In this latest part of my look at Burton upon Trent’s landmarks, I’ll be taking a look at Stapenhill Gardens and its iconic swan sculpture.
Stapenhill Gardens is a public park created in the 1930s on the site of a former manor house, Stapenhill House. The house had been given to the public by Henry Goodger, in memory of his mother Mary Goodger, who became the borough’s first female councillor in 1923, at the age of 84. Burton Corporation subsequently demolished the house and began creating the gardens we have today.
The pleasure grounds consist of a garden just off Main Street in Stapenhill, which has a bandstand, children’s play area and benches for people to sit on and enjoy the gardens. A “Peace & Unity” garden was opened in the area in summer 2018. A sundial is located in the middle of the pleasure grounds to mark the site of the former Stapenhill House. The gardens stretch down to the side of the river down a terraced area with pathways and flower beds.
The Stapenhill Swan, arguably the most recognisable and best-known statue in the town, was built by a team of gardeners who looked after the Stapenhill gardens. It was built by hand from reclaimed bricks, mortar and cement which were then painted white. The “eyes” of the swan are, in fact, glass marbles. The marbles were purchased from the local branch of Woolworths. It is said that Archie Moore, one of the gardeners involved in the project, spent hours sorting through the box of marbles in the shop to find two marbles which were exactly alike, such was his attention to detail. Those very marbles are still in the swan’s head today.
The Stapenhill Swan was originally surrounded by a water feature, but this was removed over safety concerns. When it was completed, the park superintendent branded it a “monstrosity”. In spite of his opinion, it has stood proudly by the river since 1953. It was refurbished in 2018 with repairs and a new coat of paint, ensuring that it remains a part of Burton life for years to come.
The gardens are easily accessible on foot from the town centre via the Ferry Bridge and St Peter’s Bridge. There is a footbridge over St Peter’s Bridge which leads from the former Stapenhill House gardens to the arboretum near St Peter’s Church. There is also a path under St Peter’s bridge which leads to a lower path running alongside the river. The upper and lower paths converge at Stapenhill Hollows.
Stapenhill Hollows is a large open space, used by cricketers, footballers, sunbathers (when the weather is fine), as well as dog walkers. There is a riverside path along the Trent, with benches and a spectacular display of daffodils in the spring time.
Stapenhill Woodland Walk
The riverside path leads to the Woodland Walk, a network of paths on the upper and lower levels of the woodlands. It’s easy to traverse between the two levels, with a staircase and also a pathway for those who can’t manage stairs.
On the lower level, near the exit to Stapenhill Road, is a curious looking arch structure which is actually built from stone from the old medieval bridge which used to cross the Trent, until it was replaced by Trent Bridge in the 19th century.
The local council currently have plans to regenerate the Stapenhill Gardens area in the next four years, with new benches, pathways, children’s play equipment and the planting of more trees to ensure that this area remains popular with tourists and locals alike.
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