Littleborough Civic Trust is a voluntary body affiliated to the national Civic Trust. It was established in 1971 and exists to conserve and enhance the environment of Littleborough.
Its committee and officers are elected at an Annual General Meeting in April, although new members are always welcome.

Committee Members 1998-1999

CHAIRMAN: John Street, Calder Cottage. Tel. 378043

SECRETARY: The post is currently vacant

TREASURER: Peter Jackson, 8 Chelburn View, Littleborough. Tel. 373112

MEMBERSHIP SECRETARY: Jill Roberts, 34 Brown Street, Littleborough. Tel. 375426

MINUTES SECRETARY: Chris Wilkinson, 3, Fair View, Littleborough. 374020

NEWSLETTER EDITOR: Chris Wilkinson, as above


Judith Schofield, 4, Bottoms, Crag Vale. 01422 885173
Don Pickis, Lightowlers. Tel. 378849.
Betty Pickis, Lightowlers. Tel. 378849.
Anne Lawson, 81 Todmorden Road. Tel.379604.
Rae Street, Calder Cottage. Tel. 378043
Joe Taylor, 136a Market Street, Whitworth. Tel. 344711
Iain Gerrard, 2 Pikehouse Cottages.
Barbara Daveron, 38 James Street. Tel. 378664

The Newsletter is produced four times a year. The views expressed in it do not necessarily reflect the views of the Trust. Contributions are welcome and should be sent to the Editor who thanks contributors to this edition and invites articles for the next by the 1st December.



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Cartoon: leaking roof

Welcome to the winter 1998 edition of the LCT Newsletter. Why do we always get to this time of the year before remembering those little jobs we meant to do in the summer, like fixing the leaky roof or improving the insulation?

Apart from remembering forgotten jobs, winter is traditionally a time for thinking about past years and planning for the next. In this edition of the Newsletter, Allen Holt and Betty Pickis tell us about the time they have spent looking into the activities of their forebears. Rae Street reminds us of some of the uses of holly.

Winter is also when the power stations are working flat out to keep us in light and heat. This winter the emissions from power stations have been discussed at international climate talks in Buenos Aires and there have been repercussions locally in the search for clean energy. The Government is looking to wind power to provide a cleaner form of energy and as we know, some of the ‘windfarm' sites being put forward are around Littleborough. There is currently a lull in the local debate about this as the planning application for Great Hill is awaited, but it was disappointing to learn that only 6% of the 22,500 households canvassed for their views on the proposal by the prospective developer expressed an opinion. Is interest in the local environment as little as this?

Another issue which has occupied much of our time recently has been the loss of industrial sites to new housing estates. The problem with this is the loss of local ‘self-sufficiency‘ in employment which leads to a loss of local identity, sense of community and character. There is now an appeal on another proposed housing development on Stubley Mill Road and we wonder whether, despite the pronouncements and forest of papers appearing on the subject of sustainability or reducing the need for travel, government locally or nationally really means to do anything about it.


An Incomer’s Dilemma


Allen Holt wonders whether he qualifies as a citizen of Littleborough!

What a delight it was to read John Street's splendid article, ‘l have been booked‘ in the Autumn issue of the LCT newsletter. I sympathise wholeheartedly with his aspirations of becoming an honorary Littleborough Citizen, for I too suffer from the same unrequited symptoms.

Having attended day school in Littleborough, resided at Hollingworth Lake for 26 years, not to mention being a fully paid-up member of the LCT, almost, but not quite from its inception, I also do not qualify as a born and bred Littlebarian. However, unlike John, I do have family connections hereabouts. My grandparents, William and Harriet Holt set up house at Higher Newgate, Calderbrook (he played the violin in Mount Gilead Chapel orchestra) before moving out into the wilds of Smallbridge in 1902. Both returned to their spiritual home to be interred in the family grave at St. James’ Church, Calderbrook.

My late wife‘s antecedence was even more remarkable, her grandfather, Abram Roberts was a stalwart citizen of Littleborough during the last century. Being of a complex disposition he was by contradiction, a deeply religious man, a property owner, and a successful businessman. I have in my possession his well-thumbed bible dated 1883. it was presented to him by the Chaplain Usher of the Blue Ribbon Gospel Army of Littleborough. It contains a bewildering array of annotations far beyond my comprehension. His business interest was a furniture store at 83 Church Street, Littleborough, which later became Holdens’ and is now occupied by Marcus Furniture.

