My earliest childhood memories of Christmas are around the early 1950’s. When the evenings seemed to be darker, and colder!.
The gaily decorated shops, whose bright lights illuminated the dimly lit pavements, always seemed to welcome the customers more at Christmas time. There used to be three shops in close proximity, at either side of Holme House Road, ‘Up Summit’ starting with David Browns, a General store, then, near the bus stop was Mr Speakmans the Newsagents, and across the road at the bottom of Temple lane, was Harold Fletcher, the Butchers.
But it was in Mr Speakman’s shop window that I saw what I wanted for Christmas. There was this large doll, it was all dressed up as Annie Oakley, with a cowboy hat, a brown suede jacket with tassles on the sleaves, a matching ‘A’ line skirt and cowboy boots, but to complete the ensemble a rifle, a double barreled pop gun with a wooden English stock, and pressed steel, blued, barrels. Now I worked out, and I explained this with the greatest sincerity, to my Mum and Dad, how, if Father Christmas were to bring me this doll, I would give it my young sister, and, because I knew she wouldn’t want it, I would be able to play with the gun!; If this ploy actually worked as planned, I do not remember, but I certainly did have a pop gun to play with if my memory is anything to go by. Incidentally my sister Christine, would only have been about two at the time!
Christmas time at Summit school also evoked some vivid memories, with the huge tree standing in a galvanized bucket, wrapped round with crêpe` paper. The tree itself was always a Fir, with the strong smell of pine that we don’t seem to get these days. It would festooned with a string of 240W. bulbs all painted in different colours, (the forerunner of Fairy lights) and the paper chains, paper chains we, the Children and Teachers, had painstakingly made from single coloured strips of gummed paper, which were perhaps about an inch and a quarter wide, and six or seven inches long, we all sat sticking them together, and looping one through the other until the chain could be hung up around the class rooms, and the hall and of course, the Christmas tree. Another thing we used to do, was to hang crepe` paper over the Bakelite lamp shades.
(Imagine what the Health & Safety Exec’ would have to say about that these days!!!)
We would all write to Father Christmas with our ‘wish lists’ and eagerly await his arrival at the Christmas party. I vividly remember asking for a fountain pen one year, which duly came out of his sack, when it was my turn to go up to sit on his knee. We were all supposed to ask Father Christmas, if he slept with his beard on top of, or underneath the bed clothes. As far as I know, none of us were ever brave enough to ask him!. The fountain pen was gray in colour, with a filling bar or lever, in the middle of the case. Where the money came from to pay for all these presents I know not, but every child in the school received a gift from dear old Santa Clause.
Russell Johnson, (aged 58 & 1/4).
* * * * * * *
On November 18th John Kay, chairman of the Town Design Statement Steering Committee, and I gave an illustrated presentation to the Rochdale Strategic Partnership Group on the scope and progress to date of the whole Town Design Statement exercise.
At Borough level the Strategic Partnership is charged with encouraging and drawing together initiatives in the Townships likely to promote the regeneration of local communities.
In compiling our presentation we had to summarise important features of the project. The following are the most significant.
A Town Design Statement? An expression of how the community sees its town at the present time taking into account its heritage and looking to its future. A review of the town’s assets and deficiencies.
Approval for writing a Town Design Statement was given by the Local Authority and by the Countryside Agency. On its completion the document could be used to assist the Council in Development Control and in regeneration-project decision making. This needs to be done in ways that meet the Town’s special needs and respect its distinctive heritage.
Funding for the project was mainly through a grant obtained through the Countryside Agency from the Local Heritage Initiative derived from Lottery Funds. There was also an input from the Pennine Township which covered the 5% which had to be found locally.
Voluntary Commitment. Members of the local community worked in eight groups:
These were later merged under three main headings:
The input of voluntary time to date exceeds 5500 man-hours.
A condition of acceptance by the Countryside Agency was the preparation of a Heritage Document to accompany the Design Statement and an expectation that the Historical and Archaeological Society will produce further background study material about Littleborough’s history.
Members of the study groups have focused their attention on significant features and details raising their awareness of local heritage which they can now share with the whole community.
Positive outcomes – Practical Action.
During the exercise the Design Statement has expressed to the Local Authority:
Additionally it has prompted the setting up of the Littleborough In Bloom initiative.
We hope that if approved the Town Design Statement will be published in the spring of 2004.
