Chorley Historical and Archaeological Society

News and Views

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Jan 2010 Feb 2010 Mar 2010 Apr 2010 May 2010 Jun 2010
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May 2010

Tue 11 May 2010
Janet Edwards, Bank Hall Action Group
Bank Hall and the Bannastre/Bannister Family.

A virtual full house welcomed Janet for her illustrated talk on Bank Hall, Bretherton the ancestral home of the Bannastre family. Janet first explained the various ways of spelling Bannastre/Bannister and their Latin and French backgrounds.

The first Banastre came from Normandy in 1066 and was granted lands near Prestatyn, north Wales. By the late 12th century Welsh uprisings forced the family out to Cheshire and north Lancashire with a branch settling at Bank Hall by 1240. Due to a lack of male heirs the line of Bannister ownership of the hall came to an end in 1682. Since then it has been part of the Lord Lilford estate.

Geoff Coxhead and Janet Edwards

One of the finds.
A plaque depicting a planting by Lady Lilford
in the 1890s.

The name still lives on and a famous descendant of the family is Sir Roger Bannister, the first sub4-minute miler.

The oldest part of the present hall dates back to 1608 but major renovations and additions took place in 1832 by George Webster a Kendal architect. There is no evidence that shows what the 1608 building or its interior was like. Even so Janet described Bank Hall as a beautiful building, wonderfully designed and that it was such a shame it was now in such a precarious state.

Scaffolding now supports much of its remains, in particular the Prospect Tower. This was built in 1632 and is responsible for Bank Hall’s Grade 2* status.

Bank Hall Action Group (BHAG) was formed in 1995 and works against the deterioration of Bank Hall. Events such as the popular annual ‘Snowdrop Sundays’ help to maintain the hall’s profile and ensure it remains in the public’s consciousness. Janet’s colleague, Geoff Coxhead, explained plans have been made with a development partner. These include restoring the hall’s shell that exists to English Heritage standards and 23 ‘discreetly planned’ dwellings. These plans are currently on show for viewing at Chorley Town Hall and a planning decision is due to be made by end of July.

BHAG’s secretary, Lionel Taylor, was on hand as custodian of a display of numerous interesting artefacts found at Bank Hall.
A very lively question and answer session concluded the evening. The great interest shown by members in Bank Hall matched the passion and ambition for it clearly evident in Janet, Geoff and Lionel.

Peter Robinson
May 2010

Bank Hall in more prosperous times. c1860s

Sat 08/ Sun 09 May 2010
Scotland, New Lanark World Heritage Site week-end.

Visit to The Museum of Scottish Leadmining, Wanlockhead and New Lanark, World Heritage Site


A group of 28 members and friends headed north to Scotland on a cold but dry Saturday morning. First stop was the village of Wanlockhead, is in Lanarkshire and lies on the Southern Upland Long Distance Footpath. In fact it holds the record of the country’s highest village and, not surprisingly, its highest pub.

Another of Wanlockhead’s claim to fame and the reason for our visit was that it is home to The Museum of Scottish Leadmining. The museum consisted of a visitor centre, café, a mine, miners’ cottages and the Miners’ Library.

The Quaker Company started trials here in several galena veins (lead bearing rock) in 1710. Between 1710 and 1756 several trial veins were explored but commercial success did not come until new ownership after 1756.

In small groups, we were taken on a guided tour into the Lochnell Mine. This is one of 47 mines that were worked within a 5 miles radius. We were taken 150 metres into the mine but it did extend the same distance again. To get that far took 150 years. It gave us a vivid sense of the cramped, damp, candle lit world the miners worked in. We could only try and comprehend the physical hardship and dangers they faced. Due to lead’s toxicity a miner did well to live beyond 45 whilst a smelter fared worse still.
The ages on the headstones in the nearby cemetery reflected this.

The excellent guided tour took us through miners’ cottages that were each ‘furnished’ in the style of 1710, 1850 and 1910. The period 1890 to 1914 proved to be Wanlockhead’s heyday.

