Chorley Historical and Archaeological Society

News and Views

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June 2008


Wed 18 Jun 2008

Community Archives Development Group conference University College, London

The second annual conference for the Community Archives Development Group was held at the University College, London. After some recent bad experiences with trains arriving late or not at all I was glad that the Preston to Euston left and arrived on time. The college is a short walk from Euston and I was able to spend a few minutes reflecting on the history of Euston railway station. It was the first inter-city railway station to be built in London in 1837. It is the terminus of the London and Birmingham Railway constructed by Robert Stephenson, son of George Stephenson.

Robert Stephenson (1803 - 1859)
statue outside Euston.

Busy commuters arrive at Euston Railway Station.

Harries Massey lecture theatre

This year the conference was held in the Harries Massey lecture theatre, which I didn’t think was as comfortable as last years.
The first speaker was Gerry Slater, former Director of the Public Records Office in Northern Ireland. His fascinating presentation explained how early methods of holding information was more of a comfort zone for archivists who considered the information was theirs and not to be accessed by the general public. Also how official archives would hide the truth. But now with community archives becoming more common people were engaged with their heritage. An important point that he made is that “memory is a perishable commodity”.

Of the other speakers the most interesting was Helen Barker of the Beamish Museum, Tyne and Wear. Her presentation was called ‘The Heritage Cubes Project’ which meant nothing to me until she explained it. The cubes scheme was developed by Beamish, and Tyne and Wear Museum as a service to local groups with an interest in local history. The Cubes are aluminium boxes stored within the archive centre in secure surroundings. The contents remain in the ownership of the submitting group who are encouraged to display their materials to the public with the assistance and expertise of the museum staff. His means that a group that has artefacts and memorabilia can bring it all together for access and not have the collection dispersed among members in a variety of location such as attics and spare rooms. As far as I know this is the only location where this kind of project us used.
After listening to all the presentations it was a concern that when grant money, that is needed to run them, runs out there doesn’t seem to be a system in place to hold the information gathered.

University College, London.

Sat 14 Jun 2008

The Royal Geographic Society - Visions of the World.
At the South Ribble Museum, Leyland.

11am saw the opening of another of their excellent exhibitions. The Royal Geographic Society’s ‘Visions of the World’ The event was opened by Mr Bryan Gray MBE, DL in the presence of The Mayor of South Ribble, Barry Yates.

The exhibition contained some of the best images from all over the world almost from the dawn of photography. Many were from the 19th century and displayed amazing quality.


Niagara Falls, Canada 1860s

David Hunt, Barry Yates the Mayor of South Ribble
Mr Bryan Gray MBE, DL

Deflating a balloon on Scott's first
Antarctic expedition in 1904


Fri 13 Jun 2008

At Chorley Library local author and historian Dave Smith gave his presentation on Heath Charnock Isolation Hospital. It was part of the celebration of 60years of the National Health Service. Dave published a book about the history of the hospital and his talk was an extension of that. 6acreas of land were purchased for £600 and the foundation stone was laid in 1898. The hospital was competed and opened in 1901 and finally closed in 1982. Pre 1948 it dealt with isolation and tuberculosis and then infectious diseases up to 1958. After that it was long stay patients. Harry Whittaker was an ambulance driver at the hospital and provided Dave with many photographs and historical information.

Dave Smith at Chorley Library.

Tue 10 Jun 2008

Glen Atkinson on 'Digging the Big Ditch' the construction of the Manchester Ship Canal.

Glen Atkinson visited us from Worsley to present his talk ‘Digging the Big Ditch’ all about the construction of the Manchester Ship Canal. Glen’s talk was lavishly illustrated with original photographs taken in the 1880s and 90s in their original format of glass lantern slides.
During the 1800s Manchester was reliant on Liverpool Docks to receive and send goods from the city.

The opening of the Manchester Ship Canal took place on New Year's Day, 1894. A procession of vessels made their way along the Canal, including the 'Norseman' at its head, carrying the Company Directors. Later on that year in May the Canal had its formal opening by Queen Victoria.

Admission Ticket For One Person On Board the Steamer 'Great Britain' at Latchford Locks for the Manchester Ship Canal Opening, 1st January, 1894

1892. A navvy with barrow on the construction of the Manchester Ship Canal. Despite the use of machinery thousands of men were still employed to work on the construction of the canal equipped with spades and other hand tools.

Excessive charges made by the Port of Liverpool, and also the railways, caused Manchester to consider and alternative route into the city. To bypass Liverpool and the railways a new navigation would be needed and so the construction of 36 miles of the Manchester Ship canal began in 1888 and it was opened on the 1st Jan 1894. The cost was £15million and at one point here were 16,000 men employed on the project.

