Chorley Historical and Archaeological Society

News and Views

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Mar 2008


Sun 30 Mar 2008

The lost Industries of White Coppice - field walk.

White Coppice low level, a walk around the lost industries.
We were fortunate with a nice day for the first field walk of the year. With members and a guest we had 12 in the group. White Coppice is famous for its idyllic setting, cricket field and beautiful countryside. The area is shown on Yates’s 1786 map but is called Warth. In the early
19th century the industrial revolution arrived with White Coppice Cotton and Muslin mill in 1835 and further down the valley the Heapey Bleach works. We started by walking round the cricket field to visit Rose Cottage, formerly the home of the Whitehead family around 1920. Margaret Whitehead was the headmistress at the local school and her daughter Elsie travelled to Chorley Grammar school each day and was head girl in the late 20s. She qualified as a teacher and eventually became headmistress at Withnell Fold primary school.

Mrs Margaret Whitehead

Elsie Whitehead c1920.

Alfred Ephraim Eccles (1830 - 1913)

Heading back towards White Coppice we came to a reservoir and walked along the embankment to look down on the site of the former cotton mill. All that remains are a few large blocks of masonry but in 1835 it became the industrial centre of White Coppice. Later it was managed by Alfred Ephraim Eccles who became a well known local reformer and eventually closed down most of the local beer houses. We walked up to White Coppice Farm and ‘Northwood’ which is where A.E. Eccles lived.

Mr Eccles died in 1913 but the house was later occupied by the parents of the Chorley Chemist Sir Walter Norman Howarth (1883 – 1950). In 1939 he was awarded the Nobel prize for his work on synthesising vitamin C and was also awarded a knighthood in 1947. We continued to the building which used to be the village school, which is now a private residence, then headed into the fields to follow a path alongside the reservoirs. The series of reservoirs fed the Heapey Bleach works which was build around 1880 near the site of an earlier mill.

Sir Norman Howarth (1883 – 1950)

A short break before heading off across the fields.

Continuing by Shackerley Cottages we crossed the bridge over the line of the now disused Chorley Cherry Tree railway. This was opened in Nov 1889 and eventually closed 99 years later as one of the caualties of the ‘Beaching Cuts’. After reaching Tithe Barn Lane we came to the house which used to be the Railway Hotel. A little further on we looked over the bridge to what was the site of Heapey Railway Station, now a very extensive group of kennel buildings. Continuing along the road we returned to the Cricket Field.

Tue 25 Mar 2008

The Benefits of Chorley having two Newspapers by John Harrison

These days as a local society we are often grateful for the additional publicity given to our activities and events by both the Chorley Guardian and the Chorley Citizen. However I was reminded recently that having two different reports about local events can often shed a wider light.
Our Heritage Weekend event in Chorley Cemetery in September 2007 reintroduced me to the Rigby Family of doctors, via their least salubrious of members, Dr. George Cardwell Rigby.

I first wrote about the Rigbys in Appendix C of my 1983 thesis “The Development of Medical Care and Public Health in Nineteenth Century Chorley.” (Copies of which are on the shelves of the Lancashire County Record Office and Chorley Reference Library.) Subsequent visits to the Cemetery last September led to the discovery of other Rigby graves, including that of one of George’s brothers, Dr. John Morris Rigby.

Even in the 1870s, his death at 42 seemed very young and my curiosity lead me to check out his newspaper obituary. (Chorley Reference Library has a very helpful index of Chorley Guardian obituaries coming up to relatively recent times.) I read the Guardian’s obituary and then also checked the obituary in the Chorley Standard, the “other” Chorley newspaper at that time. I’m glad I did! I noticed immediately that the Standard’s obituary was much longer, 541 words, as compared to 320 in the Guardian. Now that might have been down to the verbosity of the Standard’s obituary writer, but closer scrutiny revealed significant differences, as well as similarities, in the information provided.

•Age 42
•Died at his residence in St. Thomas’s Road.
•Eldest son of John Rigby Esq.
•Qualifications (MD, MRCSE, LM and LSA)
•Genial personality.

