Photograph: Valley stream

The newsletter editor is always pleased to receive articles to be considered for inclusion. The views expressed in the newsletter do not necessarily reflect official LCT policy or opinion.

It is expected that anyone wishing to contrubute material to the newsletter will first seek the approval of the editor.

OFFICIALS OF LITTLEBOROUGH CIVIC TRUST

Chairman: John Street, Calder Cottage. Tel. 01706 378043

Secretary: Barbara Daveron, 38 James Street, Dearnley Tel. 378664

Treasurer: Peter Jackson, 8 Chelburn View, Littleborough. Tel. 01706 373112

Membership Secretary: Lincoln Jackson, 1 Moorfield View, Shore. Tel. 01706 370542

Minutes Secretary: Chris Wilkinson, 3, Fair View, Littleborough. 01706 374020

Editor: Anne Lawson, 81, Todmorden Road. Tel. 01706 379604

COMMITTEE MEMBERS

Judith Schofield, 4, Bottoms, Crag Vale. 01422 885173
Michael Farrell, 41 Hollingworth Road. Tel. 370154
Don Pickis, Lightowlers. Tel. 378849.
Betty Pickis, Lightowlers. Tel. 378849.
Jill Roberts, 10 Townhouse Road. Tel. 377382
Rae Street, Calder Cottage. Tel. 378043
Joe Taylor, 136a Market Street, Whitworth. Tel. 344711

Please pass on any suggestions that you have about the Trust and its work to any of the above.

 

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Cartoon: Sun drowning

Welcome to the Summer edition of the Littleborough Civic Trust Newsletter, and what. a mixed start we have had to the summer so far !! After some sizzling weather at the beginning of June, we now seem to be getting the thirty days of rain as forecast for May and June !! My skin doesn’t know whether to tan or rust !! . . . .

Since the last Newsletter, the Trust has held its Annual General Meeting, at which one or two changes were made to the make-up of the Committee; Judith Schofield has stepped down from the post of Chairman, which John Street, formerly Vice-Chairman has taken on board. We welcome John to the helm, and know from his work to date with the Trust, and from his tireless involvement in a wide variety of projects, that he will be a very strong and active leader for us.

However, it is with sadness that we see Judith retire from the post that she has held for the last few years; she has given up a great deal of her time and energy in furthering the Trust’s work, and her enthusiasm for all aspects of what the Trust does has been inspirational to us all. Judith is particularly good at leading by example, and encouraging people to have a go at things they might otherwise not attempt. She is not afraid to roll up her sleeves and get on with the job - whether it’s clearing out the River Roche, planting bulbs, laying hedges, writing letters to the appropriate authorities on a huge variety of issues, or organising and speaking at functions. She was the inspiration behind the Tree Nursery, acquired the site for setting it up, and has lead the Tree Group ever since . . . We are very fortunate that she will still be a committee member, so that all her knowledge and experience won’t. be lost to us. Judith, many thanks for all you have done.

We would also like to extend a warm welcome to Barbara Daveron, who is taking over the job of Secretary from Mark Ascough, who has not enjoyed the best of health recently. Barbara is already a keen and active member of the Tree Group, and is now extending her interests in the environment to encompass all the issues with which we are involved - planning, clean-ups, traffic and access, windfarms, footpaths etc. etc. etc.

Following the "business" part of the AGM, Don Pickis gave a fascinating illustrated talk on Toll Roads, which was born from his involvement in the restoration project of the Toll House at Steanor Bottom. Over the years, the Toll House had deteriorated to such an extent, that by the early 1970’s, the roof had fallen in. and the building was threatened by demolition. ln order to save it, a campaign was launched to raise money to purchase the building and perform the necessary remedial works, which were completed in 1980. Don’s talk on Toll Houses and the Turnpike System is reproduced below.

