Mill workers’ protest

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I wonder how many shoppers and visitors walk past this modern statue in Preston, in the North West of England, thinking about catching a bus or train, meeting friends and family for lunch or rushing to buy the latest bargains. We so often take for granted familiar sights but this particular sculpture tells a disturbing story.

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Back in the 1840s, poverty was widespread in Britain. Preston, a cotton mill town, was one of those places affected by a depression in the country. To make matters worse for over-worked and under-paid workers, the mill owners decided to reduce wages.

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As you can imagine, mill employees weren’t happy. On August 13, 1842, cotton workers went on a protest march in the town centre. This was part of the General Strike, which took place across the country. Unfortunately, the military were waiting for them. They met the protesters at a location called Lune Street and, while attempting to break up the crowd, the soldiers shot – and killed – four men.

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This happened at the spot where the monument now stands. The 1842 Memorial Statue, built in 1992 by Gordon Young, marked the 150th year of the Lune Street protest.

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As I said earlier, we become accustomed to familiar sights in our familiar towns and cities but delve a little closer and it’s possible to step back into time and find out about the people of yesterday and their lives.

For a more detailed account, read: https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.lep.co.uk/lifestyle/nostalgia/lune-street-the-land-that-time-has-forgot-1-4834634/amp

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When I went to jail

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I have been to prison twice in my life and very interesting and educational experiences they have been too. They have also been thought-provoking, raising questions about crime and punishment.

The first was Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin, Ireland, some years ago. The second was Crumlin Road Gaol in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

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What did I do wrong to land in jail? Well, nothing. For those readers who don’t know, these two former prisons are open to the public and if you are in either of those cities, and are curious about Irish social and political history, they are worth a visit.

Work on Crumlin Road Gaol was started in 1843, after being designed by architect Sir Charles Lanyon in 1841. It was ready for the first inhabitants in 1846. 106 men, women – and children – were marched on foot in chains from Carrickfergus Gaol in 1846. The prison finally closed in 1996.

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On our tour, we were given glimpses into the reception area, where prisoners first arrived, holding cells and the fascinating tunnel which went under the, now busy, road to the courthouse. Unfortunately the courthouse is currently an empty building but our guide told us that a hotel company has bought it and is hoping to redevelop it.

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The tunnel was creepy. I would hate to be there by myself and it is no surprise there are paranormal events there. Our guide told us a tale of a previous tour when a little boy asked who the man was at the bottom of the tunnel. The guide looked where the child was pointing and said there was no man (and neither should there have been). The child remained adamant.

Spooky.

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We also saw the governor’s office and the cell block. There were five blocks leading off from the main section. In one block, which they have opened for the public, we saw snapshots of what the cells may have been like in the 1800s – and the 1970s.

 

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We learnt of the different punishments, such as the Crank, a device where a prisoner had to push down a lever to turn it. If it seemed too easy, the screw got tightened, hence the term ‘screws’.

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And then we saw the ‘death row cell’. This room was very different to the others and being there and hearing about it made me feel very cold. Three members of the famous Pierrepont family were executioners. What a horrific job.

Perhaps not a place for the overly sensitive, but it is such a fascinating place and it does show how our prisons and other punishments in Ireland and Britain have changed over the years.

Facts of the Day

1. During the Irish Famine (1845 to 1851), the number of crimes was nearly 3 times the number reported just before the disaster. It is thought that starving people were committing crimes such as theft so they could be sentenced to prison and therefore be able to eat the sparse prison diet. 

2. Eamon de Valera, President of the Irish Republic during the 1919-22 Troubles, was imprisoned for one month in 1924. He had breached an order excluding him from Northern Ireland.

3. Suffragettes were imprisoned during the campaign for women’s right to vote before the first World War. 

Information from Souvenir Guidebook to Crumlin Road Gaol. http://www.crumlinroadgaol.com

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Glasson Dock

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It’s hard to believe that today’s small, quiet and peaceful Glasson Dock was once the largest port in the North West of England (according to the Canal and River Trust website) and was used to import cotton, sugar, spices and slaves from the West Indies and Africa. It was opened in 1787 and is located at the head branch of the Lancaster Canal.

