…Early Development of the Japanese Gardens
In the last edition of the Prosider during 2011, our local historian Alan Cattell promised to tell the story of the early development of the much loved Japanese Gardens on Prod Lane at Shipley Glen. In this edition of Bingley Hub he concludes the series of articles on the early development of Shipley Glen started in the Prosider. The full series of articles previously published are included in Alans book Bingley and Surrounds – Forgotten Moments from History published in 2011.
A Tranquil Setting
One of the much loved amusements at the Glen did not owe its origins to the need for thrills or excitement as some of the other early rides did. Instead it offered a more tranquil and sedate pace of passage in quiet and landscaped surroundings. This experience was known as the Japanese Gardens and was the brainchild of Thomas (Tom) Hartley of Bowling, Bradford.
Prior to being proprietor of the Japanese Gardens, he is identified in the 1871 Census as a General Dealer living and working in Bowling in Bradford and in 1881 as an Ironmonger still living in Bowling.
Ivy House – Prod Lane
In 1886 Tom went to live at Ivy House, Prod Lane, Baildon with his wife Hannah and family. According to rumour and local knowledge, Hartley was a businessman friend of Titus Salt’s son, Titus Junior. When Hartley’s wife became ill, Salt seemingly advised him to move to Shipley Glen for the quality of the air.
It seems that at the time, Japanese Gardens were very fashionable and were being built in the grounds of large houses around the country. Hannah Hartley, now an invalid who was confined to bed for long periods of time, longed to see them but was too ill to travel. The Jubilee Exhibition in Saltaire had in 1887 contained a Japanese Village as an entertainment attraction. This may have been the stimulus for Tom to build his own version for his wife so that she could look from her bedroom window and see them below.
Not Japanese but…
An article entitled The State of Horticulture in Britain, With an Eye to Japanese Gardening in the 1890’s pointed out that “The scale-model approach dominated most early attempts at Japonaiserie in the garden. The ‘Japanese’ garden at Ivy House, Shipley Glen, laid out in the 1880s by a Yorkshireman named Thomas Hartley, contained a miniature lake and islands, one carrying two pagoda arches but on the other stood a miniature castle with no Japanese connotations.”
The Castle and Arches
Thomas built a pond with islands in the middle, on which he constructed a small folly in the shape of a ruined castle and surrounded by rustic arches. The castle and arches were built from clinker, the cinders forming one of the first concrete structures built in the area. These structures were covered with white lime. In an attempt to give them a rough and rustic appearance he used the waste dross reputedly taken from the fireboxes of the steam trains which travelled from Bradford to Saltaire. Locals observed Mr Hartley wheeling the material by the barrow-load through the woods and up the hill.
The Lake/ Pond
The Pond was set in the midst of beautifully landscaped flower beds, For a small charge a boatman would stand upright and propel passengers in a flat bottomed boat (originally called the Saucy Sue) around a number of circuits. Near the pond and still in line with his wife’s bedroom window Hartley built a smaller pond with a fountain, surrounded by archways over the paths and below the second pond was a water-lily pool.
The water for the ponds was provide by a stream running down Hope Hill from the top of Baildon Moor, which he diverted and rechanneled so that the water was flowing continuously.
Further back from the ponds he built two glass houses, one with a stream running through and a small waterfall with an enormous hydrangea and other plants. The other housed an aviary containing exotic birds, love birds and doves. Between the two was a small amusement arcade with penny slot machines.
Hartley filled the garden with trees including lilac, orange blossom and laburnum complimented by roses and many other beautiful flowers. At the back of Ivy House he built a tea room which had a hut, with long wooden tables and wooden benches as seats.
Advertising and Postcards
Tom obviously had an eye for marketing the various aspects of his gardens as the advertisement opposite from 1904 shows.
In it you can see him working in the garden below the window from which his wife would have viewed the garden pond. Also advertised are swings (these were boat swings), see-saws and a grotto. The enterprise also offered the opportunity for visitors to have their photograph professionally taken using the gardens as a backdrop. Failing this, Tom also sold postcards of the gardens and pond. Cut flowers and bouquets from the garden were also sold to visitors.
