Sunday, 6 October 2013

Old Maps

A superb resource for  those interested in exploring old maps is the web site Old Maps Online

Searching for "Furness Vale" returned a huge number of maps of Cheshire from different periods. This map of 1843 is from the Ordnance Survey first series at a scale of 1:63360. There is a zoom facility view the map in detail.

Sunday, 28 April 2013


Narrowboat Hadar is visiting Furness Vale this weekend.

Built in 2007, Hadar is a replica of a "Star" class boat of the Grand Union Canal Carrying Company. This freight operator was in existence between 1934 and 1949 when their assets were nationalised. Theirs was one of the larger canal fleets which at it's peak consisted of 186 pairs of boats.  The original "Star" class was built at Yarwoods boat yard at Northwich in the mid 30's; all of those boats being named after stars although the name "Hadar" was not used at the time. This boat has an extended cabin to provide extra living space which reducing her cargo capacity to 8 tons.

Monday, 1 April 2013


Some photographs have a wealth of detail.  This picture is undated and labelled on the reverse "Haymaking, Furness Vale". The location is not recorded although the buildings in the background look familiar.

George Tomlinson has made these observations:

On the ground is a stone jar and a decorated mug. Could this commemmorate Queen Victoria?
The man in the centre carries a large wooden handled rake. Behind him can be seen the ownership plate on the cart. The name is Charles Saxby of Disley.  Saxby was owner of Furness Vale Printworks.
 In his hand is a stone jar encased in a basket. It was a tradition at harvest that ale or cider be supplied to the workers and perhaps that is what it contains.

The man to his right has his trousers tied with rope !

The man to his left carries a metal dish perhaps for the horse.

Note that they all wear hats, even the smallest child.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

R. E. Knowles Siding

Furness Clough Colliery, the Brickworks and the canal wharf were all linked by a narrow gauge tramway.  There is no record of the date of construction although it was certainly in existence in 1810.  

The History Society has acquired a plan  by the London North Western Railway of a the railway siding constructed to provide a link with the tramway.  The map is dated 1918 and was perhaps the time of construction of the siding.  Trucks were hauled between the brickworks and siding by a cable system and carried firebricks and firebacks for onward transport by goods train. 

There had been an earlier siding at Furness Vale operated on behalf of Levi and Elijah Hall, earlier owners of Furness Colliery. This was sited slightly further north and had a spur which  ran back as far as Station Road.

Monday, 18 March 2013

History Exhibition

The History Exhibition held last weekend was a great success and enjoyed by all who visited and participated in the event.

A display of costumes and accessories

Dudley Garrett presented a collection of quarrying and stoneworking tools

This stone head of unknown age was found at a local farm. Also on display was a quern stone discovered at another farm

