Bancroft Gardens in Stratford-upon-Avon was re-opening today following a £3?million major landscaping project.
Actor Sir Donald Sinden and Coun Les Topham, leader of Stratford Council, were due to officially unveil the site, located next to the Royal Shakespeare Theatre on the River Avon.
About 100 community representatives, civic leaders and business and tourism bodies were expected to attend the opening of the gardens – a project which has been undertaken by World Class Stratford. The Princess Royal will also attend the opening to honour the lives of four firefighters who died in a warehouse blaze in Warwickshire.
New features at Bancroft Gardens include the sundial and entertainment area, canal lock bridge, granite pathways, yew hedging and flower beds featuring shrubs, herbs and flowers popular in the time of William Shakespeare.
The project design and layout draws on the original Art Deco style of the Elizabeth Scott designs of the 1930s.
Coun Topham said the opening marks a revival for the town. He said: “The Bancroft Gardens are a fantastic advert and attraction for Stratford and I am delighted to see them re-open to public use. I am also very pleased that so many local groups and organisations will be involved on the day.
“I think the Bancroft has been reborn as a result of this work. It will be the perfect companion and complement for the theatre and other improvements that will be made to this area of the town over the next 12 months.
“I also hope that completion of the project will mark the beginning of a real revival in the fortunes of the town and that the new Bancroft will help local businesses – particularly the ones which have been most affected by the closure – to fight back against the difficult times everyone is going through.”
The opening will feature the unveiling of a commemorative plaque and tourist information point on the Theatre Promenade.
The Swan Fountain, reinstalled on Waterside near the junction with Sheep Street, will be switched on by the winners of an art competition for local school children. A letter of congratulations from Her Majesty the Queen will be read out – the Queen switched on the fountain when it was installed in 1996.
The Queen’s daughter Princess Anne is to unveil a dedication in memory of Ashley Stephens, aged 20, Darren Yates-Badley, 24, John Averis, 27, and Ian Reid, 44, who were killed as they attempted to tackle the fire at a vegetable-packing plant in Atherstone-on-Stour, Warwickshire, on November 2.
The tribute – a small amphitheatre, close to the River Avon at Bancroft Gardens – will be engraved with pictures and words to celebrate the life and work of the men. Four lime trees, representing each life lost, will shade the area.