William Wigston Warner

William Wigston Warner
In the middle of St Ives is a green oasis where mature trees and hedgerows share the location with a children's playground. Joggers and dog walkers, children and pensioners, all enjoy this quiet space. In summer it's a picnic paradise, a place for families to gather and play. In colder months football matches take place. Dozens of snowmen magically appear after a fall of snow.

Warner's Park, St Ives
Warner's Park, with ridge & furrow undulations from medieval ploughing still visible
The field comprising Warner's Park has existed for hundreds of years. It is clearly visible on the 1728 Pettis map of the town. Ridge and furrow undulations from the medieval open strip field system can still be seen  What would St Ives be without Warner's Park?

The land was gifted to the town by William Wigston Warner on his death on 14 December 1905. William was a public-spirited benefactor. Five times Mayor of St Ives, he held various other public offices. Amongst these was as a committee member of the Literary Institute, to whom he donated the cost of an extension to their building just before his death. So who was William Wigston Warner?

Warner's Park on Pettis map 1728
Warner's Park outlined on the Pettis map of 1728
William was a St Ivian through and through. He lived in the family home, Stanley House, for all his life. This rather grand building, a prominent feature on Market Hill in the centre of town, has been occupied by St Ives Town Council since 1924. When William's parents died, first his father in 1872, his mother in 1876, William continued to live there with his brother, both unmarried men looked after by a housekeeper and a domestic servant.

Born on 5 September 1834, William was the eldest of four children born to John Warner, a butcher, and Ann. His father changed occupation to a currier and the business thrived. John employed seven men and had a cook and housemaid.

By 1871 the whole family were doing well. William, having taken over the currier business from his father, was also a landowner, employing eight curriers and three labourers. Even younger brother David, aged 26yrs, was a farmer and landowner, employing ten men and four boys and farming 370 acres. Both sons and one daughter still lived at home.

Stanley House, St Ives
Stanley House, St Ives
William had his first spell as Mayor of St Ives in 1877. He was re-elected in 1883, 1887, 1892 and 1897 and also served as a Justice of the Peace.

Some of William's land near the Somersham Road was used effectively as an allotment garden. For the 1880 St Ives Flower Show, held on Henry Goodman's land, William allowed visitors to walk around his nearly adjoining 'pleasant grounds'. Employing a gardener who was reported as taking several prizes at the Show, these appear to have been credited to William. By the 1888 St Ives Flower Show he was its President, his brother one of the stewards of management.

William died on Thursday 14 December 1905 after a chill made him more seriously ill. He was aged 71yrs. His funeral was reported in the Hunts Post 22 December 1905, the procession to Broad Leas Cemetery being a very long one.

At the time of his death William was a very rich man, leaving the equivalent of almost £6 million in his will. The Hunts Post 9 February 1906 reported an auction of some of William's effects, including a small private brewing plant removed from Stanley House, and a four-wheeled dog cart. A week later the London Standard reported on William's will, including that he had 'left a close of land for a public park for St. Ives'.

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