The Miners’ Library was opened in 1756 and is a surviving example of the community library. In fact it is the second oldest in Britain and it gives a glimpse of the cultural life of the village.

The Wanlockhead Museum Trust has done and continues to do an excellent job in restoring and preserving what is historically important.

New Lanark

After a pleasant overnight stay at the Tinto Hotel, Symington, near Biggar, it was over to New Lanark for mid-morning.

New Lanark richly deserves its place on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites. It lies on the banks on the River Clyde close to the famous Falls of Clyde. It is a carefully restored site that includes 3 impressive sandstone cotton mills, school, and the mill workers houses that formed the community of New Lanark all set within a dramatic gorge.

It came to prominence when Robert Owen, a pioneer of the co-operative movement, bought the mills and set in place his reforms, particularly in the treatment of his workers and in education.

Armed with the ‘New Lanark Passport’ ticket each member of the group first went through the Visitor Centre and into ‘The Annie McLeod Experience’. It is an ideal and novel way of introduction to the site. After that we were free to wander and explore the site.

The buildings Mill Two and Mill Three included working textile machinery, a café, a gift shop and a retail outlet. Scotland’s largest roof garden adorned Mill Two and afforded excellent views over the site and up and down the gorge.

Of particular interest was Robert Owen’s house that gave a very good insight not just to his life at New Lanark but the impact of his ideas on the wider world.

The Millworkers’ House, Village Store and Robert Owen’s School each in their own right all displayed in an informative way the reforms that he introduced for the benefit of his workers.

If you preferred a bit of fresh air then you could stride through pleasant woodland up the gorge to see the falls.

The time to board the coach came around all too quickly as there was plenty to keep your interest for a full day.

Grateful thanks must go to Mike Berry for his time, effort and vision in organising this very pleasant weekend in southern Scotland.

P Robinson.


Sat 08 May 2010
Council for British Archaeology North West Region.
Spring meeting and AGM.
Archaeology in Our Community.

The CBA NW group’s Spring Meeting was held in the Civil Hall, Stalybridge. The Hall is part of the old Market Hall and is surrounded by splendid buildings that reflect Stalybridge’s former glory as an extremely prosperous cotton town.
The first speaker was Mike Nevell who spoke about Twenty Years of Tameside Archaeology and some of the many projects undertaken.

Ron Cowell then spoke about a very exposed upland site where excavations were carried out by Tameside Archaeological Society. Many flints were recovered and the excavations revealed possible Mesolithic occupation over many centuries. The remoteness and bad weather meant that only the totally dedicated carried out the excavations.
To complete the morning sessions Bryan Sitch of Manchester Museum spoke about the various exhibitions held and how display techniques had modified over the years.

Ron Cowell, Mike Nevell & Bryan Sitch answer questions.

After lunch there was an excellent local history walk where Alan Rose of Stalybridge Historical Society showed us many of the local features and building around the town.
In the afternoon Brian Grimsditch outlined a large project that would eventually survey all the Tameside Graveyards and transcribe the gravestones. This would require and lot of volunteers and eventually the results will be put on-line so that internet searches can be made.

Michael Higgins then spoke about the ongoing excavations of Royton Hall and its many stages of development and eventual demolition.
The final speaker was Marie Widger who spoke about Archaeology in the community at Mellor.

One of Tameside's oldest inhabitants.
The Ashton Moss Skull was found in the 1890s and has been carbon dated to 1000years BC.

Alan Rose leads a local history walk around the town.

It was near this spot where Jack Judge was inspired (partly for a bet) to compose the famous marching song "It's a Long Way to Tipperary" in 1912. it was performed for the first time at the Grand Theatre Stalybridge.

Stalybridge Public Library

The Architecture of the Stalybridge Library was inspired by visits to many Public Libraries around the north of England in the early 1900s. As I walked inside there were many similarities to the original Chorley Public Library that used to stand on Avondale Road, Chorley.


The Original Town Hall in Stalybridge.

The site of the old Town Hall today.