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I paid a visit with my parents recently. There is a large car park and, on the day, it was easy to find a space. It was a little confusing as the pay and display machine was blocked off and a notice said the car park would be run by a different operator. I assumed we didn’t have to pay. Oh well, if I was supposed to, I will soon find out I imagine!

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Unfortunately the pub we frequented last time was closed but there is another one five minutes away, across the swing bridge and past the Glasson Basin Lock on the West Quay. It is called The Dalton Arms, serving food and drinks. Sitting in a cosy corner, two of us had our tea while Guinness was the third refreshment chosen. The inn, like the port, also dates back to the 1700s.

Following refreshments, we embarked on a ramble along the canal, passing a few canal boats, two swans, several swallows flying overhead, a dog walker with two friendly cockapoodle canines and two middle-aged women clutching carrier bags, gathering blackberries. For jam or pies perhaps?

We also visited the Victorian Christ Church, built in 1840, which sits facing the canal.

Memorial plaques hanging on the walls give clues to its shipyard history. A customs house and shipyard were built in the village in 1834, focused more on repairing rather than building boats. In 1968, the shipyard was closed. The dry dock, which opened in 1841, was filled in 1969.

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The canal would have eventually taken us to the main branch of the Lancaster Canal where we could have headed to Preston or Lancaster.

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We didn’t go as far as that though, and after reaching a couple of bridges, we turned back, after a very pleasant and relaxing canal stroll.

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But the canal is only one picturesque part of Glasson Dock, the other side of the dock opens out to River Lune which, in the old days, would take ships out to sea. Not so much now.

Here, too, there are places to walk.

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The beauty of this hidden spot obviously makes it a welcome place for walkers and cyclists. The Bay Cycle Way, of which we saw signs, starts (or ends) at Glasson Dock and takes the cyclist on a 81-mile tour of Morecambe Bay up to the south coast of Cumbria. There is also the Lune Valley footpath, taking the walker up to Lancaster via splendid views across the estuary. One day I’ll do that. But today was just a very peaceful two or three-mile stroll in a beautiful yet uncrowded part of the world.

Glasson Dock – a haven of beauty and peace. Peace and beauty.

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St Benet’s Abbey

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While on holiday in the beautiful Norfolk Broads, on one of our walks we came across an unusual site called St Benet’s Abbey. We started from the village of Ludham, and walked across country lanes to the abbey. Here are 5 facts:

1. Except for low flint walls and earth mounds, only the ruined gatehouse still exists – but this has an 1700s windpump built around it.

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2. It was founded about 1020AD – the first Benedictine Abbey in Norfolk.

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3. The abbey was not officially closed in the 1530s – unlike every other monastery in the country. The Bishop of Norwich was instead appointed as the abbot. Despite this, monastic life ended soon after and the buildings – except for the gatehouse – were demolished for their stone.

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4. The local diocese still owns the site of the abbey church and it remains consecrated ground. The Bishop of Norwich holds an open air service here every year in August.

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How the abbey may have looked. Courtesy of Tim Pestell’s St Benet’s Abbey: A Guide and History

5. St Benet’s Abbey may have been established as a royal estate and King Cnut was an early benefactor. Beforehand, maybe as early as the 800s, Anglo-Saxon hermits are believed to have lived at the location.

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Information courtesy of St Benet’s Abbey: A Guide and History by Tim Pestell.

 

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Trek Diary – Part 3: February/March – Pendle Hill

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Pendle Hill is famous among these parts of Lancashire, or should I say infamous? Have you watched Arthur Miller’s The Crucible? Where a frenzy of hysterics erupted in an American society in the 1600s and it was claimed some of the villagers were witches?

Well, something similar happened in Lancashire.

In England, the 1600s was a time of superstition, intolerance and persecution. King James I, who increasingly became more paranoid after the Gunpowder Plot, broadened the Witchcraft Act in 1604.

And so there was, quite literally, a witch hunt.

In 1612, in the Pendle area, Alizon Device cursed a pedlar, and believed she lamed him. An investigation followed and the situation spiralled into a massive witchcraft trial, with other residents being arrested and a nine-year-old girl giving evidence against her family and neighbours. Nine of the ‘witches’ were hanged at Lancaster Castle.

