A tale of two belvederes

Earl of Derby statue in Miller park Preston Lancashire UK
Fig. 1. View from the original site of the Avenham belvedere in Miller Park, looking towards the site of the Walton Hall belvedere a mile away across the Ribble. The statue of the 14th Earl of Derby now surveys the scene. Image: Karl Davison at Wikimedia Commons.

For a brief period in the middle of the 19th century two belvederes or summer houses faced one another a mile apart across the Ribble at Preston: one newly built in Miller Park and the other falling into ruins at Walton Hall. Together, they symbolised a shift in the social and political leadership of Preston from the end of the 18th century and into the 19th century, from the landed gentry of the county to the cotton lords of the town.

The Walton Hall belvedere, built by the Hoghtons, probably in the 18th century, was a landscape folly symbolising the leisured life of the landed interest. The Preston belvedere occupied a prominent position in Miller Park, which was opened in 1867 and named for the town’s leading cotton lord, Thomas Miller, who donated the land. The gift from a wealthy manufacturer marked the ascendancy of the town’s merchant class.

See also: The last days of Walton Hall

It is possible that the view of the Walton Hall belvedere across the river provided the inspiration for the landscape architect Edward Milner when he was drawing up his plans for the park, deciding him to include a matching belvedere in his design.

In fact, the juxtaposition of belvederes was short lived. In 1869 the 14th Earl of Derby died and a suitable site was sought for a fitting memorial to the man who was three times prime minister and a former Preston MP. Preston was chosen and the Miller Park belvedere had to make way for the statue of the earl. The belvedere was taken down and shortly after re-erected in its current position at the east side of Avenham Park.

The supplanting of the belvedere by a statue honouring the man whose heirs inherited the largest and most valuable landed estate in the county testifies to the continuing influence of the county set of wealthy Tory landowners in Lancashire (Who owned Lancashire?). One of the principal promoters of a memorial to the earl was one of those wealthy Tory landowners, Robert Townley Parker, former Preston MP, guild mayor and leader of the Orange Order in the town: ‘A few months after the late Earl’s death a meeting of the late earl’s friends and supporters was held at Preston, under the presidency of R. Townley Parker, Esq., of Cuerden Hall, at which it was resolved to raise a memorial with such funds as might be received in subscriptions …’ [1]

The belvederes were not the only structures that echoed across the Ribble, for the fountain in Miller Park found its counterpart in the garden of William Calvert, Walton-le-Dale’s cotton lord who replaced the Hoghtons as the de facto ruler of the village. His mill came to dominate the village skyline and supply employment for the vast majority of the villagers.

Calvert’s fountain matched the dimensions of the one in Miller Park, which might have supplied him with his inspiration. His was constructed sometime after the first Ordnance Survey map of the district in the 1840s on which it does not appear and before the next edition in the 1890s, as shown below (Fig. 11). No trace now remains of Calvert’s fountain or his mill: cotton has given way to consumerism in the shape of the Capitol shopping centre.

And a passing reference in the Preston diary of Lawrence Rawstorne reveals the existence of an earlier summer house/belvedere in the town, i0 at Preston & at prayers & Mr Rigbyes in ’s sommer house till Sat night (10 August 1688). Mr Rigby would have been Edward Rigby, later to be elected MP for Preston.

Open Street Map section showing belvederes and fountains in Preston lancashire UK
Fig.2. Open Street Map section showing the location of the belvederes and fountains.

The Walton Hall Belvedere

Open Street Map section showing location of Walton Hall belvedere/ice house Walton-le-Dale Lancashire Preston
Fig. 3. The site of the Walton Hall belvedere perched above the London Way roundabout on a section of the Open Street Map. Ordnance Survey maps label the building at this site as an ice house, but it was more probably the belvedere.
The Preston Lancashire Uk skyline from Walton-le-Dale
Fig. 4. The view from the footbridge (shown in Fig. 3) over the London Way dual carriageway,.The belvedere would have sat roughly where the first lamp post is and the ground would have been level with the top of the lamp post. The view towards Preston is now somewhat obscured by the landscaping on the roundabout. In the 19th century it would have been open farmland.

A description of the belvedere viewed from the Preston side of the Ribble was supplied by Peter Whittle as he surveyed the view from the terrace at the end of Avenham Walk in his history of the town:

Walking to the top of the terrace, the Belvidere of Sir H. P. Hoghton, Bart. fronts you, at a small distance, embellished with its white crenelled turrets, peeping from between the trees, prettily varied with its pea green lawn, adding variety to ornament. Below this scene, the chimney tops of Walton-hall are visible, with their curly smoke issuing from them, whilst the body of the edifice apparently remains enveloped amid the foliage. [2]

Four pages later, he adds, ‘… the turrets of the Belvidere, almost eveloped in luxuriant foliage, fill up the fore ground.’

Writing in The Babbler; or, Weekly literary and scientific intelligencer at about the same time, where he signs himself Marm. [Marmaduke] Tulket, O.S.B., Whittle writes a description of Walton Hall and says that from the octagon-shaped drawing room there is ‘… a S.W. view of the Belvidere, or, the turreted summer-house, of a snowy hue.’ [3]

Information on the belvedere was discovered by Karen Lynch, who publishes a website: The Folly Flâneuse – Rambles to, and ramblings about, follies and landscape buildings. She contacted me trying to discover more about the belvedere. A correspondent sent her the following, from an unpublished 1782 travel diary, ‘… walked up to the Belvedere, a pleasure house in Sir Henry’s grounds, very pleasantly situated …’. Sadly, no source.

