Trentham Gardens

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Trentham Gardens are formal Italianate gardens, part of an English landscape park on the Trentham Estate in Trentham, Staffordshire. The site is located on the southern fringe of the city of Stoke-on-Trent, England, within the Borough of Stafford. The site was also the location of the former Trentham Hall of which fragments survive.[1]

The Trentham Gardens and Trentham Estate[edit]

Italian Garden
Barbary Macaque at Trentham Monkey Forest

The gardens are set within a large area of woodland. Together these currently together cover some 300 acres (1.2 km²). The gardens were designed as a serpentine park by Capability Brown from 1758 onwards, overlying an earlier formal design attributed to Charles Bridgeman. Trentham Gardens are now principally known for the surviving formal gardens laid out in the 1840s by Sir Charles Barry, which have recently been restored. In 2012 the Trentham Estate was selected as the site of a Royal Diamond Jubilee wood, and a new woodland of 200,000 native oak trees will be planted on the Estate.

Since 2000 Trentham Gardens has undergone a successful and major £120-million ($200m) redevelopment by St. Modwen Properties as a leisure destination. The current regeneration project at Trentham includes restoration of the Italian gardens and adjacent woodlands, the creation of a garden centre and crafts centre, and various leisure attractions. The overall aim is to avoid noisy theme park-like attractions, and instead to offer "authentic experiences" to older people and younger children.

As part of the regeneration the Trentham Monkey Forest, the first of its kind in England, has opened and has been successful. Visitors can roam through the monkey park where 140 Barbary Macaque monkeys wander free in the woodlands. There are no fences in place to stop the monkeys from interacting with the visitors, although it is against park rules to touch the animals and wardens are on standby to ensure the safety of the visitors.

In December 2008 a transportable Ferris wheel was opened on site for tourists to get an overhead view of the Gardens, the Estate, and out over the city.[2] It later closed and was dismantled in 2009.

Mountain biking[edit]

Trentham Gardens hosted the first ever Mountain Mayhem, a 24 hour race which included some of the biggest mountain bike brands of all time including Raleigh and Giant; 120 other teams also entered. The course was just under 10 miles long.

The winning team was the Raleigh Pro Team managed by Gary Coltman with riders Barrie Clarke, Elliot Baxter, Carl Sturgeon and Ian Cuthbertson. The Giant Team came 2nd. They were managed by Martin Earley who also rode in the team along with Jamie Norfolk, Robin Seymour and Robert Miller. There were only teams and no solo entrants.

Trentham Hall[edit]

Trentham Hall in the 1820s, before the 19th century expansion.

Trentham Priory occupied land on the Trentham estate from the 11th century until the Dissolution of the Monasteries. The property was then sold in 1540 to James Leveson of Perton Hall, near Wolverhampton. The Leveson family occupied the property and Sir Richard Leveson built a new house in 1634. The Leveson heiress Frances married Sir Thomas Gower Bt leading to the creation of the Leveson Gower family. Their son Sir William Leveson Gower built a new house on the site in 1690. Henry Holland altered the house in 1775–78.

As for the former days of the last Trentham Hall built in the 1830s, William White wrote 1851: "Trentham Hall is the principal residence of the Most Noble George Granville Leveson Gower, Duke of Sutherland, Marquess of Stafford, Earl Gower, Viscount Trentham, and Hereditary Sheriff of Sutherland. It is an elegant mansion, situated near the village in a park of 500 acres (2 km²). It has been entirely rebuilt during the last 14 years, and now has an elegant stone front and a lofty square tower. The late hall was erected about 120 years ago, after the model of Buckingham House, in St. James's Park, but it was considerably altered and improved by the first Marquess of Stafford, from designs by Henry Holland, who gave a new and imposing feature to the whole. The present mansion is on a larger and more magnificent plan and the gardens rank amongst the finest in England." (History, Gazetteer and Directory of Staffordshire, Sheffield, 1851). The remodelling was also the work of Sir Charles Barry.

The Hall was one of many to be demolished in the 20th century, when in 1912 its owner, the 4th Duke of Sutherland, razed it after his offer to give it to the people of Stoke-on-Trent was rejected. However, the gardens and the ornamental park with its lake and the Estate woodlands have all been preserved.

