Stall at Rushbearing Festival

Littleborough in Bloom's stall at the Rushbearing Festival

(Photograph: Russell Johnson)

  English Heritage Launches Conservation Areas at Risk Campaign

English Heritage has produced a study of the state of conservation areas to which a large number of civic societies contributed. Conservation areas are one of the great successes of the civic society movement and there are over 9,300 across the country. They were only introduced in the 1960s after a concerted campaign led by Duncan Sandys and have been key to protecting the character of villages, towns and cities everywhere.
The headline results of the English Heritage survey are:

The main causes of decline are (percentage of conservation areas):

Nearly half of all conservation areas lack a local community group or civic society to support them and those with such support are more than twice as likely to be improving. English Heritage is launching a Conservation Areas at Risk campaign encouraging local authorities to make much wider use of their powers to control small scale development through " Article 4 Directions" and local civic societies and others to:

There is more information available from English Heritage at


  Scout Moor Update

Poor performance on Scout Moor

The first production figures for the Scout Moor Wind Turbine Power Station have now been published by the Renewable Energy Foundation ( The figures are for June to September 2008 and show that the Scout Moor turbines produced 2.1%, 3.1%, 4.5% and 5.8% of the developer's/generator's declared output. Hardly enough electricity to keep the wheel in a hamster cage turning.

Even though they have only produced such a pitiful amount of electricity the generator has still been able to claim soaring government subsidies in the form of Renewable Obligation Certificates (ROCs).

ROCs are granted for each MWh of electricity produced by an accredited renewable generator in the UK. Each ROC has a value to its owner and can be sold or traded.

These ROCs are on top of the payments obtained by the electricity generator for the sale of the electricity produced (whether it can be used or not) to the power providers at a price deliberately inflated by the Government. Who pays? We do

As we, the objectors to these monstrosities, have said all along:

The only winner from wind turbine power stations is the Developer/Generator!

There are sustainable alternatives, one of which, sewage gas, has been in the news lately. Every sewage plant in the country could be developed to produce power from the gas it creates, making them all cleaner, less smelly places providing cheap sustainable power. They do not stop producing power when the wind stops or when there is too much wind. But, does the government support it like wind turbine power stations? No, because a wind turbine stuck on top of a hill is much more noticeable to the public.

Tony Smith of the Friends of the South Pennines


  Secretary's Notes

British Waterways' New Approach

British Waterways have written to us to tell us of a desire on its part to connect (I should say reconnect) with local people and groups. This is long overdue and it has to be said that the deterioration in its relationship with local people has been entirely of its own making.

We should remember the very positive attempts by British Waterway's personnel back in 2001 and 2002 to establish good communications with us and others. They did this along the whole length of the soon-to-be- reopened Rochdale Canal, the idea being that if they involved local people in decision making and some of the simpler tasks required, the likelihood of problems would be seriously reduced. It began to work.

Then partly, but only partly, due to shrinking finance from the government they thrashed around and adopted a policy of reducing bank staff, tackling practical problems and issues of the canal only when they had to rather than planning ahead and, worst of all, selling off important bits of heritage and at the same time in effect going into the property market and building up a portfolio of buildings, the income from which they hoped would be the revenue provider for the future.

My impression was that they completely lost sight of what they were all about i.e. keeping the canals in good repair for the benefit of all canal users and the communities through which the canals ran.

They have now decided to have a number of dedicated maintenance units (eleven across the country) and a significant loss of office staff.

Well, my impression has been that there has been a growth in non-productive paper shifters while the bank staff — the people who work on the canal — have been decimated.

Why has it taken them so long to realise what we locally have been aware of for some five or six years; that is that their 'accountants' approach has been the problem and not the solution?.

Their letter went on to say that there was to be a public debate quite soon, but didn't give details, in which the public would be asked to consider British Waterways' views on how the network should be used, run and funded in the future; they think it is now time to consider the option of changing the network's structure into a third sector 'public interest company' or trust with charitable status. They said that the annual income from all sources was a continuing problem which they felt would be helped by such a change.

