Final planning stage approved for RHS Garden Bridgewater, which will transform the former site of Worsley New Hall

Plans to transform the former site of Worsley New Hall into a new 154-acre garden have passed the final stage of approval, with RHS (Royal Horticultural Society) staff now working towards a 2019 opening. 

Salford City Council’s planning panel granted permission in principle for the £30m garden last month, but plans had to go before the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government because the Peel-owned site sits within the green belt. 

While residents may welcome news of a significant green space, of which many believe Greater Manchester has a shortage, the main focus for Worsley’s revitalised garden is tourism. If predictions of one million annual visitors are realised, the historic grounds would be Greater Manchester’s most popular attraction. 

Rhs Garden Bridgewater Worsley New Hall Before Demolition
Worsley New Hall was a stately Gothic home set in equally impressive grounds

Suitably ambitious designs include: a welcome building by architects Hodder+Partners; an entrance garden laid out like a web and planted as a perennial meadow; a new lake which anchors the new visitor building within the landscape; a water garden of interlocking streams and rocky waterfalls; a learning centre; and the reconstruction of the original 10+ acre walled garden, to include a therapeutic garden, vegetable garden and flower garden.

The designer is Tom Stuart-Smith, who has designed eight gold medal-winning gardens at the Chelsea Flower Show, with three being awarded best in show status (you can see his designs in the slideshow above). 

The RHS has already begun the mammoth task of assessing the site and a small team of staff are now based on location undertaking the many tasks involved in creating a new garden - not least cataloguing the condition and significance of thousands of existing individual trees and plants. 

Rhs Bridgewater Garden 64Fd
The site forms part of the Duke of Bridgewater’s estate and adjoins the Bridgewater Canal
Rhs Bridgewater Gardens 1 6
The gardens will be located roughly 8 miles west of Manchester

The Garden’s Origins

The now disappeared Worsley New Hall was built in the early 1840s and designed by Edward Blore (1787-1879) who is perhaps most famous for giving the nation the main facade of Buckingham Palace on the Mall. The building was trendily Elizabethan in counterpoint to so many of the nation's Palladian and Classical country palaces. It was demolished in 1949 after years of neglect and abuse by a variety of tenants. 

The house had been commissioned by Francis Egerton, who from 1846 became the 1st Earl of Ellesmere. The first earl was a patron of the arts, a politician, writer, traveller and gardener. Ellesmere Island in the Canadian Arctic was named after him by Sir Edward Augustus Inglefield, during an expedition to find what had become of Sir John Franklin’s ill-fated mission to find the North West Passage. Egerton was the President of the Royal Geographic Society that sponsored Inglefield. 

Worsley New Hall had many royal visits including that of 1851 when both Queen Victoria and Prince Albert visited. The gardens became famous, the work of the prolific and much sought after William Andrews Nesfield (1794-1881). The Gardener’s Chronicle wrote in 1846: 

‘This magnificent residence lies about eight miles west of Manchester. The mansion is beautifully situated on a rising knoll, the gentle acclivity of which the approach imparts to a great degree of dignity. In the east may be seen the wild and lofty blue hills of Derbyshire, whilst the fertile county of Cheshire lies within view on the south. The celebrated Chat Moss lies in this direction formerly covered with impenetrable swamps, but now bearing the impress of civilization. Skirting the declivity of the park may be seen the famous Bridgewater Canal winding along the vale, which is beautifully skirted by rich meadows and woods, the whole forming a picture full of interest.’ 

The gardens became famous for the large walled garden and the terrace above the lake. Now, as the paragraphs above reveal, the gardens are to be reborn and will become a real boost for the region.

Rhs Bridgewater Garden 6Rf
The new welcome building by architects Hodder+Partners

Sue Biggs, RHS Director General, said of the planning approval: ‘We are delighted with this hugely positive news, which will allow us to progress plans for the biggest gardening project in Europe and create our first new garden in seventeen years. It will be truly unique, unlike any of the other gardens in our portfolio, as it boasts a range of habitats from woods and lakes to streams and meadows.” 

City Mayor Paul Dennett echoed her sentiments, adding: “This is fantastic news for the people of Salford and Greater Manchester. RHS Garden Bridgewater will not only bring the historic grounds of Worsley New Hall back to life, but will also create jobs and business opportunities for the local area. 

“The fifth national garden will be a national and a community asset, a key example of green infrastructure in Greater Manchester, creating a real public amenity within our green belt. As a local council we are looking forward to working with the Royal Horticultural Society on the garden and in Salford’s communities for many years to come.”  

Louise Morrissey, Director of Land and Planning from Peel Land and Property - who own the site - added: “RHS Garden Bridgewater will leave an incredible legacy for the people of Salford. Equally, its creation reinforces our commitment and investment in the Northern Powerhouse as it will attract interest and visitors from across the North West and beyond. We look forward to working with the RHS and Salford City Council to help deliver such an inspirational project.”

Rhs Bridgewater Gardens 1 5 Tom Stuart Smith
The designer is Tom Stuart-Smith, who has designed eight gold medal-winning gardens at the Chelsea Flower Show

About the RHS

The Royal Horticultural Society was founded in 1804 by Sir Joseph Banks and John Wedgwood to inspire passion and excellence in the science, art and practice of horticulture. Its vision is to enrich everyone’s life through plants and make the UK a greener, more beautiful place. 

The RHS held its first flower shows in 1820, was granted a Royal Charter in 1861 and acquired its flagship Wisley garden in 1903. From initial meetings in a small room off London’s Piccadilly, it has have grown to become the world’s largest gardening charity. 

The RHS is committed to bring the joy of gardening to millions more people, inspire the next generation of gardeners and invest in the future to safeguard a £10.4 billion industry employing more than 300,000 people. 

RHS Garden Bridgewater will join the RHS’ current portfolio of gardens at Wisley in Surrey, Rosemoor in Devon, Hyde Hall in Essex and Harlow Carr in Yorkshire.