Dorchester - Borough Gardens

The following account is from the English Heritage Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest.

BOROUGH GARDENS DORCHESTER: Until the construction of the Great Western railway line from Dorchester to Weymouth in 1857, Dorchester's western boundary remained the line of the Roman town wall and embankment, the course of which had been adapted in the early 18th century to form West Walks, one of the Town Walks. The site of Borough Gardens lay outside the west wall and embankment, and is shown as undeveloped agricultural land on Hutchins' Map of Dorchester (1772), and the Tithe map of 1840. As the town expanded after 1857, residential streets were laid out parallel to the railway, while a house and nursery garden belonging to S R HARRIS were constructed on the southern half of the site of Borough Gardens (Ordnance Survey 1887: Colvin and Moggridge 2000). The northern section of the site remained the property of the Duchy of Cornwall, and was divided into several enclosures which were used as a fairground and cattle market. In March 1895, the Mayor of Dorchester, Alderman GREGORY, purchased from the Duchy on behalf of the Corporation 4 acres (about 1.5 hectares) of land bounded by Cornwall Road, Albert Road, and West Walks for 3400. Later the same year the Corporation agreed to buy Mr HARRIS' nursery and house for 1800. The Corporation stated as its objective the construction of 'pleasure gardens for the health and recreation of the inhabitants' (inscription on fountain).

Plans for laying out the new park were commissioned from William Goldring (1854-1919), and were implemented by the Borough Surveyor, G J Hunt, who was also responsible for designing ornamental wrought-iron gates for the park. The park was officially opened on 30 July 1896. An account published in the Dorset County Chronicle on 6 August 1896 indicates that Goldring's scheme for the park incorporated gravel walks, a dell in which it was proposed to erect a fountain, a central bandstand, tennis courts, and bowling greens. Some of these features were not constructed at the time of the park's opening, but followed soon afterwards: the bandstand, a memorial to Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee, was opened in 1898, while the fountain was donated in memory of Alderman Gregory in 1898. Goldring incorporated existing mature trees on the site into his scheme, and disguised the narrow rectilinear shape of the site with boundary planting, modification to the ground levels, and curvilinear walks. The plants for the park were supplied by James Veitch and Son of the Royal Exotic Nursery, Chelsea, while the planting was personally superintended by Goldring (Gardeners' Chronicle 1898). Mr Harris, whose nursery had been purchased by the Corporation as part of the site for the park, was appointed first superintendent (Dorset County Chronicle 1896).

Further features were added to the park in the late 19th and early 20th century, and changing requirements for sports facilities led to limited alterations to Goldring's design in the early 20th century. In 1899 an obelisk was erected in memory of men of the 1st Battalion Dorset Regiment who had died in India, while in 1905 Charles Hansford donated an elaborate cast-iron clock tower. Between 1902 and 1928 (Ordnance Survey), a new bowling green was constructed at the southern end of the site, replacing some of the nursery glasshouses and some specimen trees, while the croquet lawn south of the bandstand was replaced by tennis courts, and new tennis courts were constructed on an artificial terrace to the north of the bandstand. Today (2001), Borough Gardens retain their late 19th century layout and features, together with its structural planting.

Picture taken Thursday 9th September 2010

© Copyright Sarah Smith and licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Licence

Land for the Gardens was bought in 1895 by George John Gregory Gregory JP, Mayor of Dorchester.
They were opened in 1896 and the Bandstand was built in 1898.
Picture taken Thursday 9th September 2010

© Copyright Sarah Smith and licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Licence

The fountain lies in a sheltered corner of the Borough Gardens and was given by Charles Hansford
who also gave the Clock in memory of Alderman George J G Gregory, JP, Mayor of Dorchester.

The Borough Gardens, Dorchester 1905

(Left) © Copyright Mr. M Russell FIPD All Rights Reserved & (Right) © Copyright Sarah Smith and licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Licence

George John Gregory Gregory was baptised in All Saints Dorchester on 16th July 1826 the son of John Gregory a local builder who ran a business in South Street. George trained as an architect and married in Dorchester in the Dec qtr of 1850 to Eliza Hansford and they lived initially in Salisbury Terrace in Fordington. By 1861 however he had moved into South Street and is recorded as employing 44 men and 3 boys so it was already a substantial business. He became a freemason, was elected as an Alderman of Dorchester and first became its Mayor in 1872. He was to be Mayor 5 times during his life (the last time in 1874) and during his final year of office he managed to purchase 4 acres of land from the Dutchy of Cornwall on behalf of the Corpporation. Mr Gregory died on 16th February 1896. Charles Hansford was probably related to his wife and a trusted friend as he was appointed as one of the executors of his will.

The Post Card of Borough Gardens shown above dating from 1905 was produced locally by Henry Ling the printers who had been at 23 High East street since 1870. They were also booksellers, stationers and publishers and still have administrative offices in the town today (2011) although their main production unit is now on the endge of town. The photographer was Alfred Herbert Evans the local chemist. Alfred Herbert also came from a long established family in the town and was born in Dorchester in 1865, the son of a Chemist & Druggest Alfred John Evans and his wife Emma Sophia. He inherited their business at 33 High East Street and married in Wandsworth to Laura Eliza Turner in 1892 raising a family of 4 children in High East street by 1901.

Borough Gardens Dorchester 'Clock Tower'
presented by Charles Hansford AD1905

© Copyright Nigel Mykura and licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Licence

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