PEEK INTO THE PAST: Mystery surrounds Burnley public gardens

Victoria Hospital from Thornber Gardens (s)

Victoria Hospital from Thornber Gardens (s)

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Only a few weeks ago I was contacted by a lady who wrote to the Express asking me to settle a question that had long concerned her.

The question was about Burnley’s public gardens of which the town has several. We all know about the splendid parks we have but much less is known about our public gardens. Perhaps the most well known are those in Piccadilly Road but there are other gardens across the borough.

The ones which were the subject of the inquiry are those on the east of Burnley.

I do not think any of these gardens have information boards which detail about when, and by whom, they were founded and the facilities that can be found there. Perhaps they should have.

Anyhow, the inquirer had been talking to friends and it transpired they were not sure about the names of the facilities, one of which has been in the news recently as it contains a memorial to a tragic accident when two boys were drowned in a small reservoir.

This is Thornber Gardens which, confusingly as you will see, is in Thursby Road, Burnley.

Thornber Gardens dates from 1897 and was constructed to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria.

It takes its name from Alderman Mr Caleb Thornber, who was Mayor of Burnley from 1896 to 1898. Mr Thornber was also a JP and director of one of Burnley’s biggest cotton firms, Benjamin Thornber & Sons of Daneshouse. Throstle and Old Hall Mills in Daneshouse. He lived at Park Hill, in Padiham Road (now a private school), but he and his family were great supporters of Victoria Hospital, which is a close neighbour of Thornber Gardens.

The confusion to which I refer comes from the fact Burnley also has a Thursby Gardens which is nowhere near Thursby Road. In fact Thursby Gardens is in Colne Road and is partly occupied by what we now call Prestige Park. Originally, Thursby Gardens was the site of Cronkshaw Meadow, historically the meadow where the cranes (birds) could be found.

Part of the Meadows became Thursby Gardens in 1906 and were presented to the town by Sir John Thursby, who owned nearby Bank Hall and the much larger Ormerod House in Cliviger. He was head of Burnley’s biggest commercial enterprise, the Hargreaves Colliery Company which, among other mines, operated Bank Hall Colliery.

I asked a few people about the names of these gardens, and the ones between Briercliffe Road and Thursby Road, and most thought all three were called Thursby Gardens.

The truth is that only the ones in Colne Road enjoy that name and the green space there is much smaller than it used to be since the Prestige building, originally Platers & Stampers, was opened in 1937.

The triangular gardens between Briercliffe and Thursby Roads are known as Briercliffe Road Gardens, so, although there are two public gardens in Thursby Road neither bear the name of that distinguished family.

The above is than answer I gave to the inquiry I received. Of course this is not the only request for historical information I have had.

I have answered numerous inquiries over the years this column has been in print but, although the questions have often given me ideas for articles, I have not included answers to questions from readers.

I will, in future – if you think it is a good idea. It is my view we should make the column more interactive. I hope to hear from you soon.

You can contact me via the Express.

Roger Frost