A busy afternoon

Thursday, 21 February 2013

New Lanark

New Lanark – a World Heritage Site for Very Good Reasons (C A Hope)
The stark little mill village of New Lanark in Scotland has been a recurring feature throughout my entire life.
As you approach it from the market town of Lanark all you can see, far below you, are roofs and chimney pots and they look completely out of place in this beautiful wooded valley. Despite decades of familiarity, I still feel a wave of awe when I see the old stone tenements and the giant mills clinging to the hillside. I think it’s the unexpectedness that takes my breath away.
The village sits at the base of a deep, narrow gorge carved out of the rocky landscape by the River Clyde as it drops hundreds of feet in a series of waterfalls.  These waterfalls are the mighty Falls of Clyde, famed the world over and viewed by hundreds of thousands of visitors every year. The waterfalls and New Lanark Mills go together: without these powerful Falls there would be no New Lanark.
Since the 1600s records suggest that people would travel great distances to alight from carriages or horseback and take the winding paths through the surrounding woodland to gaze in awe at the spectacle. In 1784 there were two gentlemen in particular who travelled from Glasgow specifically to see the already famous beauty spot. They were businessmen, merchants and mill owners: Richard Arkwright and David Dale.
Dale was looking for investors to establish a cotton mill at the foot of the gorge, harnessing the Clyde’s immense power to drive the new machinery. A partnership was formed and New Lanark was born. While Arkwright was a partner for only a year or so, he and Dale remained in contact right up to the time of Arkwright’s death.
I first glimpsed Dale’s mill village in the 1960s on a ‘Waterfall Day’. These are the days, about 3 or 4 a year, when the Hydro Power Station (built 1920s and now owned by Scottish Power) stops diverting water from the Clyde into their turbines, allowing the full force of the river to surge down through the ravine. You can feel the pounding of the water vibrating under your feet long before you see the rising spray! Some of my earliest childhood memories are of family outings when, picnic packed, we would join hundreds of others to walk up the perilous cliff-side path to view Corra Linn, the largest and (in my mind) most beautiful of the four waterfalls.  Linn means waterfall in Scots and the origin of the name Corra has been dimmed by time. Legend has it Cora, King Malcolm’s daughter, leapt to her death there or, less romantically, it is a corruption of the Gaelic word for weir: the Weirs were big local landowners hundreds of years ago.
In the 1960s the mill village was on its last legs with only a few residents and the by the 1970s it was in a state of ruin. Saplings grew from collapsed buildings, glassless windows gaped wide to the elements and Nature crept in to claim it back. It was a dangerous, damp, grey place:  forlorn.
As a newly married young couple, my husband and I explored buying one of the tenement houses. It was a mere shell of a house, 4 storeys high and being sold as ‘sound, wind and water-tight’ with the possibility of grants to turn it into a home. We stepped away from the idea but many others took up the challenge. The New Lanark Trust was born that same decade and it is this far-sighted, enthusiastic Trust which has brought the village back to the land of the living – literally! Their interactive exhibitions are superb and definitely worth the accolades poured upon them.
New Lanark is much more than magnificent stone mills with stylish Palladian windows and rows of housing for its workers.  It is one of the most important sites of the Enlightenment era. Both David Dale, who built it, and Robert Owen who followed him, were men of vision. Owen put his radical social philosophy into practice here for the first time, a proper school was built and thousands of people flocked to see his work in action.
Owen has been called a Visionary. He is the acknowledged inspiration for the Cooperative Movement (over one billion members worldwide today)primary schooling and workers’ rights.
New Lanark is now a World Heritage Site, one of only four in Scotland. In high season (Easter to September) its streets and mills bustle with tourists but it retains a dignified splendour, holding more than two hundred years of history among the towering walls and cobbled streets.
Up until a year ago, I was fortunate to work in the village with the Scottish Wildlife Trust. My job entailed hosting the visitor centre as well as taking guided walks up through the wildlife reserve to the Falls. Badger Watches, Bat Walks and Fungal Forays were a joy! Who wouldn’t love to glimpse otters fishing in the dusk as the cries of peregrine falcons echo eerily among the cliffs? Or watch badger cubs gambolling among peppery bluebells, bird-cherry trees, branches trailing low into the river, hanging with scented wild honeysuckle? These ranger lead walks are a regular feature but need to be booked: contact the Scottish Wildlife Trust.
About four years ago I decided to research the village properly, deeply. Who were these men, David Dale and Robert Owen? As well as their achievements, what were they like as husbands, fathers? Who were the first villagers and why was the beautiful curved tenement Row above the lade called Caithness Row?
It took me several years but I have just completed the first book in the New Lanark series, ‘New Lanark Spinning New Lives’, which will be launched (in New Lanark) on March 1st 2013. Weaving fictional characters with the real people who created this unique little community, I hope others will find it as interesting and enjoyable to read as I found it to write.

C. A. Hope Feb 2013

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Sir Joseph Paxton

Joseph Paxton was from a humble background. He was born in August 1803 at Milton Bryan in Bedfordshire. His father, William was a tenant farmer and Joseph was the youngest of nine children. At the age of 15, he left school to work on the farm of an elder brother. His interests however lay in gardening and within a few months he had found employment with Sir Gregory Osborne Page-Turner at Battlesden Park, Woburn.  He stayed  in this post for five years and during that time created his first lake.

In 1823 he applied for a post at Chiswick Gardens, a property leased by the Horticultural Society from the Duke of Devonshire. Still only 20, he lied about his age, claiming to have been born in 1801. Within a year, he was promoted to foreman and often met the 6th Duke, William George Spencer Cavendish who owned the nearby Chiswick House. At the age of 23, Paxton was offered the post of Head Gardener at Chatsworth, the Cavendish family seat. The gardens were considered to be one of the finest of the time and he immediately accepted.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

On being ten with two shillings and sixpence to spend on an adventure

by Andrew Simpson

When you only have 2/6d [12p] pocket money where you can have an adventure away from home and still have something left for sweets is an important consideration when you are 10. 

Now I was an urban child born in south east London and my adventures were circumscribed by the sheer size of London.  Not for me the lonely walk along a country lane, or a journey through an enchanted wood hard by a babbling brook.  Apart from our back garden, trees, vast expanses of grass and water was by and large offered up by the local parks and the river.

But the Thames was a working river, which made it fascinating but dangerous and a place where great stretches were out of bounds.  Likewise the parks were where grownups had sought to curtail your fun by flower beds, and signs warning you to keep off the grass.

But that is perhaps a little harsh on the park authorities.  For some time after it was opened as Telegraph Hill Park in 1895 a small section of the lower park had been given over to a play area, including a hollowed out tree truck which became in succession the conning tower of a submarine, a tank and the gate of an old castle.

Some South London Memories

Throughout my childhood, a fortnightly visit to New Cross in South East London was obligatory. My grandmother lived at 105 Woodpecker Road, a house that she shared with my aunt and uncle and their children. My grandfather had died in 1944. the year of my birth. My Nan was a dour victorian woman, the sort who gained her only pleasure by constantly grumbling. Auntie Dolly was cheerful and always gave a warm welcome. Her husband Vic, was jolly too, although I always had trouble understanding his strong London accent. This was a large house in a terrace. Two reception rooms, a dining room, a kitchen and three bedrooms. The bathroom was only added in the 1960's. The small back yard had a toilet and a coalshed. Outside the back door was the meat safe; a wooden box with a mesh front to fend off the flies. The tin bath hung on the wall. It was always a gloomy home, even in  bright daylight. Come evening, the 40 watt bulbs would be grudgingly illuminated when it was almost too dark to find the light switch.