* * * * * * *
The Civic Trust meeting in November was an open one where members of the public had been invited to join us to hear the visiting speaker, architect and planner John Clancy from Pendle Civic Trust, develop the theme: ‘Living with Change – Dying without it’.
The main thrust of his talk was that planning regulations, though useful in setting standards, too often stifle originality. The result being that imaginative designs that might enliven the built environment never see the light of day. The proposition, in some ways deliberately contentious, stimulated discussion and brought out several interesting observations about the factors which make a building compatible with its neighbours.
The meeting was more open than we had expected as a number of young people who wished us to take notice of them were invited to come in and listen. Their contribution was at times noisy but often their questions and comments were both relevant and perceptive.
When challenged after the meeting to do something practically useful by supporting a local project several expressed a positive interest. We will be actively considering how to harness their apparent goodwill. Who knows? We may yet see youthful energy put to good purpose in this way.
* * * * * * *
Sadly this company have decided to move to a more convenient site with, I believe, better access to the motorway.
Inevitably the site has been acquired by a housing developer who, despite the prevailing conditions in Littleborough of too much commuter traffic and lack of school places and other important aspects of a decent infrastructure, put forward a plan for another 58 houses on the site.
After the result of the Gale site referred to in the last issue we were naturally somewhat apprehensive of the outcome of the application, despite the Planners and the Regional Development Agency recommending refusal.
I’m glad to report therefore that the Councillors made all the right noises and refused the application.
A representative of Fairclough Homes, who presumably now own the site, gave a well-presented speech as to why the proposal should be approved. If you had listened to the confidence of the presentation rather than its content you might have been swayed by it. However points made by the representative, such as “the new homes would be a benefit to local schools”, were picked up by more than one councillor and derided as a misrepresentation of the truth; most local schools are already near to being or are oversubscribed as it is and the lack of a high school makes this much worse.
To be fair neither this, nor any other developer is in a position to cover all the needs of a decent infrastructure. An attempt had been made by them to offer certain ‘improvements’ to alleviate the inevitable worsening of traffic due to the proposal, all at the developers expense I imagine, but the real need here locally is a sea-change in the approach to overall planning. It is clear that at present the planning policies and laws which operate are totally inadequate in addressing our problems.
Too many of the planning controls are imposed by Whitehall which, by its very nature of being the national government machine, cannot address each and every local issue adequately; nor should it. Much more control should be handed back to our local representatives so that we can better arrange the planning needs of our community.
* * * * * * *
Flower Meadow on the Old Gasworks site
This last summer we attempted to begin the creation of a flower meadow in the town centre.
The idea is that it will bring a pleasant touch of the countryside to the urban area and offer a nice contrast to the more formal green area of Hare Hill Park. But……there’s more to this than we imagined.
We arranged with the Council department responsible for managing this site to leave it uncut until the flowers and grasses had seeded. The intention was that we would then get a local farmer to come down in early August and cut the grass and, just as importantly from our point of view, bale it and remove it for fodder.
The Council did as we asked... literally! We had to ask them to trim the existing pathways in June as these were becoming impassable. This was our fault as we should have realised what would happen. Unfortunately the Council used chemicals to kill the grass on either side of the paths, something we abhor and which results in lines of horrible brown dead grass. We’ve asked them not to do that again and they seemed genuinely surprised when we suggested using a strimmer!…as though this was a novel idea.
Our attempts to get a local farmer failed. I thought at first we had left it too late to ask, but the main – stated – objection appeared to be that their machinery was too big to use on the field. One of the last farmers we asked gave what was probably a much more significant factor: he said the grass would be unusable as fodder because of the dog poo.
We do not want to stop dog walkers from using this area, indeed it is ideal for such a purpose, but we clearly have an immense task ahead of us to persuade them to pick up after their dogs and take it home. We had to ask the Council finally to come back and do the work. This they did willingly but unfortunately, again, they left the grass lying where it had fallen. Along came the lame-brains and set the field on fire necessitating the fire brigade to be called out!
We are hopeful for better results next year and want to have some decent signs erected announcing what the area is: Littleborough Flower Meadow, and asking that dogs be cleaned up after. If we are successful in this we might then get a farmer to help out. We also thought that local children might be invited to come along and help with the ‘hay-making’.
* * * * * * *
Rae Street is in the process of organising a tree-planting on councilowned land at the end of Cleggswood Avenue in Smithy Bridge. This should have occurred in the last week in November, but pressure of other commitments has delayed it. We nevertheless intend to arrange it sometime this winter. If you are interested in helping the Cleggswood residents, when we finally get out the spades, please contact me or Rae.
