Hare Hill House

Hare Hill House

(Photograph: Iain Spencer Gerrard)

  National Civic Trust

The Civic Trust is no more, at least for the time being. Having had difficulties financially over a long period of time – see the last issue of the newsletter regarding the recent attempt to gather some much-needed income from individual members – it has finally hit the buffers and has had to be placed into administration.

It is important to realise that this will not affect the Littleborough Civic Trust one iota. Whether we should be concerned at its demise however is another matter.

Many times I have heard people ask what does the Civic Trust do and, more importantly from members of the movement, what does it do for us?

The original concept was raised by the then MP Duncan Sandys in 1957, the idea being to raise public awareness of the need to protect and create good buildings and urban spaces. Well meaning as this undoubtedly was, and many good societies were created across the nation imbued with the same desire to see their own communities protected and improved, it lacked proper funding. It never had the same income as, for instance, the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) or the National Trust.

Why this was so I can't say although I have my doubts as to whether the funding needed to run a national organisation could be obtained from our present Civic Trust members. To put this point bluntly, our present subscription rates are £5.00 per person, from which a registration fee of £60 was paid to the national body, in comparison to CPRE where individual membership costs £29 and the National Trust costs over £35; of course you get more for your subscription in both organisations than you got from the Civic Trust.

Where the Civic Trust fell down over many years was to play with colourful issues such as the Civic Trust architectural awards, the Green Flag awards and Bizz Fizz (sic), instead of building up substantial connections with the law makers at Westminster to gain influence over proposals before they were set in stone. The CPRE has 9 full time paid lobbyists who get the opinions of that organisation not only before the MPs but also into the press and onto radio and television. When did you last hear of the Civic Trust being quoted or achieving anything at Westminster? There were representations made but they were pretty much ignored by the policy makers.

I started out by saying the Trust was finished, at least for the time being. I did not however mean that it was going to be reconstituted like a bad business which goes into liquidation, rids itself of all the old baggage of debt, and arises again under a different name.

Attempts are being made by the Trustees – the EX-Trustees – to do something along those lines, recreating a new Trust but along the old and failed lines. Many do not think that this approach is acceptable, no matter what their concerns and legitimate hopes are to salvage something out of the mess; after all they were the ones in charge and saw the end looming but without telling anyone until it was too late. Would you think it sensible to employ again the chief executive and board of a bank which has had to be bailed by our tax money to save it from collapse?

The Trustees were never elected by anyone and the Civic Trust was essentially an undemocratic body. The opinions of the properly elected members of the various regional associations, who comprised most of the National Committee, were often ignored.

Those in the North West Association of Civic Trust Societies feel that some new body might rise from the ashes, phoenix-like, but only after careful consideration and consultation with the 'grass-roots'; societies like ours.

This may be an opportunity to create a truly useful new body which can achieve the original intentions for the old Civic Trust and may be some additional ones which many of the societies which were registered with the Trust held dear.

We now need to express what we would like any new body to do for us but I'll repeat what I referred to earlier: this will need money and the question is not just what you would like a new body to do for you but are you willing to pay for it?

Iain Spencer Gerrard

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  Littleborough Railway Station Update

Friends of Littleborough Station

The Friends Of Littleborough Station is now pleased to announce that they are Friends of Littleborough Stations: plural because, we now include Smithy Bridge Station. Stuart Carmichael and John Stanley have already put up notice boards at Smithy Bridge and they have included some artwork from St. Andrews Church Holiday Club on the 'Yorkshire' platform.

The next meeting of the combined group will be on Monday 8th June at 7.30 p.m., hopefully at a venue in Smithy Bridge. We will be putting out information as soon as we can, but if you are unsure ring Stuart (379817) near the time. We are also planning a group outing to Liverpool during the summer. The May date had to be cancelled because of disruptive rail engineering work in Manchester.

We are still pursuing the rail operators for help with the major problems at Littleborough station, that is the ramps and the shelter. Frustratingly, it is always 'jam tomorrow' – it is coming, but when?

We hope everyone has been pleased with the tub plantings of spring flowers &#ndash; let us know if you would like to join to help.

Rae Street

Littleborough Station Buildings on the 'downline'

A New Home For The Littleborough Historical & Archæological Society's Archive

Photograph: Brian Walker

A New Home for the History Society's Achive

Progress is still being made, albeit slower than we would have liked, with the move to the Station Buildings. Bernard Pratt and David Grayson met with the rail industry on April 3rd, and we should shortly be in a position to sign the lease and gain full access to the buildings.

