Historic Valley Gardens' feature restored to full glory

Major work on a historic feature of Harrogate's Valley Gardens has now been completed.

Monday, 20th August 2018, 2:33 pm
Updated Monday, 20th August 2018, 2:35 pm
Historic - The impressive stone pillars of Valley Gardens' King Edward VII Memorial Gate.
Historic - The impressive stone pillars of Valley Gardens' King Edward VII Memorial Gate.

Construction of the King Edward VII Memorial Gate project is one of the most important projects ever undertaken by Friends of Valley Gardens, working in partnership with Harrogate Borough Council.

With significant links to both the First World War and Harrogate's history, visitors will now be rewarded with the spectacle of low walls in natural stone, topped with carved coping stones embracing the much-used south west entrance to the Valley Gardens, formerly known as the Green Park Entrance.

The walls are topped by more than 200 railings and incorporate two ornate carved stone pillars supporting elaborate cast iron gates.Taking three years from conception to fruition, the project got off to a good start with the offer by Harrogate Borough Council of a set of stone pillars that had been in store since the 1990s.

Completed - The cast iron gates of Valley Gardens' King Edward VII Memorial Gate.

This was originally part of a generous gift to the people of Harrogate in 1911 by William Henry Baxter, a local entrepreneur and benefactor. The inventor of a stone crushing machine performing the ‘knapping process’, Mr Baxter had paid for improvements to Walker Road, renamed Kings Road in the process, in celebration of the reign of King Edward VII.

His generosity extended to the construction of a fine entrance off Kings Road into the Rose Garden opposite the junction with Cheltenham Mount.

By 1994 it was felt that Harrogate’s future lay in hosting conferences and exhibitions and the entrance was dismantled to make way for Exhibition Hall M.The gates and some of the railings were sold to a scrap metal dealer in Ripon.

How the gates and railings came tbe reunited with the pillars and enquiries with the dealer revealed the identity of their purchaser is a story in itself, involving a field in the Dales, some tough negotiating and an ancient livery company in London.

A council employee had had in mind a project incorporating these and had purchased them. Amazingly, so long after their leaving Ripon, they were not only located in a remote field above Pateley Bridge, but it became known that they were available to purchase.

The owners, farmers, were contacted and after some ‘Yorkshire’ discussion, a price was agreed.

The money was counted out on a straw bale and the gates, five ‘king posts’ and 19 railings were loaded on to a wagon belonging to Kendrew Architectural Metalwork. Kendrews had already been approached by the Friends to restore the cast iron gates as a separate contract for which funding was to be sought from the Ironmongers’ Company, an ancient livery company in the City of London.

The inspiration for the gates goes back to the reign of King Edward VII.Known as ‘Edward the Peacemaker’ for his work in fostering good relationships with other European countries, the restored gates will provide a fitting link with the planned adjacent Memorial Rose Garden which will commemorate the centenary of the armistice that ended the Great War of 1914-1918. Tommy’s roses will represent WWI and Peace roses WWII.

The project will be concluded with the planting of the roses early November.

Harrogate Borough Council has already replaced the soil removed from the existing beds to ensure successful growth and is undertaking the design work for the new beds.

Friends of Valley Gardens will be financing the roses and the planting will be a joint exercise handled by the Friends, Harrogate Borough Council and local community volunteers.The official opening ceremony will now take place on Monday, November 26.