I was born in Bury in 1943 and so have known the Abbey Gardens since a little after that.
As we lived in Churchgate Street at that time, I was doubtless pushed around the gardens in pram & pushchair. There were no monkeys or animals there then, as far as I can remember, and the only play equipment was a large maypole, some swings and maybe a slide.
In later years I was taken there by my grandfather and my uncle and introduced to bowls. The game was played very seriously in those days and I was only allowed to roll a bowl when there were no matches in progress.
There were also putting greens both sides of the main pathway from the Abbey Gate. I don’t know if they are still there? They were still there in the ‘70 & ‘80s when we took our son to the gardens on visits to my parents.
There was a Band Stand at the bottom of the central pathway to the left as you faced the river, and on Sundays, and High Days and Holidays; various Brass Bands would play there. I believe Greene King had a Band in those days. It was also always sunny and hot.
In the Cloister Gardens, down in the hollow, was a beautiful copper beech tree with long spreading branches. Where in later days, one could lie in the shade with girlfriend’s (I didn’t have that many!) and hope that no relatives walked by! Alas the tree is long gone now.
One very memorable occasion which must have been in the ‘50s, was a Scout Jamboree in the Gardens. I was in the 5th Bury Troop and we camped for one or two nights down on the grass area around the old Dovecote. We were in large ex- army bell tents, feet to the centre. Very little sleep was had and I remember that, for a dare, we streaked naked around the camp area in the dead of night.
Latterly when my father was wheelchair bound we walked with him in the Gardens and listened to the band, this time in the Cloister Gardens. Again it was a lovely sunny day.
That’s my abiding memory of the Gardens, always sunny, relaxing and fun.