Our plans are to get the internal structural alterations done, together with plumbing and electrical work and, to this end, we are awaiting estimates from local tradesmen. Once these are in, we can firm up the grant application to Pennine Prospects who have European Funding available for community projects in the South Pennines. Once we receive confirmation from the new secretary of the Railway Heritage Trust of the amount they are putting in, a start can then be made and anyone with the time to help out with such things as decorating etc., will be most welcome, as we intend to do as much work as we can by using volunteer labour.

Graham W Pearson, Secretary, Littleborough Historical & Archæological Society


Editor's note: We received the above item from Graham shortly before hearing of his sudden death. Russell Johnson, LCT Chairman, has provided the following

Graham W Pearson

The Littleborough Civic Trust was both shocked and sorry to hear the sad news of Graham Pearson's passing. I knew Graham for many years, going back to when our children were at school. I have attended many meetings alongside Graham in the past, ranging from Parent/Teachers right up to the present day wind turbine protest meetings, and many others in between, but Graham's overriding passion was for history, history in general, and Littleborough history in particular. Indeed, his involvement with the L.H.& A.S. was well known; in fact I would say it was almost legendary, working tirelessly as Secretary since taking up the post in 1994.

Our thoughts go out to Dilys and family at this sad time, and I know it is not much comfort, but I would just like to mention that I have had more email condolences sent to me saying how Graham will be missed, and how much he has done for Littleborough, than I would normally get. So although Graham will be sadly missed his achievements and his memory will last for many years to come.

Russell Johnson

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Secretary's Notes

Hare Hill House

The Council have made it clear that their use of Hare Hill House is coming to an end on economic grounds.

As outlined in the last newsletter the intention is to have a so-called Joint Services Centre on the site of the present Littleborough Medical Centre behind the police station which will house an extended medical facility, the township manager's office, one or two dribs and drabs and the library thus emptying the House at one fell swoop.

MoorEnd Development Trust has been concerned for many months over what might then happen. It has set up a sub-group, on which I sit, to see if the House can be taken over by MoorEnd in a similar way to Butterworth Hall, a community facility in Milnrow which is rented from the Council for a peppercorn rent for 999 years; in effect owning it.

The government of the day bless 'em, consider it a good idea for councils to pass such properties, for which they no longer have any use, over to the community to be run by the community for its benefit.

Hare Hill House in addition is a much-loved local landmark, which many people in Littleborough consider already is 'theirs', and which would be a sad loss if it were to be sold on into commercial hands. The outcome of such a move would be uncertain but could easily lead to its demolition. This would not only lose Littleborough its iconic building but would have a deleterious effect on the Park which was the original garden of the House.

Should MoorEnd succeed in getting control of the House it wouldn't necessarily mean there would be no commercial involvement as the running costs would have to be found from somewhere and a revenue income will be required.

What would the benefit be to Littleborough in that case? Well, the House would be 'owned' by MoorEnd and let to commercial interests, so keeping control of what uses were made of it and the effect such uses would have on its appearance and on the impact that would have to the Park. It would be the intention of the Development Trust that some part of the building would be available for use by local groups at cost, subsidised by the revenue income.

If all this is to come about there is a great deal of work to be done and no certain outcome. The future uses of the House and the Library buildings have to be evaluated as to their value to the town and their economic viability.

MoorEnd has already commissioned and paid for a structural survey on the buildings and is now entering into a contract with a company which will provide a critical evaluation of such things: a feasibility study.

That is the situation so far; so how will Littleborough Civic Trust be involved?

We have been asked to help by doing an evaluation survey of the house's interior to see what is still original and worth keeping. This will take the form of a gazetteer with descriptions of each room with photographs.

The Old Council Chamber in Hare Hill House

The Old Council Chamber in Hare Hill House

Photograph: Iain Spencer Gerrard

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Joint Services Centre

Having just attended the latest meeting of the Joint Services Centre Advisory Group I am able to give the latest state of play in relation to that issue.

It was reported that agreement had been obtained on the Private Finance Initiative credits and the following will give some indication of the size of the proposed building. The money amounted to £10.1 million for the two proposed medical health centres in Littleborough and Heywood with £65,000 per year allocated from the Council.

The breakdown was vague but it appeared that the amount available for Littleborough would be £3.5 million to £4 million with £90 to £100 thousand from the Council year on year. The overall 'footprint' of the building is approximately 2500 square metres although of course on more than one level.

