Frederick Albert Gatty was born in Alsace, France, in 1819. He became a pioneer of new calico (cotton) dyeing techniques within the region. His work attracted the attention of Frederick Steiner, who invited Gatty to Lancashire in 1842. They formed a partnership and Gatty became well known for his work in improving the dyeing technique of Turkey Red. He used garancin, a pigment made from the madder plant, in his patented method. The colour became known as Gatty Red.
Gatty was to have even greater success for his improvements in dyeing army uniforms with the colour khaki. (Khaki means ‘dust colour’ in Hindustani). This enabled him to gain a contract supplying the whole of the British army, which changed its traditional red coloured uniform to the more camouflaged khaki around the time of the Boer War. This made both the company and himself a fortune.
In 1855, Gatty and his wife moved into the newly built Elmfield Hall in Accrington. The building was designed by a Mr Green, the architect who also created the Peel Institute (which is now Accrington Town Hall). Elmfield Hall was later extended and a new wing added and a classical facade to the front. Gatty would stay there for the rest of his life, dying in 1888.
Change of Use
In the First World War, the house was equipped for wounded soldiers by the Gatty family and converted to a military hospital.
On 26th June 1920, the grounds were opened as a park by Miss M.C.E. Gatty. Eight years later the hall and grounds were donated by the family to Church Urban District Council with the intention of it becoming a museum and art gallery, along with £500 for maintenance of the park.
During the Second World War, the hall was used for storing civil defence equipment and in 1948 part of the building was converted into flats.
By the turn of the century, the park was suffering from anti-social behaviour and vandalism. A plan was drawn up to vastly improve the overgrown grounds. In 2007, the derelict plant nursery was partially restored by a partnership between Prospects and Incredible Edible. They brought one of the polytunnels and a greenhouse back into community use. The bowling green was revived and an alpine rockery created. Just four years later, the hard work was recognised by the winning of the Green Apple Gold Award for sustainable regeneration. Three years after that, a Heritage Lottery Fund award of £350,000 was used to convert the front of the hall into a purpose-fashioned community use area. This is now managed by Community Solutions, a social enterprise. They run various courses (many of which are free to attend) and a very elegant community cafe that is open to all on week days. See their website here.
Visiting Elmsfield Hall and Gatty Park
Visitors to the park today can see that much of the layout of the beds and borders remain from the time when it was the Gattys’ home. The original boundary wall still surrounds the park, which gives us a sense of how big the family garden area was. The later addition of the dramatic grade II war memorial stands before the house. It commemorates both world wars and was created by sculpture Walter Marsden, who received a civil pension in recognition for his services to sculpture from the queen. The café is named Mr Gatty’s Tearoom and is in one of the front rooms of the hall. It is open every weekday for meals and drinks. The interior of it is well worth seeing and it has further commemorative plaques from the wars on its walls.
Site visited by A. and S. Bowden 2019
There are four entrances to the park. Sat Nav BB5 4AE. Car parking is limited, so park on the streets around it, for example Riding Barn Street.
Mr Gatty’s Tea Room at Elmfield Hall: The cafe is open 9-4pm Monday to Friday. Breakfast, Lunch and Afternoon Teas are served, along with a range of interesting drinks.
Nearby, just a short drive away
First and Second World War history on top of The Coppice: See the page on Lancashire at War here
Gatty Park Visitors Guide (undated) current leaflet available as a pdf online (see below)
Gatty Park Management Plan 2015-2020 Hyndburn Council available online
History of Gatty Park (undated leaflet) available as a pdf online (see below)