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Strawberry and Pleasure Gardens

To the left is an image of the junction of Sugham Lane and Heysham Road in about 1900 and apart from being a junction bears no resemblance to what you see there today. Possibly there is a tiny remnant of the old wall on the north corner of Sugham Lane. The pointed arch over the entrance gateway reads around the sloping sides Aldren’s Strawberry Gardens but in Bulmer’s Directory of Heysham (1913) the then proprietor James Wyton uses the longer title as on this page.

James Aldren (1828-1904) was born in Heysham, the eldest son of Thomas Aldren and Ellen (also) Aldren. Ellen was born in Heysham and Thomas elsewhere in Lancashire. In 1850 James married Mary Gibson (1829-1914). The third witness to the marriage is Thomas John Knowlys’ eldest daughter Mary Isabella;  a reasonable assumptioon is that Mary Gibson was a servant at Heysham Tower.

James’ occupation on the marriage record is given as ‘grocer’ and the 1851 Heysham Directory confirms this. In the 1861 census he is a ‘Grocer and Farmer of 8 acres ‘ and  has 4 children. In the 1881 census he is listed as a gardener and living at Strawberry Gardens with his wife, his second daughter Lucy (24) and granddaughter Mary Ann Harrison (9).  His elder daughter Sarah had married James Harrison in 1871.  From the details of the  1905 Sale by Auction of Strawberry Gardens it would appear that he acquired the land which became Strawberry Gardens, shown on the bottom of the map to the right in red outline, in the late 1850s. On the Tithe Map (1838) this area of land consists of a field called ‘Syke’ along Heysham Road, and behind three fields all denoted ‘Town Field’. All in 1838 were either Glebe Land or owned by the Rector. One date (uncorroborated) for building of the tower in the picture above is 1867. (Is it a coincidence that Mary Aldren was once a servant at Heysham Tower?)

Another date yet to be determined is when Strawberry Gardens first opened its doors to the public as a tourist attraction. It was indeed possible to pick your own strawberries for a penny a time but there were many other attractions too, no doubt developed over a period of time. These included aviaries, conservatories, greenhouses , swings for children and a tennis court.
In 1889
Lucy Aldren married James Wyton, a local gardener originally from Long Compton in Warwicjshire. James had a younger brother Frank, who also came from Long Compton first of all to Cockerham and later to Heysham.  In 1897 he married Mary Ann Harrison whose father was a Heysham builder and son-in-law of James Aldren.

Map (1919)
 © Ordnance Survey and
Old Maps

A newspaper advert for Strawberry Gardens and (below) a postcard sent by an enthusiastic visitor in 1906

Both courtesy of Ian Miller, from his collection.

James and Frank’s elder brother William Thomas Wyton also was a gardener at Heysham Hall since 1881 at least, along with George Garner also from Long Compton. (George’s elder brother John was head gardener at Compton Verney.) By the 1891 census William Thomas Wyton had moved to Cockerham.
Some link between Heysham Hall and Compton Verney could be surmised; at the time the owners of Heysham Hall were the 
Grafton family whose principal residence was Hope Hall, near Manchester.. (If this interests you here is a connection between the  Verney and Grafton families in the 14th century.)

After James Aldren died in 1904 the running of Strawberry Gardens eventually passed to his daughter Lucy and her husband James Wyton  but not until the 1905 auction sale  already referred to had taken place They managed the Gardens until closure in 1920. Shops and a housing estate took its place with only the Strawberry Gardens Inn to remind us of the Gardens brief but significant part in the history of Heysham.
The Baines Directory of Heysham (1825), as noted elsewhere on this website, records that Heysham was ‘a place of fashionable resort for sea-bathing’,...but that ‘visitors were more select than numerous’. The coming of the railway to Morecambe (Poulton) soon brought numerous (rather than select?) visitors to the area and the Strawberry Gardens was among the first attempts in Heysham to attract them.
The Battery Hotel had been built in 1862 right on the border with Morecambe with that purpose in mind and from there visitors were brought the mile to Strawberry Gardens at first by horse drawn cart, later to be replaced by horse trams as seen in the picture top left

Heysham’s first (petrol) tram

We do not know the origin of this image of the   first Heysham petrol tram. It appears on the       Morecambe Tramways page of   British Tramway Company Buttons and Badges (Ashley Birch).

We have also contacted David Voice, archivist of the Tramway and Light Railway Society.       

We acknowledge their help with thanks.

The horses were eventually replaced by a petrol driven tramcar and the caption on this picture (above riight) claims ‘first in the Kingdom’. A petrol tram is indeed a curiosity and news about it even appeared in an New Zealand newpaper in April 1912, the Wanganui Chronicle which has been published for more than 150 years. To download what it said click here. During the first World War the petrol; was replaced by gas carried in a large rectangular bag on the roof of the tram.

The route is shown (above right) on a 1919 OS map starting at the Battery Hotel at the top. The whole route is along Heysham Road; at first it goes through the newly built up area of Sandylands then out into the open country along what used to be called Cross Lane to Four Lane Ends and to Strawberry Gardens at the bottom; that last section of  Heysham Road was once Overtown Lane