Harrogate Valley Gardens Restoration

The official launch of the Japanese Garden Restoration Project in Valley Gardens started in January. We find out what’s in store for the gardens for the rest of 2017…

With English Heritage Grade II-listed protection, the 17-acre Valley Gardens are part of Harrogate’s magnificent heritage and welcome more than three million visitors every year. As one of the town’s biggest assets, they are slowly being restored to their former elegance and beauty.

And that’s largely thanks to the Friends of the Valley Gardens, who first came into being in the 1990s to start restoration work; their first project was the renovation of the Sun Pavilion, which the Queen declared opened in 1998. After that, there was a hiatus until 2009, when a new band of FOVGs set to work on replanting the New Zealand Garden and adorning it with magical Maori carvings of birds and animals.

“Lots of artefacts disappeared from the garden during World War II”

Subsequent restoration work saw the Old Magnesia Well Pump Room brought back into use in October 2015 – a project that cost more than £82,000 to complete, with the roof of the Pump Room itself costing £11,000. It’s open the first and third Sundays of the month between 10:00 and 15:00 as an information centre on the history of the gardens and Harrogate’s spa.

Now the FOVGs’ attention has turned to the Japanese Garden, which was designed in the 1930s when they were popular adornments to great estates and parks. Lots of artefacts disappeared from the garden during World War II and the area had subsequently become overgrown and neglected, subsumed into the rest of the Valley Gardens. Thanks to the hard work of project leaders Anne Beeby and Liz Chidlow, FOVG has been awarded a Heritage Lottery Fund grant of £89,200 to complete the work.

“We’ve also put in £4,000 of our own money,” explains Jane Blayney, current chair of the FOVG. “The 1940s Day in June is one of the best-attended events in the Valley Gardens and always nets us around £8,000 so we add that to the fund. We will work in conjunction with Councillors Clarke and McKenzie from Harrogate Borough Council to restore the Japanese Garden to its original styling – as seen in archive photos.”

FOVG is being assisted by the Japanese Garden Society; its vice-chairman Graham Hardman has come up with a design that incorporates elements of the original garden as well as modern flourishes. The restoration project was launched in suitable style at a ceremony on 17 January, attended by Harrogate Borough Council Mayor Nick Brown.

Work on the garden has become a community effort. Harrogate Flower Club has donated a lantern, and students from Grove Road School and Horticap are helping out in the gardens. Rossett School A-Level graphic-design students assisted by Harrogate High School pupils are producing the publicity.

Looking ahead, as FOVG chair Jane Blayney explains, “We are also involved in restoring some of the old lamps in the Valley Gardens and our next big project is the Green Park entrance on the south-east of the gardens. We are still chasing another £30,000 in funding for this project. The intention is to use the King Edward VII gates from the former entrance to the Rose Garden on Kings Road. These were originally donated to the town by William Henry Baxter in 1911 to commemorate the death of Edward VII, who was a regular visitor to Harrogate. They disappeared in 1994 but we tracked them down and bought them back. They’ve been in a farmer’s field for decades so need considerable renovation!”


Click image for a lager picture of the Japanese Garden plans.