Chorley Historical and Archaeological Society

News and Views

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Nov 2008

Sat 29 Nov 2008

The Dawn of the Motorway Age.
M6 - 50 years of the Preston By-Pass - UK's first motorway.

On the 5th Dec 1958 the Preston By-Pass opened. It was the UK’s first motorway and this morning an exhibition to commemorate it was open at the Museum of Lancashire, Stanley St., Preston. The scheme was mostly thanks to Sir James Drake, Lancashire’s County Surveyor and Bridge master. The world’s first motorway was opened in Italy in 1924. Some other interesting facts are:
1923 The first roundabouts were created,
1927 A single white line was used to divide each side of the road,
1930 Minimum driving age of 17 was set,
1935 1 June driving tests became compulsory,
1951 The first zebra crossing was introduced in Slough,
1967 The Annual MOT test for all cars over 3 years old replaces the 10 year requirement introduced in 1960.

The exhibition opens.

Sir James Drake - County Surveyor and Bridge master

Preston congestion before the motorway age.


Thu 27 Nov 2008

Lizzie Jones at Astley Hall presenting 'The Conspiring Countess'

Lizzie Jones made a very welcome return to Chorley and the magnificent main hall of Astley Hall to present her performance of ‘The Conspiring Countess’. The event was a ‘sell out’ and every seat in the hall was taken.
The true story she told was all about Bess of Hardwick and her rise from relatively humble beginnings to become one of the wealthiest women in England. Her full name was Elizabeth Talbot, Countess of Shrewsbury (1527 – 1608) and tonight’s presentation marked the 400th anniversary of her death. Bess was the third daughter of John Hardwick and was married for the first time to Richard Barlow at the early age of 13, Richard was of a similar age but sadly didn’t live long after the marriage and died in his teens leaving Bess a very wealthy teenager. She married for the second time to Sir William Cavendish who was more than 20 years older than she was. They had 8 children but only 4 survived infancy. Sir William died in 1557 and left Bess even wealthier but she had to re-marry quickly to preserve her wealth.

Bess of Hardwick c1550

Lizzie Jones as Bess of Hardwick

In 1559 Bess married Sir William Loe, who was Captain of the Guard to Queen Elizabeth I. Unfortunately Sir William died 5 years later leaving Bess even richer still. Bess was also Lady in Waiting to Queen Elizabeth I and at times was imprisoned by her for associations with others. In 1567 Bess married George Talbot, 6th Earl of Shrewsbury - an extremely rich and powerful man. Shortly after George Talbot was made the guardian of Mary Queen of Scots which for 15 years inflicted a considerable financial drain on their finances. He complained of the £20 per day expenses and even £1000 per year for wine to quench the thirst of Mary’s entourage. The whole affair was strictly controlled by Elizabeth I who would not allow any visitors or travelling without her permission. Bess continued her conspiring ways by arranging a meeting and subsequent controversial marriage between her granddaughter Arabella and Lord Denbigh. Arbella Stuart was raised by her grandmother Bess of Hardwick. Queen Elizabeth I had indicated that Arbella might be named her heir and Bess raised Arbella extremely strictly believing that her granddaughter was destined to become the next Queen of England.

Bess was ambitious and arranged the betrothal of the 8 year old Arbella to Lord Denbigh, the two year old son of the Earl of Leicester and Lettice Knollys. Queen Elizabeth was furious. The relationship between Bess and Arbella completely deteriorated. Arbella was so restricted by Bess that she felt like a prisoner. Arbella never became Queen of England.
In 1590 George Talbot, the Earl of Shrewsbury died. The marriage between himself and Bess had been a bitter and unhappy one. He had described Bess as “that sharp bitter shrew”. Bess became the richest woman in England, second only to Queen Elizabeth. Bess built her magnificent home called Hardwick Hall and was referred to as Bess of Hardwick. She died there on 13th February 1608.
Wine and mince pies rounded the evening off nicely.

Tue 11 Nov 2008

Mike Clarke presents 'Lancashire's Earliest Canals'

Mike Clarke made a very welcome return to present “The Duke of Bridgewater – The Father of British Canals?” The question mark on the end of the title was to indicate some doubt about his effect on the canal. Mike began by explaining the origins of the canal system of transportation that emerged after the Roman Empire. They are generally agreed to have started under the rule of Charlemagne in Bavaria in 793AD. The canal system was quite extensive in Europe when Britain stated to use them. In 1600 we had 700 miles of canals and by 1760 they had expanded to 1300 miles.

Mike Clarke

Charlemagn and Pope Adrian.

Mike then spoke about the Bridgewater Canal, commissioned by Francis Egerton, 3rd Duke of Bridgewater. It connected Runcorn, Manchester and Leigh and was used to transport coal from his mines in Worsley to Manchester. It was opened in 1761 from Worsley to Manchester and later extended from Manchester to Runcorn, and then from Worsley to Leigh. By examining the economic development through the country at the time it was interesting to note that developments elsewhere were just as important as those instigated by the Duke of Bridgewater. The north of England and in particular Lancashire was also shown to be the economic powerhouse of the country; with the cotton / textile industry producing 10 times more money for the economy than the coal industry and 3 times more money than iron and steel industry.


After the talk Mike spoke briefly about the information marker posts that had been erected along the Leeds and Liverpool canal at Johnson's Hillock, Whittle-le-Woods. They illustrated the working of various aspects of barge hauling and the operation of the locks both as descriptive text and three dimensional reliefs. Several members had seen them and been impressed by their usefulness. They were erected with grant aided funding and more were needed along the canal. If people thought they were a good idea he asked that we write to Nick Smith at British Waterways, Waterside House, Waterside Drive, Wigan. WN3 5AZ.