Having had my grumble I can only say that I wish this new initiative well because their present course was leading nowhere fast.

You can view the new 'vision' (how I dislike that word in this sort of context!) at

NWActs Conservation Area Leaflet

The North West Association of Civic Trust Societies, of which we are a member, has produced a leaflet on Conservation Areas. Funded by a grant from English Heritage it is now available and we have a very limited number of copies. Should anyone be interested in having a copy they are priced at £1.30; however if you would like to see it for free it is on the NWActs website:

The Civic Society Initiative

Following the death of the National Civic Trust as outlined in our last issue, things are moving on.

The attempts by the Trustees of the old Trust to revive the corpse have developed into the Civic Society Initiative. This is funded, for the moment by the National Trust, the CPRE, the RIBA and the North of England Civic Trust and possibly some others; not, however, with cash as far as I can make out and they have already sent out a plea to most societies from the old Trust for donations. The National Trust have loaned us Tony Burton for a year to head the new Initiative, including paying his salary; the CPRE and the RIBA have given office space in Liverpool and London and the North of England Civic Trust are acting as treasurers for any money they come by.

Consultations with societies are ongoing via a number of meetings across the country (there have already been two in the North West at Blackpool and Liverpool) and the intention is to have a big conference in Blackpool in October to bring together the suggestions for a new body from all these discussions.

A 'steering group' has been set up but there appears to be no desire to explain the pros and cons of different views or to give any guidance to member societies; they seem to be bending over backwards to avoid any accusations that they are 'telling' societies what they should do. The problem with that approach is that many societies don't know what to do nor what might be possible.

The North West Association of Civic Trust Societies is unhappy with the decisions being made which exclude the regional associations, but it has to be acknowledged that the Initiative has got 'legs' at the moment, which is more than can be said for the regional associations.

If any members would like to let us have their thoughts on what any new body ought to be doing for us it would be helpful as we would like to represent the desires of as many of you as possible.

After discussions in committee I've written to Tony Burton with our ideas.

These are:

  1. The steering group should offer some guidance to all the societies on the way forward, not wait for the 'grass roots' tell it what they want. Care should be taken that these 'suggestions' are offered as just that, to avoid any accusation of a top-down approach so fatal for the Civic Trust and leading to its recent demise.
  3. There is a need to have a new constitution which should be along lines which can include not just societies which are exclusively interested in buildings and the urban environment, but the wider issues which effect local communities and the effects these have on the country as a whole. Once this has been agreed, or at least mooted, it will be necessary to state as clearly as possible the way to achieve these ends and the costs therein.
  5. A declaration of intentions, costings and a time scale is more likely to garner some agreement amongst the societies than the present attempts to gather monies in order to pay for .. what? It hasn't been made clear and smacks of the old guard once again trying to get money from the societies, like the recent failed attempt just before the Civic Trust's demise, but again without saying what the money is for.
  7. We need to decide how any national body's governing committee is to be constituted. We favour the inclusion of all the regional chairmen and women with other people co-opted as necessary in advisory positions.
  9. Eventually, but as soon as possible, we feel there should be salaried people working to a) promote the new body and its opinions and achievements in the media as often as possible, b) obtain significant sponsorship deals to help with the funding / even if you slap large increases on the membership it is unlikely to be sufficient on its own and c) lobby government on the issues which are of concern to our movement — there is nothing more important than this as it would achieve something we in the individual societies cannot achieve alone.

Meanwhile our own work carries on unabated...

Iain Spencer Gerrard


  Stansfield Hall Primary School

Stansfield Hall Primary School

Stansfield Hall Primary School

Photograph: Unknown

Stansfield Hall School is located on the hillside between Barnes Meadows and Todmorden Road. It is typical of schools built in the late nineteenth century. The date of the photograph is not known, although it was taken before Stansfield estate was built in the 1950s and which now obscures the view of the spire of St. James church in the background.

The history of this school is inextricably linked with that of the church of Saint James at Calderbrook. This church was founded by the Dearden family who had been associated with the area since the seventeenth century. Today the church contains the Dearden crypt and stained glass windows erected as memorials to the family.

