Cuerden Hall gardens date from the time of Robert Townley Parker. It was further developed by his son Thomas, who inherited the estate after his father’s death. The gardens were developed over the time period of 1816 to 1895. Much has been done in recent years to restore them to their former grandeur in Georgian and Victorian days. (For more on the history of Cuerden Hall and the Townley Parker family see our page here).
A report from the 1880s describes the hall as having a ‘long stretch of lawn’ fronting the house, ‘beyond which is a deep, well sheltered hollow which has been arranged as a pinetum and American garden’. The article also describes the walled gardens and the apple and pear varieties in the orchards.
American gardens became fashionable at the end of the 1700s. They would feature rhododendrons from both America and the Himalayas, along with more familiar species of beech and sycamore trees. Ferns and bog plants that thrive in acidic soils were also planted. The Cuerden pinetum had a collection of varied conifer species, nine of which were over ten metres tall. The largest was a coastal redwood which measured seventeen metres tall.
Cuerden became well known for its collection of pear trees under Robert Townley Parker. He was a keen cultivator of varieties such as Dunmore, Suffolk Thorn and Napoleon. Some of the garden walls featured heated cavities to increase the growth of the fruit trees. In his hot houses peaches, nectarines and vines were cultivated. His son Thomas continued the tradition and rebuilt the fruit houses when he inherited the estate. The Gardeners Chronicle of 1883 noted that many of the walled garden’s free- standing pear trees had reached an unusually tall height of thirty to forty feet.
In 1906, Reginald Tatton, owner of nearby Astley Hall, inherited Cuerden. He had the orchard trees all ripped out as part of his garden ‘improvements’, which is why none of the old trees survive today. He did however expand the walled kitchen garden, and during the First World War the rations of recovering service men staying at the hall were enhanced by produce grown at the hall.
When the army took over the hall in the 1940s and 1950s, they maintained the gardens to an extent, but also constructed huts on the formal garden. These were removed by the Central Lancashire Development Corporation in the 1970s.
Today much of the American garden, pinetum and walled garden have been restored. The description in the 1883 Gardeners Chronicle has enabled missing species to be reintroduced. The original branching American garden footpath was rediscovered, once the overgrown plants had been cut back. It has a distinctive pattern on its edges, made by standing cobbles on their sides. New conifers have been planted in the pinetum. The species now on display include the Monkey Puzzle, Noble Fir, Corsican Pine, Scots Pine and Bhutan Pine. The Joseph Whitworth Rhododendron continues to produce spectacular red flowers each year.
The walled garden has had its missing walls rebuilt on the original foundations and traditional varieties of pears have been re-planted, including the three mentioned earlier from Robert’s time. Other old species of pear include Broom Park, Beurre Hardy, Beurre Easter, Louise Bonne, Seckle and Williams Bon Cretien. There are also old apple varieties which include Court of Wick, Early Transparent Gage, Blenheim Orange and Broom Park.
Site visited by A. and S. Bowden 2019
The gardens and grounds of Cuerden Hall are open every day, free of charge. There is a car parking charge.
Cuerden Valley Park website is here
On the same site
Nearby, just a short drive away
Cuerden’s Historic Gardens: Discovery Trail 2 leaflet (out of print approximate date 2009) Cuerden Valley Park Trust
Secret’s in the Landscape: Discovery Trail 1 leaflet (out of print approximate date 2009) , Cuerden Valley Park Trust
Cuerden’s Natural World: Discovery Trail 3 leaflet (out of print approximate date 2009), Cuerden Valley Park Trust
Cuerden Valley Park: Visitor Information & Map leaflet, Cuerden Valley Park Trust. (Current leaflet in print as of 2019)