ACW Garden Centre was started as a part time landscaping service in 1971 with a capital of £40. Mick Walmsley and his wife Ann started the business from their home address in Baildon. At that time Mick was a Senior Fire Officer based at Shipley. The business was registered in Ann’s name, thus ACW was derived from her initials. The main reason for this was that at that time firemen were not allowed to do part time work, (whereas helping your wife, unpaid, falls into the same category as helping with the washing up at home).
By 1973, the business had prospered and by then employed 15 full time staff (plus several off-duty firemen), carrying out landscaping projects throughout West Yorkshire. A small nursery “Springfield Nurseries” was purchased in Springfield road, Baildon, to house the vehicles and equipment. This was quickly out grown and sold, and the company moved to Lowfold Nurseries in Baildon where it was possible to grow some shrubs and other plants, these were sold to our landscape customers. Mick then gave up his job in the fire service and devoted all of his time to the business: Ann took charge of the office.
In 1974, the first venture into retailing began by opening Bradford’s first garden centre, this was situated on a small plot of land between Busbys (Debenhams main store) and their bedding store on Hallfield road. The site is approximately where Fads & Halfords stores are situated on Manningham lane opposite the Connought rooms. The business remained there and was added to with the opening of a small garden & pet shop in Chapel lane, Bingley (now occupied by Darren Todd’s Delicatessen).
1977 proved a turning point when the present site on Canal road was acquired. The site was hidden behind a 7ft high wall and was derelict railway sidings, which were regularly occupied by gypsies. In order to open on this site it was financially necessary to close the Hallfield road site, the Bingley shop and Lowfold Nurseries at Baildon from where the landscaping section worked. The stock from all three sites was moved there to become the meagre beginnings of today’s garden centre.
Over the next few years the business continued to prosper. In 1982, a rundown Lawnmower repair and light engineering works was purchased at Back Alton Grove in Shipley. This was renamed from Livetts to ACW Engineering, it specialised in engineering and lawnmower repairs, thus the forerunner of our present lawnmower sales and service department was born.
In July of 1980, Andrew Walmsley, the present Managing Director, joined the company on leaving school, followed 2 years later by his sister Sally who is now Company Secretary of ACW’s sister company in Harden.
In 1985, Woodbank Nurseries at Harden near Bingley was purchased as a semi derelict nursery with adjacent fields totalling approximately 12 acres. The intention of this purchase was to produce our own locally grown shrubs and plants to sell at both sites. In 1990, Mick moved to run the nursery in order to oversee it’s development, leaving the rest of the family to run the canal road site. Since then as the nursery has grown, Ann and Sally have spent more time at the Harden Nursery which now produces a large percentage of the plants sold at both sites.
On 18th July 2000, ACW Garden Centre suffered a devastating fire at it’s Canal road site. The entire covered sales area together with workshops, offices, staff and store rooms were totally destroyed, leaving only the open yard stock surviving. Over the next nine months, new buildings and layouts for the site were constructed whilst still trading from temporary buildings within the yard area.
Good Friday 2001 saw the full reopening of the site. A modern garden centre of the 21st Century had risen from the ashes.
The founding family are still all actively concerned in the business and are always pleased to see that many of their original customers and families still visit.