But it was while researching for my book, a railway history, I accidentally discovered my wife's atavistic grandfather Thomas Roberts living and working at Summit in 1837. Being a farmer he worked three fields between the turnpike road and canal near the Summit lnn. Overlooking these fields was some property owned by the Roberts family, appropriately named ‘Robert's Passage’, still there to this day.

If these somewhat tenuous family connections debar me from membership as an honorary Littleborough Citizen, Mr Street need have no misgivings on that score. An old adage asserts that all incomers must reside in a village for 30 years before being fully integrated into the community. So all you have to do John is hang on, you have almost made it!


Good Home Wanted For the Civic Trust’s Sharp Word Processor.

The ‘Sharp’ is an all in one computer, monitor and printer that looks a bit like a ‘laptop’. Since the Newsletter is currently being prepared on a different machine, the word processor is available for any good Trust use you may be able to identify. Please let a Committee Member know if you can use it.


Digging up History

Betty Pickis tells us about her family connection with chalk mining in Kent.

I knew very little about my ancestors when I started to research my father's family tree about six years ago. The immediate male members were mostly engineers or ‘something in the City‘, so it was fascinating to discover when I got back to the late 1700's that one particular branch of the family at least were of artisan stock and for several generations were known as ‘Builders and Lime Burners’ on their census returns. Lime burning was a trade carried on well into the 20th Century and particularly in Kent where the family originated. Chalk was put into a kiln and the lime resulting was mixed with grit and sand to make mortar - very necessary in the building trade.

Photograph: Part of Eastry Caves

Eastry Caves

The village in Kent where the family lived and worked from the late 1700's until around 1918 was called Eastry and in Eastry are ‘the caves‘. These caves had been known about and well documented for hundreds of years and being situated on the route from Sandwich and the Coast to places well inland were known to have been well used by smugglers and rum was one of the main items of contraband, particularly in the 17th Century. As this particular ‘trade’ progressed the many passages in the chalk caves were extended ‘till in some places they reached to a depth of 50 - 60 feet from the surface. (My ancestors‘ connection with the caves began after they became too well known by the Excise men and the smugglers had to look elsewhere to hide and distribute their loot!).

One particular ancestor, Abraham Foord began to excavate the chalk from the caves before 1800. For him, the entry to the caves was actually in the back garden of his rented cottage, Vine Cottage, for which he paid a yearly rent of £5. Later this was increased to £6 when he had built the kiln in his back garden. In 1823 Abraham actually bought the property and also the part of the caves under his property but by 1870 when his son Henry was running the business the passages underground ex- tended a ‘considerable distance under adjoining lands’ and were on 5 levels. During the following years the chalk continued to be extracted from the caves and the passages extended even more until 1907 when Henry's son Frederick was in charge and it was reported in the local news sheet that ‘the local populace of Eastry rose up in anger as the extended passages in the caves were causing subsidence and several cottages collapsed! After 1907 the passages were heightened and widened, but not extended. The last member of the family to work the caves died in 1918; the caves are therefore the product of over 100 years of excavation but when they were originally discovered, no-one knows.

At the turn of the century it was the practice on special days to admit the public to the caves and hold parties and banquets and concerts. Rooms were made in the enlarged passages and a chapel where services were held was also created. At Christmas time Eastry Caves was the place to visit and the passages were illuminated with thousands of candles. Some of the passages sported names, including Cannon Street, The Strand and Oxford Street, which was over 500 feet in length! People came in their hundreds, still entering the caves via the small entrance in the back garden of Vine Cottage. During the Second World War the caves were commandeered by the Home Guard and the long passages were used for rifle practice - spent cartridges can still be found. ln the 1950’s an attempt was made by the Local Authority to commercialise the caves. They were endowed overnight with romantic history and filled with paintings and statues, but sadly this didn't catch on and the interlude was short lived. In 1993 we visited Eastry. I had progressed in my family history research and was very anxious to visit the place where some of my ancestors had lived. We visited the Church and were shown Henry Foord’s map of the caves, now kept under lock and key in the church chest. We picked out family graves in the beautiful church yard and we visited Vine Cottage.