This is a horror story fit for Halloween. Not because there is any ‘devil worship’ or witches on broomsticks or wild cackling, but because a lethal blend of hysteria, superstition, paranoia and persecution got whipped up into a frenzy.

On a happier note, Pendle Hill is also noted as the location where Quaker founder George Fox experienced a spiritual vision.

Back to modern day and, thankfully, more tolerant times.

At Barrowford’s information centre, the woman at the tourism desk was very helpful, giving us not only a map and directions on how to reach Pendle, but details about a sculpture and witch trail.

I always picture Pendle Hill as nearby but it always seemed an awkward place to reach from where I live. We have tried twice before to reach its dizzy heights of 557m. Once, it was snowing. The other time it was pouring with rain. On neither occasion did we reach the spellbinding hill, but only the thereabouts. Perhaps there was a ‘curse’ and we will never reach it?

Barley wasn’t too far from Barrowford and thanks to the helpful information assistant, we recognised the landmarks as we drove past, including a statue of Alice Nutter, one of the witches (or supposed witches, as more likely) in Roughlee.

 

Fellow ramblers know the feeling of reaching a destination and then thinking, have I the right change for the car park? Luckily, Barley car park is very amenable, boasting many spaces, a charming café/souvenir shop, adequate toilets – and parking is a mere £1!

Past the children’s play area, pub, houses and a stall selling free range eggs… Onto a footpath along a river and lo, there is the route to Pendle Hill.

Simon warned me that, on the map, there were tight contour lines further on, meaning a steepness. But I forgot about that as, not long after we started, I sloshed and trampled about in mud and, humiliatingly, even slipped and fell. Embarrassingly, a couple shouted over, are you okay? Yes thank you, I muttered, embarrassed. S, having strided 10 miles ahead (or so it seemed), headed back. I didn’t know you had fallen, he apologised. I grudgingly accepted his apology.

Thankfully the boots were waterproof.

Anyway, no matter, I conquered the soaking wet mud which had no right to trip me up. Now to conquer the steep incline itself. I have dreams (Illusions? Fantasies?) of walking up Scafell Pike and Ben Nevis. Not like those crazily fit people who can do the two plus Snowdon in one day. How is that even possible? No, just one at a time for me. I’m not in a rush.

A friend later told me that there were other, more gradual, ways to climb up Pendle Hill. But by then it was too late. Every step was hard. It’s not even a massive hill, 1827ft/557m, but this section was gruelling. I thought longingly of Fairfield Horseshoe’s gradual ascent (certainly in comparison to this incline) until finally I made it. I was at the top!

We walked down a more gradual route. At one point, wondering if we were going the right way. But we finally reached a stream which we followed, ambling along to Barley.

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A cup of tea in the cafe later and we then set off on a Pendle Sculpture Trail. The path takes you past Lower Black Moss Reservoir and stunning scenes of Pendle Hill, then it’s uphill (ah, more steepness!!) until we reach Aitken Wood, located on a slope. By itself, Aitken Wood is a beautiful setting, but here nature meets art, culture and history in one swoop with the Sculpture Trail. We meet a life-size witchfinder, spot metal bats, owl and giant spider’s web and admire The Quaker Tree among many other artworks. Plaques have also been created, illustrating each of the witches. If you pick up a Sculpture Trail leaflet, you could even take part in a competition to win a hotel stay.

So two walks in one this, surprisingly pleasant, winter’s day. So enjoyable that we ventured back a month later. Ironically the weather was worse in March.

I fell again in the mud. Great. Why has it not dried yet?

Snow fell, we turned back half way – and then it stopped and we headed towards the hill again. The hill was as steep as last time. I was as unfit as last time.

I, wimp that I am, asked if we could turn back because of the potential snow.

We were about 10 steps from the top at this point.

We carried on.

At the summit, something was preventing us from walking straight in one line, something threw Simon’s hat away and he, rather comically, had to run after it, and something was trying to push us over the edge of the hill.