There was just one more street between Woodpecker Road and the railway sidings so the clanking of waggons and coaches being shunted was a common sound. Of a Saturday afternoon, the air would be filled with the roar of the crowd at Millwall football ground which was just across the railway.

The woman next door but one was known to be eccentric. She lived alone with Tibbles and when her feline friend failed to come home one day, she went out in search. Around the corner in Chipley Street, a tabby cat lay in the gutter. Carrying the body home, she was sure that a little warmth was all that was needed to bring about a revival.  It was only when the real Tibbles came through the door a couple of hours later, that she realised that the dead cat still roasting in the gas oven was an imposter.

The highlight of these visits was the journey across London. In the early years, we would sometimes take a tram from Victoria. This waited at its' terminus in the middle of Vauxhall Bridge Road. I think this was route 36 and took us along Old Kent Road into New Cross. As a young child, I was always thrilled to sit on the top deck of the swaying and rattling  old car. This was one of the last tram services in London, replaced by buses in 1952, the latter offering little excitement.  Another route involved an ancient relic of the Undergound. Changing trains at Whitechapel we would descend the stairs to the platforms of the East London line. The railway would soon pass under the Thames and it was clear from the moisture running down the station walls that not all was watertight. The ancient train, of only 3 or 4 coaches, had sliding doors - passenger operated. One had to heave on a shiny brass handle and remember to close it behind you. We travelled only 2 or 3 stations to Surrey Docks where we would wait for a single deck bus. I never saw a ship but sensed that masts and funnels were hidden behind the high dock walls. The bus wound it's way through the south London streets crossing the Surrey Canal where a Thames lighter  or two, laden with sawn timber,  would always be seen moored at a woodyard. The canal is now sadly filled in and turned into roadways. Nearby was Folkestone Gardens, now a small park but then a group of forbidding tenement buildings known as "mansions".

As I grew older and bored with family chatter, I would go out exploring the neighbouring streets. This was near to dockland and had suffered wartime bombing. There were a number of cleared sites where houses once stood. Some of these served as used car lots, others were occupied by pre-fabs. My aunt worked at Pecry Haberdashers in Deptford High Street. I seem to remember an open fronted shop, wooden floors and a pneumatic payment system . Each counter was connected to a system of pipes and payments would be sealed into a container which would be propelled by air pressure to the office upstairs. She was the cashier and would receive the money, prepare the receipt and send it back to the counter with any change.  On New Cross Road, the Frank Matcham designed Empire Theatre had not yet been demolished. The last curtain had fallen but the house opened again for a record attempt by a pianist. There was no entry charge but people out of curiosity were looking in to see this man who had already suffered two sleepless nights and by this time had bandaged fingers. Wandering another day, I went in the opposite direction and found that the strangely named Coldblow Lane, dived under the railway line through a narrow tunnel. The other side was an abandoned level crossing and diminutive signal box. The tracks led into what appeared to have been a wagon works. The large sheds and empty yards were open to anyone who cared to wander in. There was no vandalism, no graffiti; they stood as they had on the day that the last worker had left.

My visits to New Cross eventually became less frequent. My Grandmother died, my cousins married, Aunt and Uncle moved to Lewisham and Woodpecker Road was demolished to make way for a new estate.

David Easton

Friday, 4 January 2013

Stockport Heritage

Stockport's Heritage is a superb blog maintained by the Stockport Heritage Trust with a vast number of articles about Stockport's history. 

Whilst in Stockport, take a look at Moor Magazine, the website for the Heatons. It has an interesting history section with well written and illustrated articles.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Furness Vale Printworks

Our new publication "The Life and Times of Furness Vale Printworks 1794 to 1925 by Chris Bond is now available from the History Society and from the village Post Office, price £5.  There is also a Kindle edition, price £1.96 available from Amazon

Although the buildings remain, many in their original form, the Printworks is now an industrial estate. These photographs show how it once looked.

The entrance to the Printworks is seen here looking down Calico Lane

A view of the Printworks from Marsh Lane. Beyond the mill complex can be seen the cottages of Furness Row and in the background, beyond the canal and railway is Buxton Road.

This scene is little changed. This is looking down from the canal. The lake on the right.

The weir in the River Goyt. The leat or goit in the foreground supplied water to the mill lodges. This channel can still be seen on the south eastern side of Station Road but only fills with water in rainy weather.

The mill lodges viewed from Station Road. These have long since been filled in and little sign remains of them.
 This was probably the boiler house yard.

A works outing

Cleaning out the lodges

Furness Lodge, now demolished stood between the canal and Calico Lane, where the houses of Furness Lodge Close are now situated. This had been the home of former mill owner, Mr Saxby and always remained part of the Printworks estate