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RHS Garden Bridgewater

Manchester, England

A former private estate, the RHS Garden Bridgewater has become one of the largest restorative gardening projects in European history.

RHS Garden Bridgewater.jpg
- Rachael Alice Shah

Discover the RHS Garden Bridgewater

Everyone deserves access to beautiful landscapes and glorious gardens, and for people living in Manchester and Salford, having an RHS Garden on your doorstep is a real horticultural treat.

Alan Titchmarsh MBE, RHS Vice President.

RHS Garden Bridgewater, also known as Bridgewater Gardens, is the Royal Horticultural Society’s fifth public display garden. Nestled in the village of Worsley in Salford, Greater Manchester, the heritage site was originally home to the Worsley New Hall estate. Today it has been transformed into an iconic landscaped garden.

The History of the RHS Bridgewater Garden

One of the great gifts of the Worsley New Hall site is its rich heritage and its significance for local people.

Anna da Silva, RHS Programme Director.

In its Prime

Worsley New Hall was renowned for its grandeur and its gardens, which were cultivated into a formal terraced style, over a 50-year period. One of the most sought-after landscapers of the time – William Andrews Nesfield – oversaw the project, which commenced in 1846.

During her reign, Queen Victoria visited Worsley New Hall twice. Once in 1851 and a second time in 1857, attesting to its notability.

For her first visit, Queen Victoria arrived via the Bridgewater Canal, which forms a watery boundary at the Southern part of the estate. In the Queen's honour the canal was dyed blue and a landing dock was established.

Early 20th Century Decline

The estate fell into disrepair – shortly after performing as a British Red Cross hospital during The Great War – when the inhabiting Egerton family departed. Further decline occurred when it was commandeered by the War Office during the Second World War and used as a training grounds by the Lancashire Fusiliers.

Having been weakened by dry rot and damaged in a fire in 1943, Worsley New Hall was bought by a scrap merchant for a mere £2,500 and demolished. By 1949, the estate was a shell of its former self, slipping into the history books of a bygone era.

Celebrating RHS Garden Bridgewater’s Past

In the latter half of the 20th Century, Bridgewater Gardens were used by Salford locals as a garden centre, a rifle range, and even the Scouts camping spot.

We know there are some fantastic stories out there, from those who worked in the house or garden centre to those camped out with the Scouts.

Anna da Silva.

Ahead of its grand opening in 2021, students and staff at Salford University appealed to local civilians for stories relating to the RHS Garden Bridgewater.

The project, conducted in 2018, saw the collection of personal stories and memories pertaining to the site so they could be incorporated, enhancing the visitor experience.

Transforming the RHS Garden Bridgewater

“Gardens within a garden.”

Planning permission was granted in June 2017 and with the first phase complete, the Gardens opened to the public in 2021.

This is such an exciting project for Salford and the wider Northwest… It’s the first time in more than a hundred years that the RHS has taken on a garden project of this size. It will be an amazing resource for generations to come.

Anna da Silva.

At the time transforming the 154-acre Worsley New Hall estate, into RHS Garden Bridgewater, was one of the largest gardening revival projects in Europe.

Tom Stuart-Smith, landscape architect, drew up the plans. And with help from award-winning garden designers, Bridgewater Gardens was brought to life.

RHS Garden Bridgewater 1.jpg
- Rachael Alice Shah

Historical Features of the Gardens

Before the transformation began, remnants of the estate's past could be glimpsed across all areas of the garden.

There was a disused military bunker near the former Hall; formal terraces; a stone ‘pow wow’ used by the Scouts; original brick in the kitchen walled garden; a stone grotto near the lake; an icehouse; glasshouses that grew exotic plants; and even the chimney used to heat the glasshouses.

Phase One: Blending Historical and Modern Features

Most of the aforementioned historical aspects – that had been damaged or lost in time – were restored as part of the £33 million project.

Renovations to the following were made:

  • Lost Terraces between the lake, set to be restored also, and the former site of Worsley New Hall.
  • The 11-acre Walled Kitchen Garden.
  • The Garden Centre.
  • The tree-lined Garden Approach.
  • The Middle Wood.

Alongside these historic aspects, modern features were also introduced:

  • A Therapeutic Garden.
  • Community Allotments.
  • A Welcome Building, including an events space, a learning space, offices, a café, shop, and plant centre.
  • A new Arrivals Garden.
  • Access to the Meadow Area.

These elements were vital to bring Bridgewater Gardens into the 21st Century.

RHS Garden Bridgewater, for the People

We are 100% focused on maximising the benefits for local communities – including jobs and apprenticeships, partnerships with schools and colleges, and community gardening projects across the region.

Anna da Silva.

As part of their efforts to ensure RHS Garden Bridgewater benefits the local people, more than 140 jobs were created. The venture also plans to provide training, volunteering, and apprenticeship opportunities.

In addition, a new Learning Centre will be erected, putting students in touch with plant experts; allowing them to broaden their horticultural knowledge.

There are also plans to implement a Plant Centre and RHS Gardening Advice Service, which will provide expert knowledge on how to tend gardens at home.

In partnership with local schools, universities, hospitals, and Social Services, RHS Garden Bridgewater aims to highlight the undeniable health and wellbeing benefits of gardening.

Our thoughts…

Clearly, RHS Garden Bridgewater is not simply a beautiful garden.

Its establishment as a safe space to practise, learn about, and form a passion for gardening will have lasting social, economic, and health benefits on the community.

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- Rachael Alice Shah

Interested in finding more places like this? Try one of our Secret City Manchester Treasure Hunts - untangle cryptic clues as a team, as you are taken on a journey to the most unique, unusual and bizarre corners of Manchester.

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