Be warned. The hill is possessed – by a terrible gale-force wind. Thankfully, the wind and snow gradually left us alone as we trekked down the path to the cafe where a mug of refreshing tea and a slice of delicious cake awaited us.

Picture courtesy of Simon Hunter20180317_125724

Bakewell – Land of Tarts

 

Bakewell has been a name that has long been familiar to me in a pleasing manner, perhaps I am thinking of the delightful Bakewell Tarts and Cherry Bakewells! But the cakes actually originate from a small town called Bakewell, situated in the picturesque Peak District, Derbyshire.

A coach company was offering day trips and so, one bank holiday, my mum and I embarked on such a journey to this popular tourist spot.

Traffic ran smoothly until we entered the boundary of the popular Peak District. And then there was a queue of cars heading much of the way into Bakewell. It was a bank holiday after all and it appeared everyone had the same idea. Lovely hot day, time off work and school – let’s go to Bakewell.

So we were later than expected but with still plenty of time for lunch, sight-seeing and a bite to eat before heading home.

Ready for a cup of tea and even more so for a slice of Bakewell Tart (what else?!), we picked a small contemporary but cosy vegetarian cafe called Because I Like It.

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Despite the fact Bakewell is not a large town, despite the fact we arrived about 1pm, and despite the fact the town was heaving with day-trippers and tourists (there also seemed to be a large proportion of canine companions too), it still felt as if we were spoilt for choice when it came to eateries. Obviously Bakewell Tart was a must-have for lunch – but what was this Bakewell Pudding I kept seeing?

We stuck to ‘just’ the Bakewell Tart, although maybe for reasons of writing this review, I should have sampled the pudding too…

Anyway, once refreshed with the local delicacy, we had a wander around town. And after a visit to Edinburgh Woollen Mill (Mum is a big fan), among other shops, it was time for culture.

All Saints Parish Church is a venue of much interest. Dating from the 13th and 14th centuries, but originally founded in 920AD, the current church was mostly rebuilt in the 1840s. Amongst its historical curiosities are a 14th century font and a parish chest dating from the same period. The originator of Bakewell Pudding, Ann Greaves, is also buried here. She will be mentioned again later on…

Interestingly, the west wall and the first set of nave arches are the only remains from the Norman Church.

A craft fair, five minutes away from the town centre, was our next port of call. Walking through a delightful park to get to the fair, we meandered around the stalls where there were many quality handmade goods for sale.

 

Time was ticking on, we ventured into The Original Bakewell Pudding Shop, a large establishment combining an upstairs restaurant, a deli and cafe, complete with outside sitting area. We opted for quiche and salad, eating it outside in the pleasant courtyard. And it was scrumptious.

According to the Pudding Shop’s website, the cafe was once a cottage, lived in by a Mrs Wilson, wife of a tallow chandler. She obtained the recipe of the bakewell pudding and began to sell them. The building is believed to have been built in the 1600s and originally owned by the Duke of Rutland.

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We didn’t go into the Bakewell Pudding Factory, although I was intrigued. A pudding parlour, how quaint and old-fashioned!

Another point of interest is the 1200s five-arched bridge which crosses the River Wye and was widened in the 19th century. It’s also possible to stroll along the river although we did not have the time.

I would definitely go back to Bakewell, but not on a bank holiday. I can see why it’s popular, it’s a lovely little town full of character, but personally, I do find crowds a little off-putting. But go on a day when it is ‘off-peak’ season? Yes, definitely. Not just a day, I would most certainly be happy to spend a few days there. After all, I haven’t tried Bakewell Pudding yet! And that is on my Bucket List!

Thanks to Hodder Executive Travel which offers a range of day excursions (for example Cheshire Oaks and Beamish Museum) and holidays. They pick up from various venues in the East Lancashire area. Prices vary per trip. It costs £17 (adult) and £11 (child) to visit Bakewell. 

Facts of the Day

1. A Bakewell tart has a shortcrust pastry shell under layers of jam, frangipane and flaked almonds. It developed as a variant of Bakewell Pudding in the 20th century.