During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the character of Calderbrook and Summit changed dramatically. The area became alive with industry. The canal and railway were built. At Sladen, Rock Nook and Greenvale, mills were built first for wool and then for cotton. To meet the needs of the workers and their families shops were built in Calderbrook and Summit. At the same time chapels and churches were built and these were often at the centre of the new community. However, as accounts from the time testify the many public houses also thrived!.

By 1818 there was a Wesleyan Methodist chapel in Littleborough and a New Connection Chapel and Sunday School, called Mount Gilead, at Salley Street, Calderbrook. Later chapels were built at Summit and on Temple Lane. In 1860, building began on the Church of St. James at 'Calder Bottoms'. The church was built and endowed at the expense of the Dearden family on land donated by them. The laying of the foundation stone took place on the 21st birthday of James Griffiths Dearden, son of the Lord of the Manor.

The church soon had a thriving group of parishioners with a Mothers' Union, a Men's Group, a Boys' brigade and a Sunday school. The Sunday School provided a valuable basic education as well as religious guidance. Following the introduction of elementary education in 1870, this was a very basic education which was administered through School Boards. At St. James the opportunity to establish a school was quickly grasped. A school opened on Temple Lane in 1873 catering for about forty children aged from three years upwards. The school began with a few books and a blackboard and easel. Soon a night school also started providing education for children who worked during the daytime. A group of school managers was formed to oversee the school and to deal with finance.

Teaching must have been difficult as there was only one teacher and pupil numbers gradually increased to over sixty by 1876. Thus when the school mistress became ill, it was necessary to close the whole school for a week. Later, in 1894, when the Mount Gilead School (at Sally Street) closed, this resulted in 50 new pupils bringing the overall total to 130.

Boys and girls were treated very differently. There was strict segregation with separate entrances. Boys had carpentry, woodwork and later military drill. In contrast girls had sewing lessons and later they attended the Summit Ebenezer School for cookery. This gender segregation was reinforced by the School Inspectors in 1892 who wrote that the gate between the boys' and girls' sections of the playground must be kept locked.

Although discipline was strict and much of the teaching involved learning by rote, school accounts provide a glimpse of children and staff enjoying informal activities. Children were given an afternoon's holiday on Monday March 28th 1892 to enable them to attend a visiting circus. On other occasions the children joined in celebrations for the dedication of the church of St. James. Queen Victoria's 76th birthday involved a tea party and a concert. Later in 1897 the vicar's marriage and the Diamond Jubilee both resulted in holidays.

Large families and the increasing employment in local mills and factories ensured that school numbers continued to increase. However, pupil attendance did fluctuate and proved to be a recurrent problem. Many children missed school due to poor health. In 1895 the school was closed by the Medical Officer of Health due to an epidemic of scarlet fever. During the closure the whole building was lime washed and the floors scrubbed with carbolic soap. Later 1900 saw another closure due to an outbreak of diphtheria. This was a terrible illness which spread rapidly and caused the deaths of three children. In 1904 an epidemic of scarlet fever and measles closed the school for over 5 weeks. This sad story continued, with a report of measles in 1914 and the whole school being closed in 1915 due to staff illness.

In the early years many children attended school despite family hardship and illness. It is symptomatic of the poverty of many families in the area that the provision of free milk, food and fruit is a constant theme in school records. Children frequently missed school during the annual haymaking and other work which contributed to the family budget. The school tried to encourage attendance through medals, prizes and even oranges.

1870 saw the introduction of universal elementary education. In 1895 the new Summit School Board decided to build a new school at Barnes Meadows. In May 1897 there was a grand opening of the new school; a Mrs. MacGill of Hollingbrook House officiated. For many years the original Temple Lane site remained as the infants' department with juniors being taught in the 'new' building.

Stansfield Hall Church of England and Free Church Primary School remains, despite a falling birth rate, in the 1897 building. It is significant that the school currently has 111 pupils — in 1897 the new school was designed to cater for 426 scholars.