We have been asked by Lynne Jackson if any of our members can help in gaining recognition of a footpath which is claimed to have been in use for over 20 years by residents of the Bents Farm estate, and which has been blocked. The path goes from Bent’s Farm Estate to Whitelees Road via Whittles Football/Cricket ground, across Fisher Foods to Littleborough Centre, Park and Library." If you know this path and have used it, it would help Lynne greatly if you can fill in an evidence form, available from Michael Farrell or Lynne Jackson (tel. 370819) - as soon as possible, please. Thank you.

And finally, we would like to send our good wishes to Peter Jackson, Treasurer, who is recovering at home following a serious spell in hospital.

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Dates for your Diary

Drawing of open diary

Saturday 12th July 10.00am – 4.00pm. Public Consultation "Pennines, Past, Present & Future" at the Community School.
All members should have had a letter and booking form for this event. The only way an exercise of this nature can be successful is if many people make the effort to attend, and contribute ideas, hopes and perhaps the odd grumble ! But the only way we can improve the area is by finding out everyone’s views and working together, so please come along and be a player, not a spectator !! Contact Sue Thornton on 378221 or John Street on 378043.

Tuesday 30th September Footpaths Meeting at the Council Offices, Harehill Park at 8.00pm. All new faces very welcome.

 

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The Aiggin Stone Arises

Photograph: The Aiggin Stone

Following John Street's plea for help in the Rochdale Observer to replace the toppled Aiggin Stone on Blackstone, Edge, we are pleased to report that Mr Graham Tonge of Construction Projects, a local Milnrow firm, very kindly organised the necessary manpower and equipment to place the stone, a 7 foot high granite monolith, firmly back in position using several tons of stone around its base to put off any would-be vandals from trying again. It’s heartening to know that there are folk around who are kind enough to give of their time and resources to lend a helping hand when it’s needed.

Thank you.

 

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Shore Hurst Project

As reported in last quarter‘s Newsletter, the Shore Hurst Project is well under way. On 27th April an army of helpers turned up to get started on the clean-up part of the Project. A skip was filled with rubbish of all kinds - car seats, window frames, mattress springs, garden rubbish, bits of old metal fencing, and bundles of undelivered newspapers . . . and all dumped in what will become a lovely bit of land when we’ve finished with it!!

What was particularly impressive was that the children all turned out to help too, and although it was felt that the lighting of the bonfire did hold a certain attraction for them, it must be said that they put in a lot of effort well before it was lit - in fact, they built it !! So a big "Well done" to all who came, and please keep up the good work by stopping people dumping rubbish if you can - or report it to us, or the council. Thank you.

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On Track Together?

Due to a lack of space, the following is only the first part of the account of the Access Meeting, which was held last month. The rest of the text will be in the next Newsletter. (Editor).

The Civic Trust held a Public Meeting at the Littleborough Coach House on Tuesday 3rd June to look at the issue of access around Littleborough. Richard Callow, the Group Editor of the Observer Group of newspapers very kindly agreed to chair the meeting and a ten minute presentation was given by each of the various speakers representing walking, horse riding, cycling, trail-bike riding and regional issues, which was followed by a question and answer session.

Drawing of walker

Richard opened by highlighting the great potential for access from urban fringe to countryside that exists in our area. However, one man’s access can be another man’s problem. Walkers and runners are possibly annoyed at horse riders and bikers; anglers at walkers; and cyclists have very limited access that is off the road. Richard hoped we would get an idea of the other person’s view from the presentations in order that we could work together to enjoy the countryside without impinging on someone else.

Drawing: horserider

Gez Wood, Senior Planning Officer at RMBC, who is looking at access, in particular off-road cycling, began by stressing, that his talk was not official RMBC policy, but his own personal account. The area is served well by public rights of way, and the Council does have a basic commitment under the Unitary Development Plan to make the countryside accessible. The rights of way were put on maps by the former Urban District Council when there were no mountain bikes and no horse riding interests represented, so many tracks became designated as footpaths. There has since been a change in demand, much new technology, and a great potential for tourism becoming a reality in the Borough, for example heritage and the canal. RMBC maintain and upgrade the tracks, but it is not a high priority, and most of the work done is on a personal basis. As the Council cannot get central government cash to maintain it, it must compete with innovative schemes which involve multiple use. For example, the Countryside Commission will grant 40% for multiple, not single, use.

