Chorley Historical and Archaeological Society

News and Views

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Jun 2014
CHAS Trip to Beamish and Chillingham 21-22 June 2014.
(click here for the full report)
Our trip this year was from 21-22 June and took us to Northumbria. We set off early on the Saturday morning for Beamish Open Air Museum in County Durham. The weather was fine and we had plenty of time to explore the vast site. John Harrison

At the Adam Cree talk on Tue 10 June 2014 we had a visitor from the Lancashire Evening Post. As part of a series of features on Local Societies the newspaper sent a photographer to photograph the meeting and an article subsequently appeared in the Lancashire Evening Post on Tue 17 June 2014

The Text of the article reads:

"In our diamond year we've dug up facts that might show we are 90..."
Chorley Historical and Archaeological Society is celebrating its Both anniversary. If you want to find out more about local history or have an interest in history then this group is perfect for you. For more information visit:
One society is celebrating its Diamond anniversary and cementing its own place in the history books.
Chorley History and Archaeology Society has been running for 60 years and despite the emergence of claims it may have been founded 30 years earlier the group is still celebrating its heritage in style.
Chairman Joan Dickinson has been a member of the club for more than 15 years.
She revealed that the group is investigating its own heritage after a chance discovery that could date the group's roots back to nearly 100 years ago.
She said: "We are celebrating our 60th year; this group was founded in 1953 but we found something in an old clipping from the Chorley Guardian mentioning Chorley Historical society back in 1924, 30 years before we were formed.
"That would make this year our 90th anniversary celebrations, we are doing some digging and hopefully we can find out more about our origins.
"But we officially formed in 1953 and so we have been celebrating our 60th year since September 2013.
"We've had a lot of events and the year long celebrations will end in September 2014.
"It has been eventful but we are still looking forward to more."
The historical club's topics range from local to national history throughout the ages.
CHAS has 50 members who go on regular trips across the country and invite top historical speakers into their monthly meetings.
The society has even written its own historical book “Romans to Roundabouts” which features lots of local historical walks and is available to loan from Chorley Library.
Joan said: "We've been really busy.
"At the start of our Diamond celebrations in September we had a two-day visit to Blenheim Palace.
"We stayed in London overnight, and then went to the Pompeii and Herculenium Exhibition at the British Museum.
"We had a stand at Chorley Heritage Centre week at the Town Hall, Chorley, displaying our records, photographs and we supplied three speakers during the week at the event."
The group also supported a campaign to save the underground Victorian reservoir that was discovered in Clay-ton-le-Woods, Chorley.
Joan said: "In October and November 2013, we took part in the event at the Leyland Reservoir in Clayton-le-Woods.
"Prior to its infill for housing - we fully supported Rosemary Boyd in trying to save the old Victorian reservoir.
"During the 16 days of opening - granted by Kingswood Builder s - the public was treated to talks, photographs and various photo shoots by some of our members.
"That took place in the old reservoir, and most were witnessed and enjoyed by the 20,000 visitors to the site."
The group is arranging trips to Beamish and Chillingham Castle and a historical trail is planned for its next meeting.
Joan said: "We are a really friendly bunch, everyone loves history and it is a great way to learn more.
"When I retired I wanted to find something extra to do and so I joined the group and I haven't looked back since.
"Each month we have a speaker at our meetings we also have field walks."
Meetings are held on the second Tuesday of the month - except July - at Chorley Library, Union Street, Chorley.
The groups next outing is on Tuesday, July 8, and they will be meeting at Rivington 7-30pm for a historical walk.
For more information or to find out how you can become a member visit:

Tue 10 Jun 2014
Adam Cree - 'Susannah Knight' Chorley’s heroine who successfully campaigned to get recognition for local men who lost their lives in the First World War and also responsible for the Astley Hall Memorial Book (the Golden Books).

Adam Cree was a last minute stand in for the scheduled speaker but what a bonus it was for those present.
Adam first asked everyone the question if they had heard about the Golden Books that are held in the Memorial Room to Chorley’s First World War dead in Astley Hall. He was not surprised that only few were aware of them.
The Golden Books, properly called the Memorial Books, are actually 3 albums totally around 700 pages. They were conceived and completed by Susannah Knight.
Adam, a school teacher, wove an extraordinary story that set out to tell us who Susannah was, what did she do and, why. He forewarned us that homework would be set at the end of his talk!
There are many facets to Susannah’s life that remain open to conjecture but it is known she was born in Greenock near Glasgow on 3rd February 1868 and received a convent education in Bootle. By 1888 she was a teacher at St Mary’s, Euxton.
In 1895 she left to become a governess in Beziers, France for a Count Paul de Meherenc de St Pierre. By 1900 she was back teaching in Chorley, actually St Gregory’s, Weldbank. But this is not the end of her French connection.
By the outbreak of war in 1914 she was putting her knowledge of French to good use by teaching it to soldiers of the East Lancashire Regiment prior to their departure. She also was able to converse with and help injured Belgian soldiers that stayed in this locality.

Adam Cree
(photo thanks to Lancashire Evening Post)

As the war wore on and the casualties mounted Susannah’s care and compassion moved her to propose a home where 25 of Chorley’s most seriously maimed soldiers could be cared for. Due mainly to her Roman Catholic background and the fact she was a woman, her proposal was not supported by Chorley’s mayor.
It was after the war, on 5 April 1919, when she started her Memorial Book. Heavily bound with gold inlay the name, the Golden Book, was coined. She started with the casualties of the war and the first name in the book is that of Count Paul de Meherenc de St Pierre with a date of 11 September 1914.
Between 1919 and 1921 Susannah continued to collect the names of Chorley’s war dead and the signatures of many interesting characters. She did not want the book to be just a memorial to the dead but also a record of people’s hopes for the future. By the end she had acquired around 2,000 signatures and the Golden Book ran to 3 volumes.
It seemed that wherever she travelled the book went with her for more signatures. Again, France figured significantly with signatures of General Foch and other French generals on a visit to Rennes. Was the Beziers connection a help?
Other notable signatories include the French president, King and Queen of the Belgians and the King of Italy. All the members of the 1921 British and United States cabinets signed along with Prince Edward. It received a blessing from the Pope but not his signature.

Susannah Mary Crossley Knight

She was a tireless campaigner, not only for the veterans of the war but for all those who suffered. In October 1921 she organised an event for 800 of Chorley’s widows and orphans.
She retired from teaching in 1933 and died in August 1950 when she was buried in Anfield Cemetery, Liverpool. Her legacy to the nation was given to the king but kept in a box in Chorley.
Remember the homework? Adam urged everyone to see the memorial in Astley Hall and in his words, ‘agitate the council’ to make sure Susannah Mary Crossley Knight has a place in Chorley where she can be remembered.

Peter Robinson
June 2014