Behind the scenes at RHS Bridgewater and the old mansion inspiring the next generation of gardeners

The new RHS Garden Bridgewater in Salford was once the site of one of the region's most magnificent Victorian mansions.

Worsley New Hall was built for the 1st Earl of Ellesmere between 1840 and 1845. The grand Gothic-style home was designed by the leading architect of the time, Edward Blore, and boasted incredible views thanks to its elevated south facing position.

This particular project cost just under £100,000 to build, the equivalent of around £6.7 million today.

Hidden gem: Worsley New Hall was once one of the region's most impressive Victorian mansions which hosted royalty Credit: Mullineux Photographic Collection at Chethams Library, Manchester

"In its heyday, you would have had a series of formal terraces going down to the lake at the bottom." explains RHS volunteer tour guide Janice McGrath.

"And they were planted in a very formal style called parterres de broderie. There would have been croquet lawns and tennis courts on one side, and then further away there were pleasure grounds as well."

How the gardens at Worsley New Hall once looked Credit: RHS

We've been taken behind-the-scenes of RHS Garden Bridgewater to a place not normally accessible to the public - the site where the old mansion once stood.

"It was once such a vibrant place you know, there were magnificent parties and it was just a really important part of the local area."

Janice McGrath is a volunteer tour guide at the RHS, and is one of those who have been conducting hidden history walking tours at Bridgewater.

"It's great now to bring people up here to where it was once such a vibrant place, and it is wonderful to be able to bring this part back to life."

The grand Gothic-style mansion of Worsley New Hall was designed by the architect Edward Blore. Credit: RHS / Cunliffe Family Collection

During the First World War, the hall was given over to the Red Cross and became a hospital for wounded officers.

"Sadly the Ellesmere family never returned to the hall after that. They have the usual problems that these stately homes experienced at that time; there were fewer servants around, and death duties to pay.

"That then began a sad decline in the hall's history. There was a fire in 1943 and it suffered dry rot and eventually it became so unstable that it had to be demolished," Janice explains.

Scouts used the site of the demolished Worsley New Hall for camps Credit: RHS/JT Morris

In the more recent past, the site was used by the scouts for camps, and it was also home to a cold war bunker, which some locals may remember as the site of illegal raves.

But whilst the house may have gone, it is certainly not forgotten because the history of Worsley New Hall and its grounds are inspiring future plans for RHS Garden Bridgewater.

Worsley New Hall was built for the 1st Earl of Ellesmere between 1840 and 1845 Credit: RHS

As Bridgewater's curator Marcus Chilton-Jones explains, they have ambitious plans to redevelop this part of the site, which will involve re-imagining the historic hall's terraces.

"There are certain elements that will definitely stay and be there and be celebrated," says Chilton-Jones.

"So the the form of the land, the terraces themselves will be opened up. They are an historic feature, and they should be celebrated and worked upon. They were designed by William Ness, and they will be reimagined and reworked, celebrating some of the features that are there."

RHS Curator Marcus Chilton-Jones talks to ITV Granada's Mel Barham Credit: ITV News

He explains it will not be a restoration project, but instead more like a garden for the future.

"Those historic elements give it a foot in the past that you can then paint a new picture on, so we can restore the frame, if you like, the picture frame, but then paint a new picture and getting the picture frame right and identifying exactly what it is before you'll paint the new picture is really important."

Reworking the historic terraces is not the only plan for this part of the site. They are also looking to build a glasshouse to grow plants in, a new school of horticulture and an arboretum.

But those are not the only plans afoot, because work has already started on the new Chinese garden, a unique collaboration with designers in China.

"The Chinese garden is probably one of the most exciting initiatives that we're running through at the moment on site. It's a long term vision for about seven acres of the garden," explains Marcus excitedly.

An artist impression of what the new Chinese stream-side garden at Bridgewater will look like Credit: RHS

The plan is for a series of traditional pagodas, and it is being billed as one of the UK's first ever genuine Chinese classical gardens.

"What is really unique about the Chinese stream-side garden is this collaboration with the local Chinese community and Chinese designers on mainland China.

"We're working with them so that it has an authenticity, a heart to it, which is genuinely Chinese. A lot of historic ethnic gardens, be they Chinese, be they Japanese, tend to be British interpretations of what those places are like, whereas this is quite different because the heart of the garden is designed by Chinese people, and then the enveloping areas are being designed by us, but we're working in tandem with them.

"So we've got this collaboration and this fusion of two quite distinct gardening styles that need to work together in harmony."

It is all a work in progress, but one that promises to breathe new life into a land previously lost to the past.