower and the loggia, as Lord Leverhulme would have known them - Credit: Rivington Heritage Trust


On the hillside above Horwich they created a labyrinth of paths, bridges and follies, steps, shelters and pavilions as well as lakes, lawns and ornamental planting.

But after Lord Leverhulme’s death and the sale of the land in 1925, the gardens fell into disrepair. The wooden bungalow had been replaced by a grander stone building after an arson attack in 1913 by suffragette Edith Rigby, and its replacement was pulled down, along with many other buildings across the estate, in the years after World War Two.

The grand Ballroom at Lord Leverhulme's home at Rivington

The grand Ballroom at Lord Leverhulme's home at Rivington - Credit: Rivington Heritage Trust


For years nature was allowed to reclaim the gardens but in recent times an army of volunteers have been fighting back. Miles of path have been cleared, and caves, structures and buildings revealed. But the restoration work, and all fundraising events, came to a halt when lockdown restrictions were imposed a year ago.

Now a campaign has been launched by the Rivington Heritage Trust which aims to raise money for the maintenance of the gardens while also bringing people closer to the site at a time when they may not be able to visit.

One of the rediscovered staircases at Rivington Terraced Gardens, Lancashire

One of the rediscovered staircases at Rivington Terraced Gardens - Credit: Kirsty Thompson / Archant

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The Squarea campaign is offering sponsorship of virtual 10m2 plots for £20 and it has already proved popular with locals and people across the glove who have an affinity with the area.
Among those who have bought a plot is radio presenter and musician Mark Radcliffe, who grew up just a bike ride away from the terraced gardens in Bolton’s Towncroft Lane.
‘As a boy I would cycle from there up Old Kiln Lane to Rivington and my mates and I would spend all day exploring,’ he said.

The Japanese Lake designed by Thomas Mawson at Rivington Terraced Gardens, Lancashire

The Japanese Lake designed by Thomas Mawson at Rivington Terraced Gardens - Credit: Rivington Heritage Trust


‘I’ve always been a big fan of Rupert Bear and exploring Rivington was a lot like Nutwood, the magical land of the Rupert stories. We’d go through a tunnel and over a bridge to a folly in a garden, and then never be able to find that spot again.’


Mark, who now lives in Knutsford, presents the weekend breakfast programme on BBC Radio 6Music with Wiganer Stuart Maconie. He is also part way through writing three books and is one half of an electronic duo called Une, whose second album, Deux, is due out this year and he plays drums in Americana outfit, Finelines.

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And he added: 'It’s a place that’s very close to my heart, but it never really occurred to me until recently that it was all so close to being lost and that it needs a lot of money to preserve it and maintain it so that more generations can continue to explore it.
‘It’s a wonderful area, like a mini Lake District and it’s still a bit of a secret – obviously people in Lancashire know about it, and it is often busy, but it’s not widely known outside Lancashire, I don’t think.’

Richard Galloway and Mark Radcliffe with Arlo the dog

Richard Galloway and Mark Radcliffe with Arlo the dog - Credit: Kirsty Thompson / Archant


And Richard Galloway, a director of the Rivington Heritage Trust, said: ‘We are a charity and apart from the small payment from United Utilities we have no annual income. All we have is what we can raise – and that involves access to the gardens and that has been very difficult in the last year or so. That’s where this idea came from – it's a way of getting people involved without them actually being there.

The Stone Lodge at Rivington Terraced Gardens, Lancashire

The Stone Lodge at Rivington Terraced Gardens - Credit: Rivington Heritage Trust


‘The gardens are a hidden gem and the money we raise with this campaign will help us to maintain the gardens for the next five years.’
To buy a virtual square of the terraced gardens, or to find out more about them, go to rivingtonterracedgardens.org.uk

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