There were tentative proposals to rebuild Trentham Hall as a five star hotel.[3][4][5] However, in 2013 the developer St Modwen stated that the cost of refurbishing what remains of the buildings into a conference centre and an hotel was too much at £35m.[1]

Trentham Hall in 1880 from Morris's Seats of Noblemen and Gentlemen. The front entrance is at the left, leading into the three-storey main house. The two-storey family wing is at the right, beyond the campanile.

Trentham Ballroom[edit]

The gardens were the site of the Trentham Ballroom, which opened in 1931 and closed in 2002. During the Second World War it was used by the Bank of England. In the 1960s and 1970s many dance, rock and pop bands performed at Trentham Ballroom, including The Beatles, Pink Floyd, The Who, and Led Zeppelin. The Ballroom also hosted degree ceremonies for North Staffordshire Polytechnic.

Trentham at war[edit]

Before World War I, the Staffordshire Yeomanry used Trentham as a summer military training camp between 1909 and 1914.[6]

During World War II the Trentham Estate became a military regroupment camp for French soldiers, although there were also some Poles and a few German officers as prisoners of war. The French soldiers were a mix of the Foreign Legion, the Chasseurs Alpins (the Light Mountain Division for mountain warfare) and a tank company/[7] The bulk of the soldiers were initially marched from the train station in the pouring rain in June 1940, a march through the streets of Stoke-on-Trent which is still recalled locally and which was by some mistaken for a German invasion.

The 1,619 men of the 13th Demi-Brigade of the Foreign Legion had been in Norway, but had been pulled out to defend a line in Brittany from where they then fled to Britain[8] The Chasseurs Alpins had arrived from Dunkirk. The Trentham Camp was initially organised by the local YMCA volunteers. The pilot Marc Haucheauchemaille recorded in his diary that... "There are 6 or 7,000 men in the camp – a miracle of English organisation – in a few hours we have tents, groundsheets, cooking utensils.",[9] although proper medical facilities took longer to organise. Numbers at the camp appear to have lessened to 5,530 after the initial influx.[10]

By July 1940, the camp was split into pro= and anti-Vichy France factions. Some 600 men of the Foreign Legion chose to leave to join the Vichy Legion in North Africa.[11] Around 900 other left to join the Free French. The bulk of the French troops remained at Trentham. The attitude of local people appears to have changed after the initial arrival: there were complaints about the killing of the deer herd,[12] to the extent that estate records show that nearly all the deer were killed;[13] discipline was lax;[14] and there was extensive fraternisation with local girls.[15] By the end of the war, local people's animosity toward the remaining French was such that many of the soldiers were glad to leave.[16]


  1. ^ a b Ward, Alex (4 March 2013). The historic hall that just costs too much to save: 180-year-old Grade II listed building carries a £35m restoration price tag (has pictures of the remains), Daily Mail accessed December 2013.
  2. ^ World Tourist Attractions
  3. ^ Proposal for Trentham Hall to be rebuilt as a hotel
  4. ^ The Italian Gardens at Trentham Hall
  5. ^ Trentham awaits
  6. ^ Andrew Thornton. "THE STAFFORDSHIRE YEOMANRY: SUMMER CAMPS 1909 – 1914". Wolverhampton University Local History website.
  7. ^ Charles de Gaulle, The Complete War Memoirs (1964), p.89
  8. ^ Edward L. Bimberg. Tricolor Over the Sahara: The Desert Battles of the Free French (2002), p. 80
  9. ^ George Henry Bennett, The RAF's French Foreign Legion 1940–45 (2011), p.22.
  10. ^ Sir Winston Churchill, The Second World War (1949), p.150
  11. ^ Edward L. Bimberg. Tricolor Over the Sahara: The Desert Battles of the Free French (2002), p.80
  12. ^ The forgotten French: exiles in the British Isles, 1940–44 (2003), p.108
  13. ^ Brian Wood, "History of Deer on the Trentham Estate" (2012)
  14. ^ Edward L. Bimberg. Tricolor Over the Sahara: The Desert Battles of the Free French (2002), p.80
  15. ^ The forgotten French: exiles in the British Isles, 1940–44 (2003), p.108
  16. ^ Douglas Porch, The French Foreign Legion: a complete history (1991), p.472.

Further reading[edit]

  • The Beauty of Trentham. Burslem Books, 2004, with a second expanded edition in 2012.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 52°57′48″N 2°12′06″W / 52.9634°N 2.2018°W / 52.9634; -2.2018