2. Bakewell Pudding is a dessert with flaky pastry base, a layer of sieved jam and a topping of egg and almond paste. It is said to have been made by accident in 1820 or 1860 by Mrs Greaves, landlady of the White Horse Inn. The cook was apparently given instructions to make a jam tart, but stirred eggs and almond paste on top of the jam instead of into the pastry.

3. Cherry Bakewell is a version of the tart. Almond-flavour fondant covers the frangipane while a cherry rests on top.

Trek Diary Part 2: January 2018

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Harris Museum, Preston

A city walk: Six miles

December was a lazy month so it was back to square one in January (actually make that square minus ten as I must have put on weight and become even more unfit and unhealthy during the Christmas season). To start the year off, a friend and I embarked upon a Suburb to City stroll, setting off three miles (approximately) from Preston city centre.

To those who don’t know Preston, it is a former industrial town in the North West of England. It’s not far from Blackpool, Manchester and Liverpool, and the beautiful Lake District is just over an hour’s drive away.

Originally called Priest Town (Priest’s Tun) in Anglo Saxon times, Preston has had a long and fascinating history. I haven’t time to mention it all here except the two key episodes on Preston’s timeline are the English Civil War and the Industrial Revolution/cotton industry. Check out the Harris Museum for a proper glimpse into Preston’s past!

We walked along a busy road on the way into the city centre. The worst thing about this urban ramble is the traffic. On several occasions, one of us would say something and the other person would say, what? And that’s because Garstang Road is one of the main routes and the sound of cars is tremendous. And yet, even on this hectic thoroughfare, there are a few gems…

Amid the large detached houses which line this stretch of tarmac, is a patch of woodland called Highgate Wood. And further along Garstang Road, there is a massive allotment. It takes you into another world, where you feel you have entered into a secret rural haven and although I haven’t ventured into Highgate Wood, I imagine it must be a similar feeling.

 

Moor Park is a large park. The Preston Moor Common formed part of Henry III’s Royal Forest of Fulwood, which received a royal charter in 1235. Horse races were held between 1736 and 1833, and that was the year Moor Park was officially recognised as a municipal park. According to Preston Guild City’s website, a hundred acres of the common was enclosed and renamed Moor Park. In the 1860s, unemployed cotton workers landscaped the park. And it’s where Preston marathon walker Tom Benson – who held at least six world endurance titles – walked laps (about 314 miles) of Moor Park over five days and nights in 1976. Without stopping.

Talking of famous people, did you know Star Wars’ R2D2 was a Lancastrian? Or rather, Kenny Baker who played him was a resident of Preston?

 

In the city centre, we had an enjoyable lunch at Wings and Beers, a trendy looking American-style sports bar, down Cannon Street, also home of the quirky Mystery Tea House  (incredibly difficult to find but trust me, it really does exist on that street!)

I don’t love my home city. Money is wasted on silly traffic schemes and ugly carbuncles are lumped onto beautiful Victorian buildings (check out the train station’s new extension). Progress is the buzzword of the powers-that-be but sometimes at the expense of beauty. But it is also a city of hidden gems and fascinating history. If you go, I recommend the Harris Museum (stunning architecture) and Avenham Park, Halewood & Sons Book Shop, Mystery Tea Rooms and the art deco Bruccianis, Winckley Street and Winckley Square. Look for the beauty and quirkiness and, in any town or city, it is there…

Even the Grade II Brutalist 1969 bus station – believed to have once been the second largest bus station in Europe –  has its devoted fans in this city!

On our way home, we walked along Deepdale – home of the famous Preston North End stadium. Sir Tom Finney used to play here and his statue can be seen. When he died, thousands of residents lined the streets to pay their respects as his cortege passed the streets of Preston – and the stadium – before the service at Preston Minster.

 

Facts of the Day

1. Preston North End (also known as PNE, Lilywhites and The Invincibles) was founded in 1880. A founding member of the Football League.

2. They were unbeaten in the inaugural season and were crowned first league champions. They also won the FA Cup that season.

3. Dick, Kerr’s Ladies FC, founded in Preston, was one of the earliest women’s football teams in England, playing from 1917 to 1965.

For the latest news and features in Preston and surrounding area, read the Lancashire Post (a daily read) and for those of you who live further afield – http://www.lep.co.uk