On a very minor note my wife and I managed to plant some Scots Pines, which the society has grown from seed, on the canal embankment below the Summit pound. Only a minor achievement, I know, but the oaks we planted last year at the same time are still surviving.
* * * * * * *
It certainly does! And sometimes it even works.
A recent application for a new house, in an area which might be described as having some historical merit, was recently turned down on the grounds that it didn't fit in. This was despite the proposed house having been designed by an architect. I agreed with the decision of the planning committee because although the proposal was definitely interesting in concept, it had been described as 'modern', yet it had the appearance of something designed by Le Corbusier or from the Gropius school.
Now to me the word modern means up to date and current but, although my assessment is based on an, admittedly quick, peak at a small model provided by the architect, this design was seemingly of the 1930s.
We don't like to think of ourselves as preserving Littleborough's character at all costs but one of the tenets of architecture is that a building should fit in with its surroundings.
There are exceptions to this rule, of course, such as when a building is of such size and importance that it can, to some extent, 'go its own way'; an example of this would be a church or civic building. That is not to say that such buildings can kick everything around them into touch and ignore the existing surroundings completely, but other aspects of a design might be considered more important.
Not in this case! It was going to be one house among many. Built as proposed, it would have stuck out unreasonably, giving it a pseudo importance by its very difference from those others around it.
There was an argument that not all the existing surrounding houses were appropriate either, having been built in unsuitable materials and in a casual format also unsuitable for the area. That is a different matter of course but if we consider every building to be of equal merit we'll end up in a quagmire of indecision or be accused of not learning from past mistakes.
Following the disastrous decision by our Councillors, mentioned in the last Newsletter, to allow the Gale Mill site, referred to briefly above, to be redeveloped as a housing site we now have the – dare I say 'inevitable' – further application for yet more dwellings on the site, raising the proposed number from forty-odd to sixty! In addition to this the new proposals are, in our opinion, even less attractive than the first.
I wonder how much more of this sort of 'development' the town can survive before it loses its identity completely. Every time 'a bit more' housing is proposed it appears, in isolation, to be non-damaging. But the cumulative effect is, frankly, horrendous. Our infrastructure is already woefully inadequate and the amount of commuter traffic is already out of control.
The developers show no concern for Littleborough as a community, their only desire being to extract the maximum profit from each site. I have to ask: 'Who can blame them' because they are in business to do just that: make a profit; but without the self regulation by developers so necessary there is a desperate need for some outside control, yet the planning system, as I said earlier, has no teeth to do this.
* * * * * * *
What should we call it? No, not Sale Street itself but the path which leads from the end of the street to Town House Road and running along the south edge of Hare Hill Park.
The matter was raised by a member because she felt that such a well-used route ought to have a name. She suggested it be called School Lane. Why that name? Well, the much-missed school, built in the early part of the last century, was originally on the south side of the path.
We are looking into the cost of proper cast-metal signs before approaching the Council to see how we can initiate the process. If you have any thoughts if your own on this, get in touch
* * * * * * *
Public Open Meeting
You may have noticed that we have been having a speaker come to entertain us every third one of our monthly meetings. Indeed this has now taken the place of the Committee meeting on those nights.
Elsewhere there is a notice of the next one in January and I mention it here just to ask if any member has anyone in mind that they would like to suggest we invite to future meetings.
We would be happy to consider any suggestion; though preferably a speaker would be able to speak on local issues. But this doesn't really matter as long as the subject is interesting and relevant in some way to our raison d'être. You know who to contact!
* * * * * * *
Pavement by the Royal Oak Pub
Individual members often go about some aspect of concern in the town virtually on their own.
The pavement by the Royal Oak, or rather the lack of any pavement at all, has been concerning one member and she has brought the subject up at a number of Pennine Township Committee meetings.
The situation has existed for so long that I would bet that the majority of people hereabouts don't even think about it: and yet it is hair-raisingly perilous! Have a look next time and notice how many people are forced to walk into the roadway as they walk along Church Street – and this on a major thoroughfare where many drivers of vehicles travel at excessive speeds for the circumstances, which include a blind bend at that point.
