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A View of Italy for the City

Three outstanding gardens are found within a few miles of Stoke-on-Trent, a city better known for its potbanks, coal mining and steel making. But coal and steel have gone and newer, cleaner environments are now part of the ciy's surroundings.

Trentham Gardens is south of the city. Trentham Hall was demolished in 1911 when pollution from Stoke carried by the River Trent had seriously damaged the Victorian Italian Gardens and the quality of life in the house. The place became a pleasure ground with a lido, miniature train and rowing on the lake, and a ballroom was constructed. The swimming pool, railway and ballroom went years ago. In 2004 a new commercial company opened the restored Italian Gardens and an area of shops. Hotels and other attractions are planned within the large parkland area. The Italian Gardens are quite wonderfully set out and as they mature will become a spectacular foreground for the new hotel which will occupy the space left by the former Hall. Some parts of the old building are still in place, but are ruins.

Image: Trentham Gardens

The lake at Trentham was formed by damming the River Trent. The Hall near the north end was separated from it by gardens, which were laid out in the Italian style when Sir Charles Barry designed the great Victorian building of 1833. Barry was not a plantsman, so the gardens were the work of Head Gardener George Fleming. The 2004 layout of the lower garden reflects modern taste, the upper garden is accurate to the 1833 version.

Image: Trentham Gardens flowers

At present the plants are colourful but relatively small. As they mature and the box hedgeing grows the formal pattern effect will become clearer.

Image: Trentham Gardens interpretation panels

Signposting and attractive visitor interpretation panels help visitors to appreciate the story of the Gardens. There aren't too many panels and within the broad spaces they don't intrude.

Image: Trentham Gardens fountain area

Trentham Hall used to stand in front of the large chapel seen here behind the fountain. To the left of the site the original entrance and Orangery still stands, but is ruinous. The white buildings to the right were at the other end of the Hall. A hotel is planned for this site within a few years.

Image: Trentham Gardens Orangery remains

Here are the remains of the Orangery and entrance area to the Hall.

Image: Trentham Gardens details

The coat of arms of the Dukes of Sutherland, who had Sir Charles Barry design their house, are seen in the left-hand picture. To the right is a commemorative casting which recalls the occupation of part of the park by the main Clearing Banks during the war. Placed near the Italian Gardens in 1976, it is outlined by the same shape as the 50p coin which was introduced in the early 1970s with decimalisation.

Image: Trentham Gardens interpretation panel

Within what is still called by its Victorian name of "The Western Pleasure Ground" is a tea-room, children's play area and pathways leading into the woodland which surrounds the lake. A large amphitheatre will be excavated into the are near the water, to form an area for open-air performances.

Image: Trentham Gardens - Perseus statue

The statue of Perseus slaying the Gorgon is a nineteenth century copy of that by Benvenuto Cellini, made in 1550. It has been restored and appears close to its original form, as a bronze casting.

Image: Trentham Gardens Visitor Centre

All visits start and finish at the Visitor Centre within an area of wooden buildings housing shops. At the far end of the retail zone (well behind the camera position)is a large garden centre. A family hotel and other facilities are to be built here.

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