The Italian Garden, Thompson Park

According to Roger Frost (Burnley Express 20/7/2018), Italian gardens would be expected to be filled with ‘fountains, statues, grottoes, water organs and other features designed to delight their owners and amuse and impress visitors’. He continues to provide another definition, however, which maintains that Italian gardens should be ‘stylistically based on symmetry, axial geometry and on the principle of imposing order over nature’.

The Italian Garden in Thompson Park originally had geometric flower beds, reached by sets of steps leading down from groups of eight Doric-style columns. In the centre was a small water feature. The garden has recently been restored, but with a flower bed where the water feature once was.

The beauty of the tulips in the garden was praised in both 1931 and 1934:
‘In the Italian Gardens in Thompson Park… there are thousands of lovely tulips in the most charming shades, all in excellent condition. They are a gorgeous sight, and no flower lover should miss seeing them.’ (Burnley Express, 9/5/1931)

‘Almost ten thousand tulips were to be seen in the Italian Gardens in Thompson Park, and the masses of colour were very striking…The tulips are perhaps not so big in the bloom as in previous years, but the gardeners have obtained a magnificent effect by the way in which the colours have been grouped together, and many people are of the opinion that the display is quite equal, if not better, than those seen in years past.’ (Burnley Express, 16/5/1934)

In 1937, the Burnley Express published the following:
‘…here…is a beautiful, restful garden, built in the Italian style, with pillars and frames overhung with creepers, and marvellous beds aglow with pink and fiery-red antirrhinums. It needs the pen of my co-scribe, Beverley Nichols, to do it full justice. In the centre of this glory is an ornamental pool, in which goldfish and carp dart and spin. Floating on the water are flat lily-leaves. It all looks rather like one of those dainty coloured plates used to illustrate fairy-tale books.

But my inborn curiosity would not allow me to contemplate even this little Eden without provoking questions. What happens to the goldfish in winter, when the pond freezes over? Mr Jackson supplied a very simple answer. They live under the ice. But even he did not think they would, and so, for a season or two, the ice was broken for them. But it was found that after these humanitarian manoeuvres the fish died in alarming numbers – probably due to shock. So now, when winter comes, they are left alone in their glassy, frigid prison.’ (Burnley Express, 18/1937)

During the Second World War, the garden was given over to growing vegetables, including onions in the pond area.

It was re-opened in 1947. (Burnley Express,12/7/1947)

In 1952, the Burnley Parks Committee authorised the Parks Superintendent to fill in the pond in the Italian Garden and convert it into a rock garden. (Burnley Express, 6/2/1952)