Photograph: Cyclists on unmade path

However, there are a variety of problems and conflicts, for instance where people use the wrong paths for their activity because of a lack of clear signs. There are several options to resolve this;:

1. The Council can ignore the problem and hope it goes away.
2. Footpath users could press for horse riders and cyclists to be fined or booked - but this is just not viable.
3. There could be positive management by identifying routes for multiple use and changing their designation accordingly.

There is currently no list of potential multi-purpose routes, but the meeting was shown slides of where such treatment could be possible, and included parts of Ramsden Wood and Watergrove Reservoir. Copies of footpath maps had been supplied to interested groups, and the idea is now out to public consultation. (Editor’s Note - Please contact any Committee member if you have any suggestions.)

Photograph: angler

Phil Lord represented the Trail Biker’s Federation. These are not the same as the scrambler or trial bikers, but are a national organisation formed in 1970 with 15O0 members, all of whom have MOTs and full tax. Their average age is 41, and they have a strict code of conduct; as they travel our green lanes, they give way to walkers, horse riders and cyclists. They are non-competitive and non-racing, and have carried out a lot of work to clear and establish green lanes in accordance with their belief that ancient highways should be sustainable. They are a very friendly group of people, happy to pass the time of day and talk about their hobby. (Editor’s Note - We hope to have the full text of the presentation and codes of conduct for a future Newsletter).

Cycling interests were represented by Howard Gott (Gale Cycles, Hollingworth Road). His group works with the local authority, and have been surveying bike users and shoppers to find out what they want. Increased traffic is driving people off the road, but a major problem is that tracks cannot be found on maps. There are 55 miles of bridleway within RMBC but one third of these are dead ends or blocked. Many tracks were designated as footpaths for historical reasons - Wardle is particularly bad - so just opening these up would alleviate the problem. The cyclists do not believe in conflict as there is plenty of room for horse riders, cyclists and walkers in 90% of cases; people need access for many different types of recreation, and one type of user shonldn’t be intimidated by another — apologies were made on behalf of cyclists who had frightened other users.

Four metres has been quoted as a minimum width for cycling routes. At Rutland Water the width is three metres and there is no conflict between walkers and cyclists; in fact wider routes can encourage cyclists to speed up.

Cycling is very beneficial for health and is "green". The majority of walkers will have arrived for their walk in the car; the majority of cyclists will not have got their car out. Cycling is also available on prescription from Littleborough Health Centre.

(To be continued) Judith Schofield

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Some Observations on Toll Roads

Sketch of toll house before restoration

Sketch of toll house before restoration

(Prompted by the Restoration of Steanor Bottom Toll House).

In 1824 a new Toll House at Steanor Bottom began levying tolls at the junction of Calderbrook and Todmorden Road. [ts location indicated the opening of a new line of road from Littleborouglr Parish Church to Holmes at Walsden, now known as Bellhorne. The Toll Bar at Doghills at the junction of Calderbrook Road, Higher Calderbrook Road and Reddyshore Scout then became redundant and was sold by auction, presumably for the value of its material, as no obvious remains can be seen today.

In 1878 the Todmorden Turnpike Trust was wound up, the roads it was responsible for "disturnpiked", and those in wheeled traffic or driving animals once again able to use the roads free of charge.

The restoration, completed in 1980, of a unique building so prominently located in the local road, rail, canal and packhorse system became the main focus of effort and attention for some eight years among those who undertook the project. Occasional items of interest concerning the turnpike system, which had played such an important part in improving roads for travellers and traders came to notice, but time to follow them up never seemed available. Issues rarely touched on in history hooks, questions raised but not answered, lurked in the back of the mind and pressed forward, usually when another surviving toll house was passed at various other locations when touring around the country. What was travelling by road like then? What did it cost? How were the Turnpike Trusts set up? How financed? How did the public react to having their local road or roads "privatised" and to having to pay to use roads if travelling in a wheeled vehicle or driving horses, asses, mules, cattle, and sheep - roads that had been used free of charge for generations before? How was the Turnpike system discontinued and how was the essential work of maintaining and repairing roads carried on afterwards?