Still there, but enlarged and re-named ‘Becket’s‘. (From the village's historic association with Thomas a Becket who tried to hide there in the local Manor House at a time when he was exasperated with the demands made on his political allegiance by his master, King Henry II). The present owner, on discovering the reason for my calling on her and my connections with the original owners of the cottage, immediately offered to conduct a private tour of the caves! The entrance was a few feet from her back door by the old well and under a wooden cover. Sadly, no-one had a torch and we were not suitably dressed, but I said that we would come back sometime. Sadly the caves are now ‘closed and out of bounds‘ as being dangerous and they no longer contribute to the life of the area. At least they provided me with an insight into the lives of three generations of my own family and certainly spurred me on to continue my historic research.



Rae Street sings the praises of a well known tree.

Drawing: Holly leaves

‘The Holly and the Ivy’ must be one of the most popular English Carols. Everyone remembers the beautiful words: the sharp thorns associated with Christ's Crown of Thorns and the berries with blood. With its mention of woods and forests it seems to take us back to earlier times when the countryside was thickly clothed with trees, even here in the Pennines. An evergreen, ilex aquifolium, in Middle English, holin and variously known as holm or hollin, holly‘s shiny green leaves and scarlet berries have shone out through dark northern winters for thousands of years, well before it was woven into Christian symbolism. Little wonder that it was thought to have magical properties, protected against evil spirits and was used for decorating houses around the time of the solstice. And still is to this day.

Drawing: Holly tree

It was planted to mark out boundaries and along ancient paths. In Littleborough you can see it along Deep Lane and along other old tracks. Even at the end of the 20th Century, Farmers, aware of long-standing superstitions, when they are taking out a hedge, will not chop down the holly, so in parts of the countryside, you see a holly tree standing alone.

Surprisingly, it was also quite common to use a group of lopped trees for cattle fodder, which come to be known as ’hollins‘ . The holly trees would be cut back to three or four feet and the shoots which sprang up were rich in nutrients for browsing sheep and cattle. Richard Mabey in his fascinating book, ‘Flora Britannica’, says that these were particularly prominent on the grits and sandstones of the Pennine foothills. You can pick out places on local maps associated with this practice: in Littleborough we have Booth Hollin(g)s and presumably, around Hollingworth Fold and the farms under Hollingworth Lake.

One thought occurs to me. Maybe holly was planted along the sides of paths because the prickles made it difficult for footpads to hide there! I wonder if holly would make a more vandal-proof planting for some of our public areas. Bearing in mind the cruelty to trees which has been carried out in the Square of late, we are searching for any solutions to this problem. What do readers think?


Littleborough Civic Trust Footpath Group


Winter 1998 Walks Programme


Sunday 20th December - Meet at Littleborough Square at 1.45 pm.
Leader: Harry Radcliffe
Local Walk

4 miles

Sunday 3rd January - Meet at Littleborough Square at 1.45 pm.
Leader: Joe Taylor
Local Walk

4.5 miles

Sunday 17th January - Meet at Littleborough Square at 1.45 pm.
Leader: Michael Farrell
Towpath – Lydgate – Syke - Whittaker

4.5 miles

Sunday 31st January - Meet at Littleborough Square 1.30 pm. Cars to Watergrove
Leader: Harry Radcliffe
Hades Trail

4.5 miles

Sunday 14th February - Meet at Littleborough Square at 1.45 pm.
Leader: Geoff Sutcliffe
Weurdle - Bib Knowl - Ealees

4.5 miles

Sunday 28th February - Meet at Littleborough Square at 1.30 pm or Ogden at 2.00 pm.
Leader: Kevin Kiernan
Raghole Clough – Piethorn – Knowles

4.75 miles

Sunday 14th March - Meet at Littleborough Square at 1.30 p.m. Cars to Ratten Clough car park.
Leader: Michael Farrell
Thieveley Pike Circular

5 miles

Sunday 28th March - Meet at Littleborough Square at 1.30 p.m. Cars to Exchange Street, Edenfield.
Leader: Joe Taylor
Strongstry – Shuttleworth - Plunge

5.75 miles

Sunday 11th April - Meet at Littleborough square at 1.30 p.m. Cars to Mytholmroyd.
Leader: Geoff Sutcliffe
Around Midgley Moor

5 miles

Please note that dogs are not allowed on these walks.


Membership Registration Form



Editor: Chris Wilkinson