1892. Over 16,000 men and boys worked on the construction of the Manchester Ship Canal. Known as navvies, they worked in all weathers, often in difficult conditions, as shown here. This well known image also shows the use of a temporary railway network, which was laid along the Canal route, carrying men and material around the Works.

Sun 08 Jun 2008

Wheelton Methodist Church (1842 - 2008) - the last service.

Today was the last service at the Wheelton Methodist Church in Higher Wheelton. The church was opened in Aug 1842. A congregation of 32 attended the service by Rev Andrew Mashiter. The hymns were chosen to suit the occasion and the final hymn, ‘The day thou gavest’ written by John Ellerton (1826-93), contained the suitable line ’The dawn leads on another day’

the last service

the last congregation

Wed 04 Jun 2008

Bill Shannon at Wigan Archaeological Society

Bill Shannon from the Lancashire Archaeological Society spoke about the early maps and documents with references to Hadrian’s Wall. Some early references were made by Gildas in AD 540 and Bede, of Jarrow, in AD730. The first detailed description was by John Leland (1506-1552).
The naming of the wall is also interesting. What did the Roman’s call it? Probably ‘The Aelian Wall’. Early written references and maps called it ‘The Pict’s Wall’. From the 19th century to the 1920s it was called ‘The Roman Wall’ and only since the 1920s has it been called ‘Hadrian’s Wall’.

An early map of the 1540s

Bill Shannon at Wigan

 June 2008

Follow-up to Field Walk - Lost Industries of White Coppice and Heapey - Sun 30 March 2008

Additional notes from John Harrison
The great thing about field walks is that they stimulate thought, discussion and further research. A good example of this was Boyd Harris’s walk on 30 March this year which started at White Coppice and took us around White Coppice and Heapey. Particularly fascinating were the stories of a mill under the lodge, and a run away train on the Chorley to Cherry Tree line.
It was partly as a result of this that I later “surfed” back copies of “The Times” and came across some fascinating supplementary information. I found it in the issue for August 15 1891, as part of an article entitled “Serious Floods in Lancashire.” It seemed to have been a widespread problem, with Darwen particularly badly affected. However it then describes the devastation in Heapey and White Coppice, shedding some further light on the issues of mills, the goyt and railways that Boyd illuminated a month or so ago.

“In the hilly district of Heapey the rainstorm raged with fury, and houses and mills suffered seriously. Yesterday morning at 3 o’clock it was found that the embankment about half-a-mile beyond Heapey Station was giving way, and the engine-drivers were warned. A couple of hours later the swollen brook, which runs by the side of the highway from Heapey to Chorley, overflowed its banks, and forced its way under the railway bridge, with the result the wall at length gave way and part of the bridge and tons of earth were flung across the rails. The water then rushed across the lines, and a large volume flowed down the line, and undermined the foundations so seriously that traffic had to be stopped. The first to discover the mishap to the bridge was an engine-driver, a couple of wagons being thrown off the track. It was some hours before the traffic could be carried on again. A third slip occurred at the bridge close to Heapey Station, but this was not very serious.

Great damage was done, however, to White Coppice Mills, about three-quarters of a mile from the railway station. The mills which belong to Mr. A. Eccles, are situate at the bottom of the bank of a large reservoir which feeds the boilers. The top of the bank is nearly level with the roof of the mill. About half a mile further back runs the sluice which carries the surplus water from the Roddlesworth to the Rivington reservoirs of the Liverpool Corporation. The sluice also collects the water from the mountain rivulets along its course. One of these brooks comes down the centre of a particularly deep clough at the Chorley end of the sluice, and yesterday morning several thousand tons of earth from the hill side fell into the boiling stream and were carried into the sluice below, completely blocking it. The result was that the dammed-up waters rushed over the sluice bank and into the White Coppice reservoir. The bywash of the lodge proved insufficient to carry off the water, which began to roll over the embankment a yard deep. The flood forced its way into the mills through the windows of the mechanics’ shop and swept everything out by the front door. The main body of the stream was then deflected by a wall into the boiler-house, which was quickly filled. Eventually the water burrowed its way under the foundations of the mill, carrying with it tons of earth. Fortunately a man on duty in the mill went across the dam, and the occupants of the houses were aroused from their sleep and got out of danger, as were a number of others who resided along the course of the stream. The water flooded the shed, and has spoiled a lot of warp, and some cloth was carried into the road. The stock in was fortunately low, but the damage must be very great. The mill was stopped, but the looms were started again at dinner time. Lower down several bridges which crossed the brook have been carried away, and the water which supplies the Dacca Twist Company was so dirty that the place had to be stopped. Twice before within a month the valley has been flooded, but not to so serious an extent. On this occasion there can be little doubt that if the flood had continued much longer the embankment of the White Coppice reservoir would have gone, and the loss of life might have been heavy.”

What a graphic description of a nightmare scenario for the residents, workers and mill-owner in White Coppice!