The original idea to find a temporary site to which the present medical centre could be moved during the 18 months contract period was proving problematic. An alternative now seemed to be being considered, that of finding another central site where the new facility could be built leaving the present medical centre functioning as normal for the 18 months and culminating in one move at the end. Such sites were rare (practically non-existent if you have any local knowledge!) and the suggestion had been made that the Ealees site on Canal Street might be suitable – one local member of the group was in favour but appeared ignorant of the history of the site and its existing development brief which would preclude any such use.

I suggested they look along Peel Street on the south side although when I looked at it after the meeting it seemed even longer and narrower than I remembered.

We were told that a report had been prepared for the Pennine Councillors and would be going to their meeting on the 26th May. I queried if his remarks indicated a 'done deal' as regards the library. This caused quite a bit of discussion within which his further statements that the Pennines had been fully consulted and had agreed to the proposals to date – including the library move – were queried, not just by me but by others and seemed to raise doubts in the chairwoman's mind, Councillor Jean Ashworth.

I was concerned that a report which no one had seen previously was to go before the Councillors for their approval, containing the presumption of the library's inclusion in the scheme. It was pointed out that the report would be published seven days prior to the meeting in the Agenda papers.

A further issue was raised by a MoorEnd director over the inclusion within the scheme of 'community rooms' which he feared would be likely to interfere not only with existing community facilities but with one of the proposed new uses for Hare Hill House; he suggested that the Council should be supporting the existing provision rather than building more itself. He was assured that the rooms were not intended for public use but were intended as meeting rooms for the staff using the building.

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Littleborough Central Conservation Area Extension

Almost coincident with the above we have been in discussion with the Planning Department's Design & Conservation officer, David Morris about the intention to expand the Central Conservation Area. This was first promulgated over two years ago when we made a submission on where we felt the new boundaries should go.

St Mary's Church

St Mary's Church - an iconic part of the conservation area

Photograph: Iain Spencer Gerrard

The original decision to declare the centre of the town a conservation area was taken back in 1986, right at the end of the existence of the so-called Greater Manchester County, and was probably prepared, with the best of intentions, in a bit of a rush. It was done by the Planners in GMC and Rochdale Metropolitan Borough had little or nothing to do with it – not that RMBC's inclusion in the process would necessarily have helped, probably quite the opposite – but there were some peculiarities in it and some obvious omissions: the inclusion of the railway station buildings on the down line, but the omission of the rest of the station and the viaduct, and the omission of Hare Hill House and Park.

It was felt that having the House and Park within a conservation area would aid MoorEnd's bid to save the House for the town. Littleborough Civic Trust has consequently agreed to prepare, in conjunction with the Planning Department, an assessment of the buildings in the extended area proposed in order to achieve this satisfactorily.

This will take a lot of work and a helping hand is needed from any of our members who would like to be involved. This should not put anyone off because the work is enjoyable and can always be done on good days weather-wise.

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Littleborough Walk & Ride Festival 2009

This is a South Pennines-wide series of events held at a variety of places during the summer months and funded by Pennines Prospects. The majority of the events are, as the title suggests, both walking and riding based. We were asked if we could host a talk during the festival period and this we have agreed to do.

The talk is by author Andrew Bibby, accompanied by photographer John Morrison, who will discuss their recent book Backbone of England, in which Andrew traces the line of the Pennine watershed, from Kinder Scout to Hadrian's Wall.

Along the way he explores the various aspects of the area's history, ecology, culture and geology, meeting many of the people whose lives are shaped by the landscape. Stunning images taken by John will accompany the talk – and he will no doubt throw in the odd anecdote or two.

The talk will be at the Coach House on September 24th (start 7.30 pm) and there will be a nominal charge of £3.00 which will include coffee, tea and biscuits. Please put this date into your diaries.

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Shop Fronts in Littleborough

We were asked if we could supply an original picture or photograph of a specific shop front in the town centre by the Planning department in order that they could ask the owner, who intends to replace the present one, to try to emulate what had there before.

We were not able to do this but it was felt that a suitable indication of what shop fronts were like many years ago and which could form the basis of attempts to return some character to the town centre would be extremely useful to the Planners when considering future applications.