Information about the Turnpike system and the traveller’s experience of it seems not to be readily accessible publicly. Few obvious references are made for instance to travelling by coach in literature, "Pickwick Papers" being something of an exception in this respect. Considering that the first Turnpike Act was passed in 1663 and that toll roads endured almost to the l880’s in some parts, this is remarkable.

Fortunately the history of the Todmorden Turnpike has been well researched. In 1954 B. Gledhill produced privately a monograph entitled "Pennine Turnpike" based largely on the local Trust : this answers some of the questions in the context of the Rochdale, Todmorden, Halifax and Burnley area.

What were road conditions like before parish responsibility and before Turnpikes? Simply from the state of the surface, travelling, particularly in bad weather could be hazardous. The practice of removing the road surface for more private use, even of quarrying below the top surface if a particularly desirable material was identified - like clay, marl or stone - was not unknown. The shock of pitching into a water-filled trench at night can be imagined! From Elizabethan times it became established that parishes were responsible for their own stretches of highway: the state of these would vary according to the quality of work done. Clearly a reliable system of roads was needed as trade and industrialisation grew in the 18th and early 19th centuries. The setting up of the Turnpike Trusts was enabled by an Act: of 1706. The wide-ranging prospectus of an Act of 1760 referred to "diverting, altering, widening, repairing and amending the Roads from the town of Halifax and from Sowerby Bridge in the County of York by Todmorden to Burnley and Littleborough in the County of Lancaster."

In 1815 a number of investors were attracted to putting their money in the Todmorden Turnpike Trust, including Laurence Newall of Harehill near Littleborough, Robert Wainhouse of Washer Lane, Halifax, James Dearden of Handle Hall and a Samuel Prime of Whitton in Middlesex. The largest investment was made by Samuel Greenwood of Stones. Shareholders had the prospect of earning 5% per annum on their investment, a very respectable rate for the time.

Travelling by stage coach to a young man, like Dickens for instance, was an exciting adventure and a fascinating social occasion. A variety of travelling companions, change of scene, the quality of service and refreshment at the coaching inns , the thrills and sometimes spills associated with coach travel, all contributed to the sense of embarking on a quite novel experience, one shared by many travellers throughout history. The discomforts for the staid, less adventurous traveller of more mature years were nevertheless real enough. Coach travel was, however, very expensive. As such it must have been reserved for those in business, others wealthy enough to travel in relative comfort, or those obliged to travel on a special occasion for whom fares might often be paid by an employer of relative sufficiently well off to meet the travelling expenses of a visiting member of the family.

An example of costs taken from the Halifax Journal in 1804 gives an idea of how expensive coach travel must have been.

"The public are respectfully informed that the Todmorden, Burnley, Blackburn, Blackpool coach commenced running from the White Lion, Halifax on Tuesday l2th June 1804, and sets off every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday morning at 4 o’clock and arrives at Blackpool about 5 o’clock in the afternoon."

FaresInsideOutside
To Todmorden5/6 (27.5p)3/6 (17.5p)
Burnley8/- (40p)5/- (25p)
Blackpool£1-5s (£1.25)15/6 (77.5p)

Estimates of the relative value of the £1 sterling in 1804 and 1997 will of course vary, but if yearly wages for artisans in the l800’s are taken into account (below £10 per annum) and that as late as 1948 the wage for an agricultural labourer in Surrey was £4 per week, the fare from Halifax to Blackpool was enormously expensive. Presumably toll charges contributed to these prices. A flock of 50 sheep driven past Steanor Bottom Bar would cost the drover £1-0-1/2d, a hefty slice of any profit to be made at the local market.

Despite the high prices of even the cheaper fares, the old coachman’s rule clearly defines the status of 1st, 2nd and 3rd class passengers - "Passengers having to alight at the bottom of steep hills - insides should stay put, those in the baskert should get out and walk, whilst those on top should get down and shove!”

