Eddie Topping, founder of Barton Grange, passed away on Monday evening at the age of 89, with his family at his side. Eddie devoted his life to the horticultural industry and charitable causes in the local area.
He leaves behind his second wife, Avis, sons Peter, Ian and Guy, daughters Jane and Anne, nine grandchildren and a great-granddaughter.
Guy Topping, paid tribute to his father, saying: “Dad was such a huge character who touched the lives of so many people over many, many years.
“His death is a huge loss to the whole family, and all his friends and colleagues. We have received hundreds of messages from people all over the world who knew Dad from his work in garden retail or through his huge efforts for local charities.
“He will be sorely missed but very fondly remembered for so many reasons.”
Eddie was born on the 28th May, 1932, the only child of Edward and Ada Topping, market gardeners of New Longton. In 1945 Edward and Ada purchased Barton Grange, a six-bedroomed country manor house and six years later Ada opened the house as Barton Grange Hotel. Edward continued the market gardening business from the hotel grounds.
Eddie undertook National Service as a Bombardier in the Royal Artillery Regiment before returning home, in 1956, with his wife Kathleen, to take over his father’s business. Shortly afterwards he started Barton Grange Landscapes and then, in 1963, opened the North West’s very first garden centre. Fitting in time for family life Eddie and Kath had a daughter, Jane and three sons – Peter, Ian and Guy.
In 1968, devastatingly, Kath died suddenly of cancer, leaving Eddie with four children under the age of ten.
Nonetheless, Eddie managed to pick himself up and his enthusiasm and irrepressible passion for business now carried all before it. The garden centre flourished, growing rapidly to become a favourite visit for people throughout the county. Forty acres of wholesale container shrub nurseries soon followed and in the late 1970s, upon his mother’s retirement, Eddie also took over the running of Barton Grange Hotel.
A new wife, Avis, and baby daughter Anne, along with four busy businesses did nothing to slow Eddie down and by the mid-eighties Barton Grange Hotel had 70 bedrooms, conference and banqueting facilities for 300, a restaurant and the Thirsty Gardener Public House. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher had been to stay with her husband Dennis. Enjoying the hotel business, Eddie added the Strathmore Hotel in Morecambe to his portfolio and in total was employing more than 250 Lancastrians.
By 1991 Peter, Ian and Guy, having worked their way around the world in a wide variety of jobs, were back in the business as landscaper, hotelier and garden centre operator respectively and Eddie, now in his sixties, managed the gargantuan feat, over ten years, of handing over his ‘babies’ to his sons - with remarkably few cross words!
As a committed Rotarian, Eddie had always been involved in various charitable endeavours but was now able to commit more time to such things and became the Chairman of Vine House, a local charity set up to aid cancer sufferers and their families. In 2003 Eddie’s lifelong commitment to both charity and the world of horticulture was recognised when he received an MBE from the Queen.
During Preston Guild 2012 the public were asked to nominate prominent Prestonians to be considered for elevation to Burgess Status – a rank dating back to Preston’s first Royal Charter in 1179 but, for the previous two hundred years, only attainable by heredity. Eddie was one of the twenty chosen.
In later life Eddie took great pleasure in watching the business move on and was always fully supportive of any proposed developments. There was nothing he liked more than wandering through the Garden Centre or Flower Bowl, chatting to anyone he met, cadging a cuddle here and there and always ending with at least one cake or dessert!
Eddie passed away peacefully with his family at his side on Monday 6th September 2021.
On Tuesday September 28th Eddie’s coffin will rest at Barton Grange Garden Centre from 1.15pm-1.45pm for the paying of respects.
The Funeral Cortege will leave Barton Grange Garden Centre at 1.45pm and travel through Bilsborrow and Barton, pausing at Barton Manor Hotel, en route to a private family cremation.
This will be followed by A Celebration of his Life.
St Lawrence’s Church, Barton at 3.30pm
All are very welcome.
Dress Code: Black Not Required
Parking at Barton Manor Hotel
The Celebration of Life will be live streamed.
For instructions, please follow the link on Eddie’s obituary page at: www.greghodgkinsonfunerals.co.uk
No flowers please.
Donations if desired may be made in memory of Eddie to Cancer Help (Preston) Limited ℅ Greg Hodgkinson Funerals of Garstang