The Valley Gardens
But it takes time, I found, to explore the fairy glen which is the crowning charm of what might be at present called the Broadstairs of the north. Standing on the terrace and looking seaward or to the cliffs you have a bold coast and a bracing breeze; turn off the terrace by a winding road a few steps, and Skelton Beck, as it ripples into the sea, lies at your feet, -on for a few hundred yards into the glen and you are in a new scene altogether. Footpaths lead you through arching woods, the air is soft and balmy, laden with the perfume of flowers. The change is sudden and startling. You are still near the sea, but its moan comes gently on the ear, mingled with the ripple of fresh water down in its channel below. The sun struggles through the green curtain overhead and lights up the wild flowers at your feet. All is cool, quiet and refreshing. What a change from town life I found it all! At the end of the first day I had made up my mind. Eureka! Here I shall stay.
James Hogg, London Society, Volume 10
Entrances to Valley Gardens
There are three main entrances to the Valley Gardens from the Saltburn side of the Glen: the first being on Zetland Place, the second on Glenside, the third on Albion Terrace.
Zetland Place Entrance
Albion Terrace Entrance
The Landscape Features
The Italian Gardens
The Italian Gardens were designed during Phase II of the Valley Gardens. The Saltburn Improvement Company searched far and wide and accepted proposals for multiple landscape designers, finally setting on Joseph Newton’s proposals in 1865, of which the Italian Gardens was a crucial element.
The Croquet Lawn
The croquet lawn was introduced in Phase II of the development of the Valley Gardens between 1865-68. At the time croquet was a newly fashionable gentlemanly pursuit, the All England Croquet Club having only been formed at Wimbledon, London, on 23rd July 1868.
This makes the Valley Gardens possibly home to one of the first purpose landscaped croquet lawns in England. Unfortunately the croquet lawn is no longer in use having been repurposed as a picnic area in front of the Valley Gardens Tea Room.
We’ll take our walk through the architectural features of the Valley Gardens as if we are walking through from the seafront to the Italian Gardens.
The Valley Garden Bridges
There are three bridges that span Skelton beck as it runs through the Valley Gardens, of which the most important architecturally is the closest to the seafront, which is made from parts recovered from the old Ha’Penny Bridge, in particular its decorative railings.
The Albert Memorial
The Albert Memorial was not originally a memorial at all. It started life in 1856 as the grand portico to the Barnard Castle Railway Station. In May of 1862 the Darlington & Barnard Castle Railway Company (D&BC) closed this grand station to passenger traffic it having been superseded by a new station.
Whilst the replacement line to Barnard Castle was being built Henry Pease, a Director of the Stockton & Darlington Railway Company owner of the D&BC, was working on the first phase of his plans for the Valley Gardens (1861 to 1865).
In 1864 Messrs. Shaftoe & Barry of York were charged with relocating the old portico from Barnard Castle to the Valley Gardens where it was reinstated in 1865 in its current overlooking position and dedicated to the memory of the recently deceased Prince Consort, Albert, whom Pease highly regarded.
The Albert Memorial was granted Grade II listing in 1972.
A substantial bandstand was constructed as the centre piece of the Valley Gardens, with a graded bank of seating enabling Victorian ladies and gentleman to sit and enjoy elegant musical performances.
The original bandstand built as part of phase II of the gardens was replaced at some point in the 19th century, it’s replacement however was destroyed on the night of 15-16th December 1940 by a German bomb.
At some point after the war the bombed site of the bandstand was replaced with a fountain, that has been out of use for some years now and there has been talk in the community of rebuilding the something more akin to the original bandstand in the disused fountains place.
The picnic area is situated on the foundations of one of the first residential buildings to be built in the town, the head gardeners cottage. If anyone has a photo of the cottage please get in touch.
In 1861 the Saltburn Improvement Company started foundation works on the planned pleasure gardens. Initially development focused on laying out the upper and lower paths on what was known as Camp Bank to the east of the town. Foundations for a fountain were also laid and construction of a head gardeners cottage was begun whilst the Saltburn Improvement Company considered tenders for their design.
In 1865 the Saltburn Improvement Company the selected prominent London based landscaper Joseph Newton’s designs for the pleasure gardens. At a cost of £300 they were implemented over the next two years and included:
- a walled propagation and nursery area (now derelict);
- extensive tree planting;
- a croquet lawn;
- a bandstand with banked seating (replaced in 19C but now lost);
- a network of woodland paths and steps linking the existing lower and upper paths;
- two new entrances with pay booths at the coast (now lost);
- several summerhouses (now lost);
- seating (no original seating survives);
- the formal Italian gardens.
In 1867 Newton’s services were dispensed with and a new head gardener Mr Everatt was appointed who continued development and cultivation of the pleasure grounds on the model laid out by Newton.
For more information see here.