Lytham St.Annes Coat of Arms
Lytham St.Annes, Lancashire, England


 Lord Ashton Intervenes - 1914

The town was divided into two camps, the centre of controversy being the purchase of the Gardens. The late Coun. Hodgkinson, J.P., Coun. C. F. Critchley, J.P., Coun. J. H. Taylor and Mr. Edwin Cooper, worked hard to persuade the ratepayers not to let the second opportunity pass. Several ratepayers' meetings were held, and the proposal was also keenly debated in the columns of the "Express." At the statutory meeting of ratepayers, on January 9th, 1914, the resolution in favour of the Bill was declared carried, and a poll was demanded. Feeling ran high and the poll was fixed for Wednesday, January 28th.

Lord Ashton’s Gift.

On the eve of the poll the whole controversy was swept away with dramatic suddenness by the magnificent generosity of Lord Ashton.

On January 17th, two copies of the "Express"—dated January 9th and 16th—containing an account of the scheme for purchasing and laying-out the Gardens, were posted to Lord Ashton from the "Express" Office, and on January 26th Coun. J. H. Taylor (Chairman of the Council) received a telephone message from Lord Ashton, asking him to visit "Rylands." Coun. Taylor did so the following morning, and after an exhaustive inquiry into the details of the Council's proposals, Lord Ashton handed to Coon. Taylor the following letter :

Rylands, Lancaster,
26th January, 1914.

My dear Sir,—Some one has been good enough to send me, anonymously, two copies of "St. Annes Express,"dated the 9th and 16th inst., containing an account of a scheme for the purchasing and laying-out of St. George's Gardens.

There appears to be a difference of opinion amongst the ratepayers as to the desirability of carrying out the scheme, many of them fearing the effect upon the rates, and a poll of the ratepayers is to take place

Feeling as I do an interest in the welfare of St.Annes, it would give me much pleasure to contribute to its prosperity and to the enjoyment of its residents and visitors. I shall therefore be glad to bear the cost of purchasing St. George's Gardens, the price of which is, I see, £21,350, if the Urban District Council and the ratepayers will allow me.

Believe me,
Yours very faithfully,

In his conversation with Coun. Taylor Lord Ashton said he was so charmed with the quiet attractiveness and beauty of St. Annes that his great desire was to contribute to the improvement and cultivation of the beauty of St. Annes. His Lordship trusted that the offer which he made would restore perfect harmony among the ratepayers.

By his timely and princely gift Lord Ashton united the whole township. The announcement was made at a special meeting of the Council, on Tuesday, January 27th, and was received with acclamation everywhere. The following day flags were flown on public buildings, and a peal rung on the church bells.

The announcement came too late to prevent a poll, but the leaders of the opposition—Coun. J. Hayes and Messrs. S. L. Stott, J.P., and J. Prestwich invited all ratepayers to show their appreciation of Lord Ashton's "free and untrammelled gift” by voting for the scheme. Only 25 persons failed to do so, and probably they voted against it under misapprehension.

The public spirit of Lord Ashton infused a similar spirit throughout the town, and the directors of the Land and Building Company and the Clifton Estate met the Council in a very generous way.

In March of the same year the Council decided to acquire an additional two and a half acres of land and four houses, and the proposal came to the ears of Lord Ashton, who commended the decision of the Council as a wise one, and gave St. Annes an "Easter egg" in the shape of a cheque for £4,526 5s. to buy the land and cottages. The total area of the Ashton Gardens is now 14½ acres.

As a result of Lord Ashton's generous gifts the St. Annes Improvement Bill went before the Select Committee of the House of Commons as an unopposed Bill, thus effecting a considerable saving. The Bill was heard for the first time in April, the third reading followed on May 7th, and in August the Royal Assent was given.


St.Anne's Express, 1916