Supporters of Ashton Gardens

SOAG exists to protect, preserve and enhance Ashton Gardens

The Ashton Institute before its removal


Lord Ashton

In 1914, the town was split about the cost of acquiring the gardens. The Chairman of the Council Councillor J H Taylor said: "You can take it for granted that the ratepayers of the next generation would very seriously blame the present Council, and the ratepayers of the present generation, if they ever allowed the desecrating hand of the builder to fall upon St. George's Gardens."

When he gave the Council money to buy the land, Lord Ashton said:

"My Dear Sir, 

Someone has been good enough to send me, anonymously, two St Annes newspapers dated the 9th and 16th instant, containing an account of a scheme for the purchasing and laying out of St George's Gardens.

There appears to be a difference of opinion amongst the ratepayers as to the desirability of carrying out the scheme, many of them fearing the effect upon the rate, and a poll of ratepayers is to take place.

Feeling as I do, an interest in the welfare of St Annes it would give me much pleasure to contribute to its prosperity and to the enjoyment of its residents and visitors. I shall, therefore, be glad to bear the cost of purchasing St. Georges Gardens, the price of which is, I see, 21,350, if the Urban District Council and its ratepayers will allow me. 

Believe me 

Yours very faithfully 

27 January 1914

When the Council of the day accepted Lord Ashton's gift, they resolved:
"That this Council in accepting the munificent offer of Lord Ashton desires to place on record its sincere appreciation of his magnificent gift to the town, which will ever remain as a monument of his benevolence and consideration for the present and future inhabitants of St Annes on the Sea".

A Promise Betrayed

When the Council acquired the land, they entered into a Deed of Covenant with the vendor and agreed to several conditions. The wording of the relevant conditions is as follows:

"...3. The Council hereby covenant with the vendor and his assigns and as a separate covenant with the mortgagee and his assigns that the Council and its assigns will forever hereafter leave open and unbuilt upon so much and such parts of the said plots of land hereby assured as are shown on the plan hereupon endorsed as forming part or intended to form part of any road or footpath as and for parts of public roads and footpaths and shall forever hereafter maintain and keep the same in repair as such.

And also will use the heriditaments hereby assured as and for public gardens or public pleasure grounds or recreation grounds or for places of public entertainment amusement or recreation or all or any of such purposes and/or for any other purposes for which the Council may be authorised to use the same by the Act for which the Council are now promoting a Bill in the present Session of Parliament the short title of which is intended to be "The St Annes on the Sea Improvement Act 1914" and for no other purpose.

And also will not erect any buildings on the said pieces of land hereby assured other than and except boundary walls and fences and any buildings or structures forming any gateway or entrance or any part of any gateway or entrance within sixty feet of the Palisade line in Clifton Drive North or within thirty feet of the Palisade line in St Georges Road or within thirty feet of the Palisade line in Beach Road or within thirty feet of the Palisade line in St Georges Square or within nine feet of the Palisade line in the intended street running from St Georges Square to Clifton Drive North"

Whilst covenants can be nullified by being "bought out", and may even be traded like commodities in the hope of obtaining a windfall when someone wants to be released from an obligation made under covenant, the moral argument in this case is clear.

The Attorney General and leading charity law barristers agree that the land was a charitable gift, and the Council has been told to register the land with the Charities Commission. This will help protect the gardens in future and stop the council considering them as their corporate property.

The Council of the day promised that the land was, and would remain, as public gardens and for recreation. It would not be used for some other purpose.

It is a sad reflection and a public disgrace that the 2005 Council has not honoured the intention of their predecessors.

Supporters of Ashton Gardens 

Copyright 2012 Fred Moor.
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