A favourite photo location of mine is the small village of Rivington on the West Pennine Moors a little to the north of Bolton, Lancashire. Rivington nestles in the shadow of the moors and is the location of a set of terraced gardens built by the owner of the Sunlight Soap Co, Bolton born business man William Lever, later Viscount Leverhulme. In the early 1900’s Lord Leverhulme purchased an estate on the moors above the village and set about building himself a weekend retreat, his main home being Thornton Manor on the Wirral, near his factory and purpose built workers’ village at Port Sunlight. One of the features to be constructed was a folly based on the demolished Liverpool Castle, an exterior view headlines this post.
The folly sits on the shore of one of the reservoirs which were built in the 1920’s by Liverpool Corporation to help feed that city’s ever growing demand for fresh drinking water.
The first house built was a forerunner of the modular design of house, built off site and assembled at the final location. It was a large wooden structure known as ‘Roynton Cottage’, which fell victim to Suffragette protests, being burnt down in 1913. It’s replacement was a more substantial building of stone. An elegant feature of this second cottage as a circular ballroom with a domes ceiling which was decorated with a representation of the constellations as they were at the time of Leverhulme birth in 1851.
Around the cottage the bare moorland was transformed into a sequence of terraces, the better to cope with the steeply sloping land. The flight of steps above lead down from the site of the cottage to a large lawn area, they gained their name as they were bands and orchestras played from when Lord Leverhulme hosted functions. With a little bit of searching the location of the ballroom can still be found on the area at the top of the steps and a small patch of the original tiling in one of the vestibules can still be seen.
The Terrace Gardens features many pathways and the ruins of the shelters and summer houses that formed the original design. After the death of Lord Leverhulme in 1925 the estate was put up for sale, and after the death of the second owner, John Magee a brewery owner the houses and lodges were demolished and the house contents sold off. There were strong local protests about the demolition but they were defeated by local bureaucratic ineptitude so demolition commence in 1939.
Despite the loss of the house and lodges and the many years of neglect much remains to be seen of the gardens and they reward the year round visitor with a constantly changing mix of views.
Needless to say the area is very popular with many outdoor pursuit enthusiasts and at weekends the Top Barn, a cafe and bar next to Rivington Hall and open at weekends is a very popular meeting place for the biker community, the twisting lanes across the nearby moors providing challenging routes for the riders.
So Rivington this is why Rivington is a favourite photography location, it offers me an all year round mix of history, architecture, wildlife and candid photographic opportunities. I’ll probably make time to get up there again in the next few days.