The public’s reaction to paying tolls was generally unfavourable, although that would be an understatement to describe the violent acts of sabotage that took place in Wales. The "Sisters of Rebecca", men, presumably dressed as women, attacked and destroyed toll houses in the l84O’s, making he system there unworkable. Defying serious penalties in turn, juries refused to convict those brought to court accused of acts of against the toll system. The heavy burden of tolls imposed on those engaged in stock rearing and marketing goods to be transported only a short distance to a place of sale can easily be calculated:

Each calf, swine or lamb1/4d
Each ox, cow or neat cattle1/2d
Each horse, mule or ass, laden or unladen and not drawing2d
Carts and carriages depending on the width of wheelbetween 5d and 9d each horse

(Tariff displayed on the board at Steanor Bottom Toll House)

Old sketch of pack horse

The burden pressed most heavily on those least able to absorb the cost.

The movement against the Toll system was taken so seriously that in 1864 legislation was brought in to discontinue the trusts progressively and to transfer the responsibility for the upkeep of roads from private bodies back to local highway authorities; in the first instance back to parishes. The process was necessarily a slow one, the removal of tolls over Blackstone Edge being accomplished in November 1872, while the Todmorden Turnpike Trust was not wound up until six years later in November I878.

The turnpike system did in fact contribute much to economic development by providing a good network of well-maintained roads, and its very success in this respect contributed to its eventual demise; the railway engineers of the Leeds Manchester Railway must have benefitted from a sound road system in and around the valley when building the stretch of track from Littleborough to Todmorden. The writer of the piece in the Todmorden and District News for 8th November 1872 recording the end of tolls over Blackstone Edge comments on the very high standard of engineering and maintenance of the new Halifax Road and how busy it has become up to and during the time of building the railway; "it would be difficult to find a turnpike road l6 miles long in better condition than is that from Halifax to Rochdale."

The removal of tolls from Blackstone Edge and Todmorden Road was greeted with very little obvious rejoicing. Other places marked the end of tolls with fireworks and processions. At Bridport in Dorset there was a near riot; the Toll House came under attack and the gate-keeper decamped!

Toll roads still exist of course; the French motorways use the péage toll system, although many motorists stick to the old "route nationale“ to avoid having to pay. In Britain the system helps finance new bridges and tunnels, the latest being the bridge linking Skye to the mainland, which has caused a great deal of protest. The fact throughout history that seems to remain constant is that people resent paying a tax on that which was once untaxed, particularly when levied on an essential service with no regard for ability to pay.

Don Pickis

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Footpath Walks List

Sunday 20th JULY - Meet Littleborough Square 1.30pm.
Leader - Kevin Kiernan
Reddyshore, Scoutgate and Cranberry Dam

Distance - 7 miles

Sunday 3rd AUGUST - Meet Littleborough Square 1.30pm
Leader - Harry Ratcliffe
Haslingden Circular

Distance - 4.5 miles

Sunday 17th AUGUST - Meet Littleborough Square 1.20pm
Leader - Geoff Sutcliffe
Higherford Circular

Distance - 6 miles

Sunday 31st AUGUST - Meet Littleborough Square 1.45pm
Leader - Joe Taylor
Littleborough Circular

Distance - 5-6 miles

Sunday 14th SEPTEMBER - Meet Littleborough Square 9.30am, cars to Hayfield
Leader - Geoff Sutcliffe
Kinder Downfall and Edale Cross

Distance - 9 miles

Tuesday 30th September - Footpaths Meeting
Harehill Park Council Offices 8.00pm

Sunday 12th OCTOBER - Meet Littleborough Square 1.30pm OR Owd Betts 2.00pm
Leader - Joe Taylor
Deeply Vale and Millcroft

Distance - 5.5 miles

Sunday 26th OCTOBER - Meet Littleborough Square 1.45pm
Leader - Michael Farrell
Wood Bottom - Heights Farm - Watergrove

Distance - 5.5 miles

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Editor: Anne Lawson

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