The 1901 Census describes Tom as working from home, on his own account as a Market Gardener. In March 1905 at the age of 60 he remarried and his wedding certificate identifies him then as a Photographer marrying Elsie Rushworth aged 41 at Otley Road Wesleyan Methodist Chapel.
The advert also shows that the gardens were “closed entirely on Sundays.” This was because the Hartleys were staunch Methodists. In later years under other owners the gardens would be open on Sundays
Weight and Fortunes
Near to the entrance to the Japanese Gardens there was a set of old fashioned weighing scales where visitors could pay a small amount to be weighed. Alongside sat a fortune teller who had a budgerigar which would pick a playing card to be used by fortune teller to predict your future.
Changes In Ownership
After his first wife Hannah died and when Tom remarried he built a bungalow for himself and his new wife and a bungalow for his son at the back of the gardens.
The Japanese Gardens as an entity were sold to Tom Clark who lived at Ivy House until 1918 when he decided to divide the gardens into two. In one part he built a bungalow for himself, which was in line with the two that
Tom Hartley had built. He retained the boat and swings for himself and opened a baker’s and confectioners shop at the side of the bungalow.
He sold Ivy House, the other half of the garden and the tea rooms to Harry Clark who then ran the tearooms until 1924.
From that date ownership then passed to the Theakston brothers, first John and on his early death, George. The family retained ownership until the gardens were closed in the 1950’s.
A Bingley Childs Memories of the Japanese Gardens
The late Winnie Harrison author of Day’s Awake – Childhood Memories of Bingley (1997) recalled visits to the gardens in the 1920’s:
“Our first objective was the lake. Tea could wait, so could the swings and see-saws just inside the gate… The lake was very small, no more than twelve feet wide and thirty feet long, with an island looking as Japanese as it could look in the uplands of the West Riding of Yorkshire. For a penny or two pence, according to size, a middle aged boatman punted children twice round the island. Great trepidation seized the more timorous voyagers as they stepped in or out of this rocking craft”.
1930’s and 1940’s
Fondly remembered family memories of this period include annual visits to the gardens and pond by the Blind Institute in Bradford and of many Sunday Schools. The venue was also frequented by cycling clubs from throughout Yorkshire who would arrive and spend their day in the gardens and on the moors, having pots of tea at the start and end of their day.
Victory in Europe Day in 1945 was celebrated by many locals who visited Shipley Glen resulting in queues of upwards of five hundred visitors at the Japanese Garden Tearooms at one time.
Beginning of the End
It appears that after the Second World War it became harder to make a go of the enterprise although throughout the 1950’s The Glen was still a popular destination.
Over time the once glorious gardens began to deteriorate as the advent of the car meant that fewer visitors came to the area. The original house and gardens were sold in 1975 and the land used for housing development.
Tom Hartley the original and proud creator of the Japanese Gardens died at the age of 99 in 1944. He like the many visitors over the years would have been saddened by the eventual demise of this much loved local attraction despite the attempts of the final owners to maintain the gardens as a popular attraction
Perhaps the final words are best left to their Grandaughter, Margaret Ellis and her family memories of the Japanese Gardens: “Now all that is left of the late Victorian/early Edwardian pleasure gardens are older folks’ memories of halcyon summer days when they were young and their recollections of the warmth and happiness of a lost age.”
Alan CattellAcknowledgements to: Margaret Ellis, Stanley Varo and Shipley Glen Tramway Photographs courtesy of: Bradford Libraries, Shipley College, Saltaire Archives, Bingley Local History Society. The right of Alan Cattell to be identified as the Author of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyrights, Designs and Patents Act 1988.All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by an electronic, mechanical or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. It has not been possible to trace all the original photographers but acknowledgement has been made where known. If any copyright has been infringed it was done unintentionally and sincere apologies are offered. If advised future prints can be amended.