Eden Bridge Gardens, Carlisle

Walked and driven past thousands of times a day, the significance of these municipal gardens is largely unknown to the City’s inhabitants.

Situated on the north bank of the River Eden just off Eden Bridge is Eden Bridge Gardens, designed by the internationally renowned landscape architects Thomas H Mawson & Sons.


Eden Bridge (Italian) Gardens, Carlisle

Eden Bridge (Italian) Gardens, Carlisle

For some peculiar reason, these gardens have been known locally for many years as the “Chinese Gardens”. However, there is nothing Chinese in the design and anybody knowledgeable in the works of Thomas Mawson, knows that he was famed for his grand Italianate designs, still existing at many stately homes including Rydal Hall in Cumbria.


Built using unemployed labour in the depression of the 1930’s, under the supervision of the City Engineer, Percy Dalton, these gardens costs just over £3,000, the cost being kept down by the use of reclaimed materials. The white cove stone used to make the rest houses was taken from the old Eden Bridge parapets that were demolished during the bridge widening operations of 1930 to 1932. The sandstone used to build the retaining walls was taken from the old gaol in English Street and the crazy paving paths that run throughout the garden was taken from the old road, which used to pass over Eden Bridge.  All of this, long before the word “recycling” was even heard of.

Opened in 1933 by City Mayor, Councillor E.B Gray, the design featured the classic Mawson pergolas

Eden Bridge Gardens Opening Plaque 1933

Eden Bridge Gardens Opening Plaque 1933

and raised terraces overlooking lily ponds. Crazy paving and a simple rock garden completes the setting.  Most of the design work is likely to be attributed to Thomas Mawsons’ son Edward as Thomas was suffering from Parkinson’s disease and indeed died in November 1933.  This was possibly one of the last designs that Thomas Mawson may have contributed to.


Sadly these gardens are in disrepair, but a grant of £50,000 has recently been awarded by The Heritage Lottery Fund to help the City Council with restoration. Work will start in October 2008 by Carlisle City Council employees.

The scheme will see vital repairs, made to the rose pergolas and Lily ponds. The rock garden will be cut back and invasive species and weeds removed and the surrounding trees cut back to allow more light into the garden and create site lines through to the main Rose pergola. The steps, which connect the two raised terraces, are to be relaid and the crazy paving paths repointed. The work is expected to take six months to complete.

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