We are therefore searching for any decent photographs of the town centre shops from yesteryear which show sufficient detail for this purpose. If anyone has any such we would be grateful for the loan of them so that we could make copies, so have a look in your attics and untouched bureau drawers

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Schofield Hall

On an elevated site at Rakewood, overlooking Hollingworth Lake, are the remains of a once great house – Schofield Hall. It was the ancestral home of the Schofields, a family whose ancestry can be traced back to the reign of Edward I. Of the 12 generations of Schofields (the lineage died out circa 1803) the last three were highly esteemed Presbyterian ministers – at Hall Fold, Whitworth, Portsmouth and Birmingham. The black sheep of this remarkable family was undoubtedly the thoroughly disreputable Cuthbert Schofield who died in 1605 of indeterminate age, and who was buried at Rochdale, but not before wreaking havoc amongst his contemporaries! This quarrelsome gentleman was either extremely unlucky or, as seems more probable, enjoyed the notoriety acquired through litigation. For he appeared at the Duchy Court more frequently than any other inhabitant of the parish.

At the Bishop's Court, Chester, in 1561 he sued his wife Ann for divorce. She was the daughter of Sir John Byron of Clayton-le-Moors, and was known to all as "Lady Byron's daughter", which she most certainly was not. For she had been conceived out of wedlock by Sir John and a Manchester woman named Ann Halgh. In court, Ann Schofield was accused of committing adultery at Schofield Hall with one Michael Goodricke, gentleman. The chief witness for the plaintiff was a journeyman tailor, who just happened to be working at the Hall at the time of the alleged offence making a gown for Ann Schofield and some apparel for her husband.

What followed reads like the scenario for a cartoon strip. When Cuthbert Schofield and his mother returned home from a visit to Rochdale Market, they were told of the debauchery the journeyman tailor had witnessed during their absence. This resulted in an immediate hue and cry; Goodricke escaped by leaping out of a window, closely followed by the erring wife. In hot pursuit was the irate husband, brandishing his sword and, no doubt, swearing vengeance. He was seen chasing the couple across several fields before they escaped to Rochdale. Later they went to live with Ann's stepmother at Clayton-le-Moors before moving to Ireland.

During the following year Cuthbert Schofield was in court again contesting the "stopping up" by Edmund Butterworth of the Queen-s highway at Little Haworth. And, laying claim (unsuccessfully) to Whittaker, a farmhouse, "its moors, wastes and, commons," half-a-mile from Schofield Hall.

In 1565, aided and abetted by his manservant Reynard Heyley and followers, Cuthbert Schofield, behaving like a latter-day crusader, besieged the Milnrow Chapel of St. James the Apostle in Bridge Street (at the bottom of Kiln Lane), where today three stone cottages stand on the banks of the River Beal. The centre one of which incorporates the same ornamental doorway used in the Chapel building. Cuthbert Schofield and his arch-enemy Sir John Byron were engaged in a rightful ownership dispute of a piece of land called "Goseholme" upon which the said Chapel had been built. That fiasco ended up in yet another court appearance, which resulted in access to the Chapel being restored to the people of Milnrow.

However, despite his bad reputation, as custodian of Schofield Hall, Cuthbert Scofield's conduct was exemplary for the Hall and its estates prospered. The family also owned the Round House, Booth Hollins and other estates. Round House was an ancient farmhouse the site of which now lies submerged in the centre of Hollingworth Lake.

When Cuthbert Schofield died in 1605 leaving no rightful heir, the estates passed to his nephew Gerard Schofield. Later, in 1673, Gerard's son James Schofield, having neglected the estates through his "loyal service to the King' was obliged to sell Schofield Hall to his son-in-law Seth Clayton, thus bringing to an end the Schofield family connection with their ancestral home. The Claytons lived there until 1770, when they in turn sold out to Robert Entwisle of Foxholes, Rochdale.

Schofield Hall in 1829

Schofield Hall in 1829

Photograph: Iain Spencer Gerrard

Twenty-three years later at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution the Rochdale Canal Company published plans to submerge the Schofield Hall Estates under two reservoirs. The larger one was to be sited, more or less, where Hollingworth Lake is now; a smaller crescent shaped reservoir was to be built at a much higher level with Syke Farm and Schofield Hall at its extremities. The latter would have overflowed into a drain carrying water to the canal locks at Summit. Both schemes were abandoned in favour of the one large lake we see today, although water was carried by drain to Summit with the aid of a steam-driven pumping engine, which raised water from Hollingworth Lake up to the level of the drain.

