Thursday, 6 October 2016

A few memories of a boy who grew up in Furness Vale

A life long friend, Bill Jackson, who is connected with your Local History Society, just
sent me a copy of Edwin Bold's book entitled "Instigator of Mischief". It brought back so
many memories of people and places that I felt that perhaps I could also add a few comments
concerning the history of Furness Vale.

I was born in 1936 and lived at No.6, which became 140 Buxton Road, until I left in 1964
to work in Switzerland. This is the house on the corner of Yeardsley Lane opposite the Co-op.
It had a small barred window set  into its thick sidewall through which the wages had been paid to
the workers at the nearby coal mine. A large polished stone stood at the corner, which was said to
have served as an aid for people climbing onto their horses.

Edwin, in his book, gave many details concerning the pit and brick works but he forgot to
mention the tip situated in the hollow behind the Co-op. The dumping of hot waste from the
pit/brick works would often cause the tip to catch fire. This would smolder for days on end
before being brought under control. At night, one could see glowing red areas with flickering
flames and the smell was quite appalling. Down the dirt road at the side of the Co-op, beneath the
War Memorial, was a wooden shack which served as a blacksmith's smithy where machinery was
repaired, and horses shod.

I can remember 18 to 20 shops in the village as well as the Post Office. Percy Pearson, the
postman, delivered  the mail, going on his rounds twice a day. He went on foot and in all
weathers, carrying a big leather bag hanging from his shoulder. How the village has changed!
Does anyone remember the little shop which  sold knitting wool and reels of cotton and silks, that
belonged to two old spinsters called the Wilds, who lived up Yeardsley Lane?

The village school with its four teachers, Miss Turner, Hobson and Jeffries as well as
Mr Morris, was always well attended. Friday afternoon was reserved to tidy ones desk and to
wash out the inkwells, cleaning pen nibs at the same time. This was followed by an inspection.
Space in the school playground was rather limited, as a couple of air raid shelters had been
dug into the surface. Speaking of digging, we would be taken to the school allotment by the garage, to plant, hoe, water, and eventually,harvest our labours.

Furness Vale had a Boy Scout troop and we used to meet in a room on the first floor of a
wooden hut situated in the passage between the Station Inn and the railway station. On
Armistice Day, we would put on our uniforms and proudly march in the procession, either in
Whaley Bridge or Furness Vale, along with the Ambulance Brigade,war veterans and of course,
a brass band.  Camping out and cooking was always fun, but lying in your tent wide-awake at
2 o'clock in the morning listening to an owl hooting and rustling sounds nearby, rather
took the edge off things. I guess that I and other Scout friends like Peter Jennison and
Edward Evans still had something to learn about being brave.

My father was born in 1899 and served in the First World War. As an 18-year-old soldier he
was wounded in France and taken a prisoner of war by the Germans. With the outbreak of the
Second World War he was considered too old, so he became one of "Dad's Army". As a member of
the Home Guard he had his uniform, and in a corner of the kitchen, stood his Lee-Enfield rifle
 - not to be touched! Manoeuvres would be organised under the watchful eye of their officer
Mr. Finch and once a month shooting practise would take place in the quarry at Bank End.

Memories of the Institute go back a long time for as a boy, I was allowed inside without
having to be 18 years old since it never had a alcohol licence. On entering, the library was
on your left and the reading room on your right. Here people came to read the days papers and
often to play a game of dominoes. Ahead, down the steps, you entered the games room where the
two green baize covered tables would be brilliantly lit in the dim interior. To light up a
table you put coins into a slot machine on the wall. Both billiards and snooker were played
and the village snooker team took part in the Buxton league. We had some good players such as
the brothers Jack and Norman Ashton and, not quite as good, myself. Our  best player was
undoubtedly Eric Morton who was a Whaley Bridge farmer. He would arrive by tractor delivering
fresh eggs on the way. I also played for the village football team in the High Peak league before joining Mellor and playing in a Manchester league.

I would like to mention two unusual events in 1951 and which occurred some ten days apart.
Both concerned "Lightning balls", glowing "balls" of pure energy sometimes generated during
severe electric storms. Although we often see lightning, it is very rare that we get to see
this other phenomena. It was a very hot, sultry, late afternoon in summer when my father,
Adam, was walking home from his work at Gowhole railway sidings. A violent storm developed
and he took shelter under the railway bridge near the old and long disused Lady Pit. The tall
brick chimney and some derelict buildings were still standing. He saw a glowing ball
travelling slowly through the air and heading towards the chimney. It seemed to disappear
down the interior where, at the bottom, it disintigrated with a very loud explosion totally
demolishing the chimney. Bricks were thrown in all directions as far as 100 yards away and
the wall of the old barn on the opposite side of the road turned red from the dust as bricks
shattered against its side.

The second event concerned myself. Again, a sudden violent electric summer storm developed
forcing me to take shelter under the awning outside Mr Jackson's butchers shop. A bluish-white
glow, smaller than a football, was coming from the direction of the Soldier Dick, travelling
past the cottages towards the Co-op at roof height. It turned the corner and headed off up
Yeardsley Lane when it seemed to speed up and struck the upper part of Mr and Mrs Ashton's
house. This is the first house of a row of cottages on the left hand side of the road. The
explosion was huge and a large hole was blasted through the wall into a bedroom. It arrived
in he back of a fireplace which finished up against the opposite wall totally demolished. It
was quite an impressive sight.

It is at least twenty-five years since I was last in the village and it is hard to imagine
the changes that have taken place. Maybe one day I will have the pleasure of attending one
of your meetings and catching up on past events.
In the meantime, I wish your society every success.

Denis E. Hill

April 2016

Denis Hill was uncertain of the precise year of the lightning strikes. The newspaper records
show this to have been 1949.(editor)

This photograph shows 140 Buxton Road, Denis Hill's former home. The
light coloured rectangle of stone in the gable end was the small window
where miner's wages were once paid out.


  1. How lovely to hear your memories of the village I also grew up in. Born at number 7 Yeardsley lane in 1953 and living next door to my maternal grandmother and her second husband Percy Pearson mentioned as the postman in your writings. I remember him as a wonderful man and as a child spent a lot of time with him in his garden and walking in the area. He had some renown as he served in the trenches in the First World War and had his first cigarette when peace was declared on 11th November. Every year afterwards he smoked one cigarette at 11 am on the 11th of the 11th. I'd love to hear from anyone who has more knowledge of Percy Pearson. Regards Carole Bartlett née Stafford, daughter of Donald and Dorothy Stafford.

    1. Thanks Carole for your interesting contribution. The History Society does not have any records relating to Percy Pearson although I am sure that many people will remember him. I'll ask Francis Footitt and one or two others. We do have photographs and some other information about the Pearson family who had lived at No1 Yeardsley Lane. It was however an earlier period although I think Bernard and Annie Pearson were still at that address in 1953 (he resigned as Chapel organist that year). I imagine they must have been related to Percy; too much of a coincidence otherwise.

      If you have any other stories about Furness Vale, we would love to hear from you.