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Liverpool's 'secret garden' finally flattened

Greenhill nursery - home of banished orchid collection for 23 years - makes way for houses

Written by . Published on December 2nd 2014.

Liverpool's 'secret garden' finally flattened

LIVERPOOL'S "secret garden" is finally to disappear to make way for a new £6.2m housing development.

Hidden from public view, Greenhill Nursery, in Garston, was, for many years, the lodging house for the city’s rare and world famous botanical and orchid collection which was turfed out of Calderstones Park at the height of Militant rule in the mid 1980s.

Until then the park’s Harthill Gardens, a huge complex of greenhouses, deserved its reputation as the Kew Gardens of the north. It was open to the public and cared for by a dedicated team of gardeners.

During the industrial and political battles of the 1980s, council parks and gardens workers were called out on strike.  Fearing the precious collection of rare flora would suffer, the so-called Harthill Six stayed in work.

When the strike was over, the decision was taken by councillors to close and bulldoze the lot. Some say it was because they were in a poor state of repair, others were convinced it was an act of political revenge.

Former Lord Mayor Eddie Clein in his recent book, Falling Off the Fence, was scathing about the demise of the Harthill greenhouses at Calderstones.

“Following a refusal to take industrial action by an extremely militant union led by Ian Lowes, in retaliation (Derek) Hatton sacked the (Harthill) gardeners and in a spiteful act of venom and vandalism, sent the bulldozers in to destroy the greenhouses containing all the plants,' he wrote.

"The message was clear: Stand in my way and out you go.”

The collection disappeared from public view for decades. It was removed to Greenhill, a closed nursery, where shrubs and plants intended for city parks were grown and nurtured.

Screen Shot 2014-12-02 At 11.23.09.PngThe Greenhill nurseries housed a world famous boatnical collection for 23 years

Happily, the plants, including the rare orchids, can once more be viewed at Croxteth Hall. The vast Greenhill Nursery complex, meanwhile, is in a semi-derelict state.

An application coming before the council’s planning committee next Tuesday will, if approved, see the site flattened and transformed into a small estate of 83 houses.

The scheme by Morris Homes, is being recommended for the go-ahead by planning officers, though a number of local residents have lodged objections, mainly because of fears over safety with a proposed access route to the new estate from Greenhill Road.

Hidden from view by the main West Coast railway line and council houses along Long Lane, Garston, the plan will see a development of detached, semi-detached and mews houses.

The committee is also being recommended to approve a seven storey building at 16 Seel Street in the city centre to 52 student units with commercial use on the ground floor, and over behind London Road a  six-storey accommodation block of 121 student rooms in Oakes Street.

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9 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Andy HopleyDecember 2nd 2014.

Derek Hatton. The Cancer of Liverpool strikes again. Many people of Liverpool were well within their rights to have a street party when Maggie Thatcher died. I'll bloody well be cracking a few open when Hatton pegs it.

Urban BlighterDecember 2nd 2014.

Is this the latest victory for Uncle Joe to destroy the natural world by selling it all off to developers to build ugly little houses? You'd think he'd get them to develop all that patchwork of litter-strewn scrubland in the former inner suburbs that he and his predecessors have created by permitting the demolition of buildings when there was nothing to replace them.

scouse690December 2nd 2014.

Hidden from view??? Nursery Lane, off Long Lane Garston was named because "old man" Turner and his family, had a Nursery there....a PLANT & VEG & FLOWER Business with multiple greenhouses. My mum and my Auntie worked there, during the war, when they had finished their shifts at Lockheeds, they went and worked for him, with any spare time that they had. Turners was mass production , an early form of Garden Centre, but so much more. Everything was grown from seed, used their own compost, he never lifted a finger...he was a slave driver and paid them buttons (but they always went home with a few tomatoes in their pockets). They were both in their early teens then.

scouse690December 2nd 2014.

....and BTW Larry Neild...almost all of the "council houses" on Long Lane Garston, have been privately owned....for years!!

scouse690December 2nd 2014.

well said, urban blighter! Mayor Joe has demolished oodles of houses, and they have been replaced with so called "green spaces"...patches of grass and weeds that are impossible to use, by local residents...So he digs up Victorian Parks instead!!! Square patches of grass and weeds will never replace ANY OF OUR PARKS. Keep them as they are.....they belong to us!!

Steve FaragherDecember 3rd 2014.

after all we have no brownfield sites in Liverpool after all, council vandalism writ XXL

Steve FaragherDecember 3rd 2014.

Kensington/Edge Lane......... I remember when all this was houses

John EdmondsonDecember 5th 2014.

One solution to the never-ending game of "pass the parcel" with respect to the historic Botanic Garden plant collection is to rebuild the glasshouses at Wavertree Park on Edge Lane. How to pay for it? Well how about a Community Infrastructure Levy on the developers of the adjoining Littlewoods buildings? (Formerly known as Section 106 agreements). If it's good enough for Crossrail in London, it should be implemented here as well. Wavertree "Botanic Garden", listed by English Heritage, is badly in need of restoration, and the folk who live by and around Edge Lane deserve a break as well. The City Council urgently needs to burnish its green credentials; did I hear "Eden Project of the North"?

Steve LyusDecember 5th 2014.

Another idea might be to return the Orchid collection to Sudley House, which looked after them very successfully after the bombs hit the Wavertree glasshouses in 1941. Liverpool was once the Orchid Capital of the UK! I noticed on a recent visit to Sudley House that the existing Conservatory is out of bounds to the public, but is well maintained by the volunteers - elf & safety was the reason given for keeping it secret! Is this a Greenhills Mark II?

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