In his "History of the Parish of Rochdale" Henry Fishwick states that in 1889 Schofield Hall was still owned by descendants of the wealthy Entwisle family. By this time the Hall was said to be in a ruinous state, but was still habitable. At the turn of the century, having outlived its usefulness as a gentleman's residence, Schofield Hall suffered the same fate as a score of halls and manor houses in the Rochdale area. Many, indeed most, were converted into public houses, cottages or farmhouses prior to demolition. Schofield Hall took the middle road and was divided into cottages. One former tenant named Esther Butterworth told how she used to go to bed with an umbrella and how she awoke one morning to discover snow drifting onto her bed! When the Hall became uninhabitable – the roof it was said leaked like a colander – the farmer at Rakewood Farm began storing farm machinery there, but only until 1924/5, when, a substantial part of the building suddenly collapsed. But even that wasn't the end of the story. At the outbreak of war in 1939 the two-storeyed porch which formed such a prominent feature at the front of Schofield Hall was still standing.

A few years ago I asked Mr. John Clegg (senior) an acknowledged authority on Rakewood, the following question. "...Who were the last people to live in Schofield Hall?" His considered opinion was that in all probability they were itinerant Irish labourers helping with the haymaking. A statement which begs the question "What mischief pray would the ghost of the irascible Cuthbert Schofield have made of that?".

Allen Holt

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Was It Really 50 Years Ago?

Someone asked the Civic Trust what the empty shop – 16, Hare Hill Road – looked like originally as they thought that maybe it should be restored. Well this got me thinking, what was it, and what did it sell? I can remember Mallinsons Pet shop being somewhere close to there, but then I remember Mallinsons as being next to the paper shop, which in those days was only a single shop. So, I will start from the beginning, at Billy Howarth's the barbers.

An Old Photograph of Hare Hill Road

Hare Hill Road 'Then'

Photograph: Unknown courtesy of George Kelsall

The next two I don't know (maybe they were women's things) then there was Cravens Chemist onthe corner – still a chemist to this day. On the opposite corner was, I think, Greenhalgh's green-grocers, and then the Electric Showroom, a large double fronted shop where you could pay your electric bill and also buy electrical goods. I remember it always seemed bright and cheerful. There must have been something else in between, and then came the pet shop and the Newsagents. The Pet shop always comes to mind because I used to buy my hen food there. I used to carry two, sevenpound bags of meal and corn, all the way up Shore and never thought anything of it. I couldn't even carry it out of the shop now! But I digress. After the paper shop was, I think, the record shop, possibly Lumbs, where I bought my first 45 R.P.M. record (Hang Down Your Head Tom Dooley by Lonnie Donegan) which I played on my handed down radiogram.

The record shop was a double shop, and the door was in between the two windows. To the left was the counter, but to the right was a step down into where the records were stored. Then there was Ronny Durber's. This was one of my favourite shops, where I bought my first V.H.F. Radio, the very latest technology. I thought it was brilliant: it had an aerial, and by moving it around to find the best position a nice clear signal could be obtained. Last year I bought a DAB Radio, the very latest technology, it has an aerial and by moving it around to find the best position a nice clear signal can be obtained... that's progress for you.

Hare Hill Road Today

Hare Hill Road 'Now'

Photograph: Russell Johnson

Back to Hare Hill Road. After Ronny Durber's was Leonard Dobson who repaired and sold watches (I would be interested to know if anyone did actually have a watch repaired there). This brings us to the odd little triangular corner shop, which has been allsorts in its time.

Then we move onto the Co-op shops, those beautiful buildings so wantonly destroyed by the owners. First, Shoes and Boots, then Gents' Outfitters and Tailors. Next came Ladies' outfitters (?) after which was the Butchers, and next the Co-op Cafe followed by the Furniture shop, above which were the Co-op offices and Bank. The entrance to these offices can still be seen, but the dome above went along with the rest. Moving across the road we had Edison's Ironmongers, quite a large shop as I remember. Next was England's Chemist and Optician. I think there was a haberdashers on that side but the rest is just lost to me.

How do I relate it to be fifty years ago? Well I was born in 1944. I got my first job when I was about thirteen, a Sunday morning paper round. I think I got about Four Shillings a week (20 Pence), but I wasn't happy with that, so when I heard that the Co-op wanted a butcher's boy I went for an interview, up those stone steps to the Co-op Offices and Bank, and got the job, mornings, evenings, and Saturday mornings. Fifteen Shillings a week. A Week! I was rich, but of course I soon spent it, either in the Co-op Tailors, or in Ronny Durber's. I was never one for visiting the Co-op Offices and Bank! (Fifteen shillings is 75 pence in new money.) I found an old photo of Hare Hill Road in the book written by George Kelsall and Keith Parry, and it is reproduced here with George's kind permission. I also took one from a similar position which shows some changes and some similarities, I leave you to judge.

Russell Johnson

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Editor: Brian Walker