The Pennines Councillors have been extremely helpful in this and it is hoped that bollards will be positioned parallel to the tarmacadam edge of the actual carriageway to define the footpath. This would stop cars which park in front of the hotel from creating a hazard for pedestrians. I should emphasise that the present situation was not the fault of either the hotel proprietors or the brewery concerned who, once they were made aware of the problem, have been co-operative throughout in reaching a satisfactory solution.
* * * * * * *
Littleborough War Memorial
War Memorial after the clean-up
Photograph: Iain Spencer Gerrard
Mention should be made of the tidying up of the War Memorial in time for the Memorial Services held in early November. Although the Authority had apparently 'lost' some £12000, intended for work on the memorial this year, special pleading by the Littleborough in Bloom team managed to have some work done.
Those officers of the Council who arranged for and carried out the levelling of some of the pavement around the memorial, its washing down and the repainting of the main title on the front of it, deserve our appreciation for their efforts.
We hope that this will not be the end of it. All the lettering on the monument needs to be properly repainted and more work of a permanent nature to the stonework will be required. The town deserves no less than a proper refurbishment of such an important memorial and which is central to Littleborough Square.
* * * * * * *
While talking of the Square, it is of interest that the Council have proposed creating a taxi rank outside the Roundhouse, using what is at the moment an area of short term parking for ordinary cars. We were puzzled as to how this proposal came about - we still are actually - because we are unaware of any taxis in the area!
Don’t forget that there is a difference between ‘proper’ taxis - the black cab variety - and the commonly seen ‘private hire’ cars of which we have a good selection locally. A cab can pick up a fare anywhere and can be hailed from the kerbside whereas the private hire car has to be ‘booked’ beforehand and can not ply for hire on the road.
So who would use this taxi rank? The local hire companies expressed concern that cabs from outside the area might, thus taking fares from local companies. Fair enough! and we agree with them. But also what about those of us who stop briefly in that spot to buy a paper or such like. If the convenient position is taken up by taxis would we still stop, a little further away, say in the station car park? I would bet that many would not and this would further damage the local economy. We have written to the Council stating these concerns and hope the daft idea will be dropped forthwith. Personally I do feel that this is another incidence of Rochdale considering Littleborough as another one of its ‘appendages’ and not a town and community in its own right.
Iain S Gerrard
This body was first referred to in the last Winter edition of the Newsletter. The above logo has been chosen for the Trust and, I’ve no doubt, will become familiar to everyone in the Pennines over the next few years.
The first public meeting was held on the 9th of September at the Dearnley Methodist Church and was attended by nearly 50 interested people. This might not seem a huge number considering the population of the Pennines Township but not everyone can attend meetings on one specific night. Suffice to say that there are already 150 members of the Trust and the list of apologies from people unable to make it exceeded the number of people one can usually expect at ‘normal’ local meetings. Various people had been proposed for the Management Committee which, as I explained in the previous Newsletter, was to take over from the Steering Group that had helped with the early formation of the trust.
This is now a working group and has already held three meetings; these being primarily to formulate the strategy which will be used in the coming months and years. After the strategy has been laid out, a business plan of how to carry out this work will be prepared. The Management Committee will receive the help of a business consultant to do this. The Business Plan will then form the basis for the Management Committee to apply for funding for various community projects, so the Trust will be professionally led when it comes to applying suitable methods to get what is required. I understand that there are still positions vacant on the group and anyone interested in becoming a part of this, body, should contact David Harding, the Chairman of the group, on 01706 633768 or Sue Thornton on 01706 757600.
It should be stressed again, that although the Trust is receiving practical help from the Council in these initial stages, it is a community-led initiative, totally independent from the Council in what it does and which way it chooses to go.
If you are not already a member of the Trust then contact Gill Berry, 5 Greenbank Drive, Smithy Bridge, OL15 0ER, who will send you a membership form. The Trust needs to be seen to represent everyone in the Pennines and so the more members it can claim to have the more seriously any bids for grant monies will be taken.
Membership is free and, although help of any kind will always be appreciated, becoming a member will not automatically drag anyone into doing work they do not wish to do or haven’t the time for; so don’t let that concern put you off - join now! It’s literally only the cost of a stamp.
This really is serious stuff! The potential for change, giving Littleborough folk more control and autonomy over their own town, is clear. The list of possibilities, while not endless, is great. Remember, only members can vote for someone to go on, or stand for election themselves upon, the management committee; only members can influence the projects carried out. Membership is not limited to individuals: local businesses, organisations, clubs and societies can also join.