Karen also sent me a link to the impressions of a traveller passing through Walton-le-Dale ten years later:

Preston stands on a sweet eminence above the Ribble, and its approach through the village of Walton is very beautiful. Sir Harry Hoghton’s, near this village, though in a low situation, is an handsome seat, and the Belvidere above is a fine object. [4]

Walton Hall Walton-le-Dale Lancashire UK in about 1820
Fig 5. Walton Hall c.1820. [5]

No traces of Walton Hall or its belvedere now remain. The hall site had been cleared by the late 1840s when the first Ordnance Survey map of the area was produced and another hall was later built on a nearby site. The Hoghtons had tried without success to sell the original hall and produced a detailed sales catalogue which is now held at Lancashire Archives. The entry in the archives catalogue does not give a date, although I seem to recall it was produced in the 1820s. When lockdown lifts I will see what it has to say about the belvedere, and see what the de Hoghton papers have to offer.

When the London Way Bamber Bridge by-pass was cut through the bluff the excavation removed all trace of the belvedere/ice house.

Map of ice house or belvedere in 1840s at Walton Hall Walton-le-Dale Lancashire UK
Fig. 6. The belvedere or ice house in the late 1840s on the 6 inch first edition of the Ordnance Survey

An outline of what was probably the belvedere can be found on the first edition of the Ordnance Survey. It is labelled, wrongly I think, as an ice house. The building sits on a bluff overlooking the Ribble and to Preston beyond, with the ground falling away to the front and sides and level behind. This setting is perfect for a belvedere, less so for an ice house: it enjoys full sun all day, it is close enough to the hall for a pleasant stroll for the Hoghtons and their guests but rather far for the cook to use as a cold store; and there is no obvious source of winter ice close by.

The location matches Whittle’s description of it being south-west of Walton Hall, visible from the terrace at the end of Avenham Walk, a mile away as the crow flies, and ‘peeping from between the trees.’

Ice house at Walton hall, Walton-le-Dale Lancashire UK on the 1840s Ordnance Survey map.
Fig. 7. The Walton Hall ice house/belvedere on the OS 6inch map, surveyed in the 1840s

The structure, if the OS survey is accurate, measures approximately 33×24 feet (792 square feet). The Avenham Park belvedere is roughly 53×13 feet (689 square feet). One possibility is that the Walton Hall structure served a dual purpose: a belvedere above a subterranean ice house. I do not find this very plausible.

Map of remains of ice house/belvedere at Walton Hall, Walton-le-Dale Lancashire UK 1892
Fig. 8. The ice house/belvedere
at the end of the 19th century

By the time of the 1892 25in OS map all that remained was a raised platform and a few posts (left).

For a semi-fictional account of life in Walton-le-Dale at the end of the 18th century that includes mentions of the Hoghtons and Walton Hall see: Jacobins in Walton-le-Dale.

The Miller Park Belvedere

belvedere in Avenham Park, Preston, lancshire, UK
Fig. 9. The belvedere now stands in Avenham Park, Preston.

The pages of the Preston Chronicle in the late 1860s and early 1870s record the reaction to the decision to dismantle the belvedere to make way for the Earl of Derby statue, with the correspondence columns reflecting mixed feelings about the transfer. With some correspondents neither the proposed statue nor the belvedere found favour, ‘… the only boast in its favour could be that it is not worse than the petty piece of prettiness, the mongrel belvedere, which it had the fortune to supplant.’ [6]

The two fountains

Fountain in Miller Park Preston Lancashire UK
Fig. 10. This photograph of the Miller Park fountain gives some idea of the scale of the one in William Calvert’s garden, which matched it in diameter. Image: Karl Davison at Wikimedia Commons.
1892 Ordnance Survey map showing fountain in William Calvert's garden in Walton-le-Dale Lancashire UK
Fig. 11. The fountain in the garden at William Calvert’s house in Walton-le-Dale

Cotton lord William Calvert lived in a modest house next to his mill. The 1892 25 inch OS map extract above shows his garden, somewhat overshadowed on one side by his mill buildings. The fountain dominates the garden, sitting on a raised terrace with paths around it. Today, it is buried beneath a shopping centre car park, as shown on the Open Street map below.

Open Street Map showing site of William Calvert's fountain in Walton-le-Dale, Lancashire UK
Fig. 12. The site of William Calvert’s fountain on a section of the modern Open Street Map.

[1] ‘UNVEILING OF THE DERBY MEMORIAL’, Preston Chronicle, 7 June 1873, British Library Newspapers, https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/Y3207480357/BNCN?u=lancs&sid=zotero&xid=bca213d0.
[2] Peter Whittle, The History of the Borough of Preston, in the County Palatine of Lancaster. Vol. 2 (Preston: Whittle, 1837), 151, http://capitadiscovery.co.uk/lancashire/items/316122.
[3] The Babbler; or, Weekly Literary and Scientific Intelligencer, 1822, 227, https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=LHUEAAAAQAAJ.
[4] Adam Walker, Remarks Made in a Tour from London to the Lakes of Westmoreland and Cumberland, in the Summer of M,DCC,XCI.: Originally Published in the Whitehall Evening Post, and Now Reprinted with Additions and Corrections. To Which Is Annexed, a Sketch of the Police, Religion, Arts, and Agriculture of France, Made in an Excursion to Paris in M,DCC,LXXXV. (G. Nicol, bookseller to his Majesty, Pall-Mall; and C. Dilly in the Poultry., 1792), 36, https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=m59bAAAAQAAJ.
[5] David Hunt, A History of Walton-Le-Dale and Bamber Bridge (Lancaster: Carnegie, 1997), 23.
[6] ‘Correspondence’, Preston Chronicle, 9 September 1871, 6, British Library Newspapers, https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/Y3207477654/BNCN?u=lancs&sid=zotero&xid=5b3dc305.