•Versions of a life debilitating illness. The Chorley Guardian reported “About nine years ago Dr. Rigby, when conducting a post-mortem examination, had the misfortune to become accidentally inoculated with virus, the effects of which were so severe at the time that it was feared he would succumb under them.” The Chorley Standard reported “ Whilst engaged some eight years ago in performing a post mortem examination of the body of a man who had been found dead, he accidentally allowed a sore finger to come into contact with the matter, the consequence was that symptoms of blood poisoning set in; and although everything possible was done to counteract the evil effects, the doctor never recovered his previous robust health.” It’s fascinating that the Guardian used the word “inoculated”, which at that time was quite emotive, with strong feelings for and against inoculation. Whether the writer was showing his ignorance or his prejudice we can only summise.

•Fatal illness. The Chorley Guardian reported “At the last Manchester Assizes he had to attend the court for three days, which aggravated a slight cold from which he was suffering, and subsequently St. Anthony’s fire or erysipelas set in with great severity.” The Chorley Standard provides more detail “ Whilst attending the recent funeral of the late Mr. Cheetham, the doctor caught a severe cold and before he had well got quit of it, he had to attend the Manchester Assizes in the Wrightington shooting case, through which his cold became intensified and erysipelas in the head (can’t read) about a fortnight since.”

•Scientific research. Not mentioned at all in the Chorley Guardian but the Chorley Standard reported “ Dr. John Rigby possessed in a remarkable degree talents for scientific research, especially in chemistry and botany, for which latter science we may say he was an enthusiast, for he has travelled with Mr. (can’t read) a local botanist, long distances (can’t read) and we know nothing gave the doctor so much pleasure as when he recounted to an attentive listener the beauties of the many rare botanical specimens which his garden and conservatory contained.” (It’s a pity that it is not possible to read the name of the local botanist!)

•Official positions. Some commonality but some differences in the listing of official posts that he held both as a doctor and as a Freemason. For example only the Guardian mentions that John Rigby was Assistant Surgeon to the 3rd Brigade of the Lancashire Voluntary Artillery, and only the Standard records “he was elected, from a number of applicants, to the newly-created office of Medical Officer to the Rural Sanitary Board for the Chorley Union (exclusive of the townships ruled by local boards), which office he occupied at the time of his decease.”

I think what this has shown is that newspapers are certainly a major source for local historians of the 19th and 20th centuries, but, even so, they only give one picture of an event or person. To make that a three-dimensional picture, other sources, including other newspapers did to be searched and analysed.

John Harrison
March 2008

Tue 11 Mar 2008

Steve Barritt on the Old Tram Road.

When the Lancaster Canal passed Chorley it originally set off towards Preston with the intention of continuing over the River Ribble and on to Kendal. Because of the huge cost of the river crossing a tram road was constructed to cross the gap between the canal which had reached Walton Summit and the north end of the canal at Preston. The tram road took three years to construct and was opened in 1803. It consisted of a dual cast iron plateway upon which horses pulled trains of up to six wagons, each carrying two tons of coal or limestone. The tramroad was eventually broken up about 1863 after the arrival of the railway age. The river Ribble was crossed by means of a bridge and a reconstructed concrete replica exists today.
Steve published an excellent book about the tram road in 2000. Copies can still be found if you look. A recent check showed that it was available from

The Old Tram Road by Steve Barritt,
ISBN 1-85936-058-0

The tram bridge in the 1860s

One of the cast iron plates


Steve's book

The tram bridge and part of the winding gear

Fri 07 Mar 2008

Chorley Historical and Archaeological Society Annual Dinner at the
Seaview, Whittle-le-Woods.

We now have a membership of over 50 for the first time. Not all were present at the dinner.


Sat 01 Mar 2008

South Ribble Museum, Leyland.
At home with Chorley Historical and Archaeological Society.

David Hunt the curator of the Museum asked us to visit the Museum to explain our work in the area and also show the film 'Fine Papermaking at Withnell Fold'. There was a showing of slides of some of our Society outings then the main film. The event was well attended with only a few seats left at the showing of the main film.

Inside the Museum.