Margaret Edwards


  St John the Baptist, Smallbridge. 1834–2008

St John the Baptist

St John the Baptist

Photograph: Rex Moore, Wardle & Smallbridge History Group

At the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815, the Government set aside money for church buildings in the industrial North. This act was known as the Million Grant, and Smallbridge St Johns was built out of this fund. The nearest churches were Holy Trinity, Littleborough to the east and St James Wardleworth to the west. The parish was large, but was later reduced by the building of St James Wardle (1858), All Saints, Hamer (1866) and St Andrews, Dearnley ( 1895).

During the later years of the century many bequests were made to the Church. In 1857 a beautiful stained glass east window was given by four Healey brothers in memory of their parents who were wealthy mill owners in the area

For forty two years Canon Cook was vicar of the Church, and when he died in 1891 a pulpit and lectern in carved oak were dedicated to his memory.

When his wife died in 1909 a beautiful carved oak chancel screen was erected by the parishioners, and this set St Johns apart from other Waterloo Churches. Ellen Cook had previously painted the fine copy of Leonardo Da Vinci's Last Supper which forms the backdrop to the high altar. Another popular vicar was the Reverand Berry and when his wife died an intricately carved font cover was given.

St John the Baptist pulpit

St John the Baptist pulpit

Photograph: Rex Moore, Wardle & Smallbridge History Group

Over the following years many artefacts were donated, and memorial tablets erected on the walls. After World War One the Lady Chapel was made as an interior War Memorial to the fallen, the reredos taking the form of a triptych on which the names of the dead are recorded. In the churchyard a Celtic Cross was erected on which the names of the parishioners killed in active service were inscribed.

During recent years congregations had begun to decline, and the fabric of the church along with them. The death blow came after the Ascension Day service in 2006 when the north mullion in the east window burst throwing out large chunks of stone into the Chancel.

When professional help was sought it was found that the cast iron rods in the centre of the mullion had rusted. The cost of removing the window and replacing the mullions was far beyond the resources of the Church. To complicate matters further the roof had begun to leak and the organ showed signs of damage due to dampness in its pipes and mechanism, so the decision was made to close the church. The last service was held on Mothering Sunday 2007.

What has happened to this lovely grade 2 building with its beautiful interior and well laid graveyard since that last service? — precisely nothing. The graveyard is a wilderness with weeds growing higher than the tombstones. Parishioners are unable to access the graves of their loved ones to lay flowers. No–one knows the state of the interior — we can only guess. But dampness, lack of heat, and a leaking roof must be having an adverse effect on the internal woodwork. The local clergy dont seem to have any answers. All we are told is that nothing can be done until the official closure, but no–one can give a date. If something is not done shortly the ravages of time and the weather, not to mention vandalism will have destroyed the beauty within this church which is our heritage.

More fine photographs of the interior of St. Johns can be found on the History Group's website at (click on the "Heybrook to Smallbridge Remembered" tab).

Una Dean, Wardle and Smallbridge History Group


  More on the Littleborough Shops of Yesteryear - a letter to the Secretary

Following Russell Johnson's article on shops in Littleborough 50 years ago, our secretary has received an interesting letter on the subject from one of our members, Pat Stephenson. She is aware that some of her recollections may not be entirely accurate after all this time and welcomes corrections from any of our readers with long memories! We print it below:

Smithy Bridge

14th June 2009

Dear Mr Gerrard

Further to your article in the summer newsletter for 2009.
I am 74 years old and can probably put some names to the shops you mention in the 40's and 50's.

Seed Hill Buildings:

Starting at Billy Howarth's (later taken over by Ian). He did a lot of things — barber, sold cigs, at one point a bit of coach booking, sold tickets to things.
Stairway to Seed Buildings (chiropodist, offices etc).
Haberdashery and wool shop (now Tiger feet).
Then the next two shops shared a doorway: Joyce (Marion?) sold ladies lingerie.

T H Taylor butcher.
Craven's Chemist.

