History of the Storey Gardens

Overview
  • This large walled garden originally belonged to a Georgian house in Castle Park.
  • The gardens are in sections with a Georgian wall between them.
  • Lancashire County Council took ownership in stages, the western section “inner garden” in the 1930s and the eastern section in the 1950s.
  • The eastern section nearer The Storey building is on two levels.
    • The centre piece of this space is an impressive Copper Beech tree.
    • A tennis court was previously located on the upper level.
  • The “inner garden” is accessed from the eastern section through a gateway in the Georgian wall.
    • During the Second World War it contained an air raid shelter and a Dig for Victory plot.
  • In the late 1980s the gardens were transferred to Lancaster City Council and by the 1990s had become overgrown and inaccessible.
  • In 1998 funding was obtained from Artranspennine98 to create a permanent artwork in the inner garden.
  • This is “The Tasting Garden”, created by the American conceptual artist, Mark Dion.  Click here for more information on this garden.
History of the Storey Building

The Storey was built between 1887 and 1891, and was financed by Sir Thomas Storey, a local philanthropist who was one of the two main employers in Lancaster at the end of the 19th Century. Thomas Storey then donated the building to the people of Lancaster for educational and cultural purposes, and it was originally used as a school, newsroom, library, and art gallery.

Throughout its life the building has been used in accordance with Thomas Storey’s wishes, hosting college and university courses, art and sculpture exhibitions and for a while playing a leading role in art education and training as the Lancaster College of Art. During the 2nd World War young people who were evacuated from southern England were educated in the Storey building.

The History of the Gardens

The land now known as the Storey Gardens is recorded as being used for gardens and orchards as far back as the 1600s.

The Storey Gardens were originally the property of the private dwelling 20 Castle Park. Dr Howson bought it in 1932 from the Satterthwaite family, who had occupied a residence there (now numbers 18, 20 and 22) since 1781.

Dr Howson almost immediately sold off the western section of the gardens, now known as The Tasting Garden, to Lancashire County Council but retained the eastern section.  There was direct access through to that part of the garden from both 20 and 22 Castle Park.  Dr Howson’s sister Miss Howson, occupied No. 22 which she bought in about 1930.  Miss Howson died in 1962, No. 22 was sold off and the access between the gardens of Nos 20 and 22 was blocked off.

Dr Howson rented back part of the western garden during the 2nd World War from the council so that his family could grow vegetables as part of the Dig for Victory campaign. The lower part of that garden provided space for air raid shelters.

The eastern garden remained the property of the Howson family until 1955. The main feature was the tennis court which the family used – there were also some flower beds, bees were kept there and some ducks.

During the 2nd World War the gardens were used to provide outdoor recreation for young evacuees.  In 1955 the gardens were transferred to the County Council.

Ownership of the gardens transferred to Lancaster City Council in the late 1980s.  By the early 1990s the gardens had not been maintained and had become completely overgrown and inaccessible.

After having re-established use of the splendid but neglected art gallery in the Storey Institute building in 1991, the Storey Gallery organisation was keen also to open up these similarly neglected and unused gardens.

In 1998, Storey Gallery succeeded in attracting ArtTransppenine98 (a collaboration between the Henry Moore Foundation and Tate Liverpool) to fund the creation of a permanent artwork, The Tasting Garden by Mark Dion.  Click here for more information on The Tasting Garden.