Writing down the family history is one of those tasks that few of us ever find time for.
But for one Lancashire family a peek back over the last 100 years has revealed a fascinating tale of
entrepreneurship and single-mindedness.
And now the Toppings, whose name is synonymous with the Barton Grange group, have decided to
share that story by publishing a book about the driving forces behind their success.
First under the microscope in ‘Barton Grange, A Topping Tale’, is Ada Theobald, a remarkable
woman who, despite leaving school in 1918 aged just 13, went on to found and head up the family
Always a hard worker, Ada opened her own greengrocer’s shop in Preston when she was just 20 and,
after marrying market gardener Edward Topping from New Longton and having a son, Eddie,
continued to contribute to the family income.
She did this is a variety of creative ways, rising at 4am every Friday to make potato cakes for sale at
market, producing jams and marmalades and, during the Second World War, taking in paying guests.
It wasn’t until 1951, after a long wait while the War Ministry derequisitioned the dilapidated manor
house she and Edward has bought on the A6 at Barton, that Ada was able to take the next step
towards her dream of becoming an hotelier.
She was 46 when she embarked on her new career; young Eddie, who was to take over his father’s
market gardening business, was almost 20.
Eddie’s son Ian, one of the third generation of Toppings to be involved in the business, along with his
brothers Guy and Peter, stepped back from running the hotel two years ago, allowing him time to
collaborate with local historian and author Carole Knight in writing the book.
He said: “I wrote a history of Barton Grange when I was at college and always said I’d complete it.
We wanted to do it for dad, so he had it all written down. It’s a testament to everything that he and
my grandparents have done.”
‘Barton Grange: A Topping Tale’ is available from Barton Grange Garden Centre priced £9.95 with £2
from every sale going to Vine House, CancerHelp’s day care centre in Preston.
Barton: Barton Grange Garden Centre 1963
Barton: Barton Grange Garden Centre in 1967
Ada: Ada married Edward Topping in 1929 at Emmanuel Church, Preston
Prior: Prior to the book launch - Eddie Topping with sons (from left) Ian, Peter and Guy
Ready: Looking back - staff get ready for a wedding at Barton Grange Hotel in the early 1950s
Aerial: Aerial view of Barton Grange Hotel and Garden Centre in 1967