'He just woke up, had an idea, and went and did it'
The man whose vision and drive led to the establishment of the phenomenally successful Barton Grange Garden Centre has retired.
After 65 years at the helm of one of Lancashire’s most successful family businesses, Eddie Topping has stepped down as chairman of The Barton Grange Group.
Now in his late eighties, Eddie has decided to retire and has handed over the chairmanship to his eldest son, Peter, who runs the business with younger brother Guy.
Preston-born Eddie started his own market garden business in 1955, before setting up a landscaping company in 1957 and then opening the region’s first garden centre in 1963 in the grounds of the then Barton Grange Hotel.
Eddie was always on the lookout for new ideas - and had been to America where he had seen the success of garden centres which were practically unheard of in the UK.
Barton Grange has since been voted best garden centre in the UK several times – and the Americans now see the UK as leading the way.
Eddie’s son Peter said: “When I was a little boy he had a stall on the market at Rochdale. I used to go with him early in the morning so I was was always involved.
“The garden centre really took off. He was very driven and very entrepeneurial.
“He just woke up, had an idea and went and did it. It all worked out!”
While Eddie worked seven days a week his sons also became immersed in the business.
Peter said: “He never put any pressure on us but we all ended up in the business. “
As the success of Barton Grange flourished, the garden centre then moved to its present and larger site at Brock.
And next to it is the impressive Flower Bowl with its cinema, crazy golf course and other attracttions.
After many decades in the business, Eddie felt now was the right time to give up the chairmanship of the Barton Grange Group.
Peter will continue to oversee Barton Grange Landscapes and the company’s various nurseries while Guy will continue in charge of the garden centre and the Flower Bowl.
Peter said: “As far as day to day operations are concerned, nothing will really change.
“But Dad’s in his late eighties now, so we all agree he’s earned his retirement and deserves to put his feet up!”
Eddie also became an influential character in the industry, and has been President of the Horticultural Trades Association and chairman of the Garden Centre Association over the years.
Peter said the garden centre industry was a very open one and Eddie was happy to share ideas with his colleagues, and vice-versa.
He has always supported local charities and organisations in the Preston area and, in 2003, he was awarded the MBE for services to charity in Preston.
Peter said: “Dad’s heart is still in horticulture and he has loved seeing the garden centre win multiple awards over the years.
“The business would never have been such a success without his vision and drive, and we’ll miss him in the boardroom.”
Eddie also found time for charitable works and is a past president of Preston North Rotary Club, of which he has been a member for more than 50 years.