Passing accross Victoria Street:

Fruit and Veg (formerly Barratts).
Dry Cleaning (small shop, later on to be taken over by Barratts for flowers).
Lords Bread and Cake shop (Lords Caterers) (later Electric shop and formerly Curchills ladies and gents outfitters - now video rental.
Pet Shop (moved from over the road and later on bought by Barrie Kieman for exotic pet sales etc); I remember once one of his pythons got free and in the following morning it was to be seen in the window of Churchills outfitters under one of their halogen lamps.
Heyworths newsagents - but that was not the previous owner's name — it escapes me for the moment.
Where the Hospice shop is was Ken Rose's shoes, but before that I think was either the men's outfitters or Lumbs or vice versa — Ronnie Durber's.

Further along where the Locketts is was Leonard Dobson, clock repairer and jeweller; then the odd shop at the end was the cloggers - now a shop for framing and trophies, but the door then was on the end of a triangle shape.
After the gap where Sainsbury's is, the Co–op started with the Shoe Shop, menswear, then Josie Burrill's Milliners, butcher, cafe, the grocers and finally the offices. I don't remember furniture.
Down the other side of the road from the main road was of course Barclays Bank — now Rif Raf which was substantially physically altered.
Coming now to the Old Victoria Inn which moved in 1903 — 3 years after being built — I know because I was a part owner of the property after Parry's left, with Leonard and Iris Badger, and studied the enormous pile of Deeds appurtaining to this property.
Arthur Bamford took over the first shop after leaving the Co–op fish shop on Church Street — first shop after Seed Hill House — now a Cafe. Next to that was the flower shop and veg — (now curtain fabric shop&41;. Then there was Martin's Bank which changed to Wm Glynns. Kevin Bamford and Winnie took over from Arthur when he retired.
Lincoln Jackson next with a mixed variety of cleaning materials and toys — then he moved next door in the 80s (Now Geoff Mellodew's jewellers). (Lincoln then took over next door premises — this is now empty. My shop round the corner of Victoria Street was a Sport's shop. I was later advised because of further movement of the property to have it shored up and so left the premises and Iris moved to the shop further down (Miss Wild's old shop which is now the barber shop).
Next Mrs Parry's shoe shop and round the corner Mr Parry's brothers had a TV and Radio repair shop in the same building.
On the next corner in the 40s prior to Neil's and later Liam's occupancy it was an Ice Cream Parlour.
Next came Sid Wyatt's newsagents and Mallinson's Pet shop (these may be vice versa).
After that there was Daker's grocers and Miss Wild transferred from Victoria Street into the shop when Daker's closed and from Miss Wilds, Iris Badger moved in, in the 80s with her material and wools.
Mr England's chemist shop was at number 19 (my husband took rental of the upstairs later in the 70s to start up a business).
The Gas Showroom was next door. What that was before in the 40s I cannot recall.
Kenny Eddison's shop was the last in that row with ironmongery.
These memories are literally what I can recall — no proof — but maybe I have somewhere some photos of Whit Walks which may confirm to me these memories. I am sure there are still some of my peers who will remember.
We also had a good warehouse for coats and dresses, suits and skirts etc menswear and this was in Newall Street, Booth's Warehouse.
Fantastic place — no need to go into Rochdale (God forbid we should ever have needed to &#mdash; or Manchester). We had it all. Holden&#mdash;s provided us with all household necessities from lino to suites etc. and they also looked after us with bereavement services.
We had two cinemas, Queens and the Victoria and also we had many pubs, dance halls and church halls. (Embassy Hall, Kings Hall, Co–op Hall (on Bare Hill Street, next to the stable for the Store Horse later taken over by Len Bottomly for Litho printing) — Shore Mills for dances each month, Con club, Trades Hall, Cricket Club — and some Church halls — and probably more I cannot recall.
This was a thriving community in the 40s and 50s, a place I grew up in and was very happy in — we had no problem with theft, vandals or any street crime. We had a bobby who clipped you round the ear if you misbehaved and was always visible and available — the police did not have cars in those days, they walked the beat but who we always regarded with respect as our friend.
How times have changed - I am glad I was born when I was.

Pat Stephenson


Editor: Brian Walker