Present priorities have been identified as: Securing the future of Butterworth Hall in Milnrow as a community centre; setting up an Internet Café; arranging an Arts & Music Festival - presumably on an annual basis; suitable development of the railway arches in Littleborough and a general commitment to improve facilities across the township for families and youngsters.
Iain S Gerrard
While working on the Littleborough Town Design Statement it has been quite amazing how many memories have been stirred (or is it nostalgia from just plain old age?). Walking around Littleborough you get used to shops changing hands but how different they all were when I started school at the age of four years.
I remember walking up Church Street, from my home in Charles Street, to go to school. On the right hand side, as we headed towards the centre, the first big shop was Holden’s Furniture Shop smelling of polish and wood. While on the left hand side, after Doctor Scarr’s house (our family doctor), there was a little shop up some steps which sold dress material, run by Mr. and Mrs. Pollard. Mum used to buy fents (Editor’s note: a ‘fent’ was, or still is, a small, end-of-a-roll piece of material – I had to ask my wife!) for our little dresses there; it has long since changed back into a private house.
The Co-op as it was!
Further along the row came a sweet shop, a butcher’s and Mr. Ellis’, the cobbler, where we used to have our shoes repaired – the smell of leather and polish lingered outside the door as well as inside. After that there was a greengrocer’s, run by Mr. and Mrs. Speak, where you jumped down a step to go into the shop.
On the opposite side of the street again was Miss Woodhead’s ladies’ shop, where we would stop and stare at the beautiful clothes in the window: occasionally I would go inside to ask if she had any empty hat boxes. I think this must have been to gain favour with my teacher but I cannot, for the life of me, remember why.
Next was the Argenta Butchers. I did not like the smell of this shop, where the odour of sawdust mingled with that of the blood dripping from the freshly-hung meat; I always wanted to run past it. Sometimes the ‘big’ girls who took us to school would take us round the back to see the slaughterhouse, which I thought was particularly horrible.
Walking further we would pass the shoe shop called Hodgson’s (another place for empty boxes) and another grocer, which I thought was by far the best one: Duckworth’s. The lovely smell of coffee beans being ground, the tins of biscuits with glass lids so that you could see the goodies inside, big sacks of sugar, slabs of butter and cheese – more lovely smells! Then there was Vernon Haigh’s, the mans’ shop, and the banks: all very imposing to little children.
This would bring us to the corner with Hare Hill road along which was a great choice of shops. You could buy everything you needed: wools and haberdashery, more shoes, butchers, bakers, newsagents, hardware (a type of shop that has always claimed my attention), a record shop that also sold record players and radios and then, the best of all Littleborough, the Co-op shops. Each of these last had its own individual character, despite being in one ‘ownership’, selling shoes, men’s ware, ladies’ ware, a cake shop with a café above reached by a beautiful staircase, a butcher, a grocery and the one which sold blankets and carpets and everything for the house. Last of all were the offices which had another beautiful staircase within.
These shops always held a special fascination for me. I would love to be taken in them to see the money being put into containers and whizzed around the shop on wires in the sort of system so redolent of those days. Where has all this interesting diversity gone and why? I suppose it is called ‘progress’ but I think we have lost something remarkable; something different, which enticed people to want to shop locally. The smells and intimacy of each separate shop and the attractively set out windows invited people to go in and tempted them to buy something.
I feel privileged to have known the little town (more a village then!) in such times when there was vitality in the heart of it. This was what made a community. Can we get it back?
A report in the Ilkley Gazette has outlined a recent decision by S.C.O.S.P.A. (Standing Conference of South Pennines Authorities) to set up a new organisation to ‘drag a major upland region out of the doldrums’. The new company is to be launched in April 2004.
The aim of the company is to attract a wider membership and to make it easier to bid for funding to protect the region’s heritage while ‘kick-starting’ its regeneration; indeed within the article it was described as a ‘rural regeneration company’.
A report by S.C.O.S.P.A. has argued that the same sort of regeneration body as those set up to improve blighted inner city areas should be able to achieve similar ends in improving moorland areas such as the South Pennines. The report also says: “There is a need for a strong, accountable, representative body which would fight the South Pennines corner in all relevant forms”.
At present S.C.O.S.P.A. is made up of local authorities in both Yorkshire and Lancashire including Bradford, Burnley, Calderdale, Kirklees, Lancashire C.C., Oldham, Pendle, Rochdale and Rossendale plus other bodies such as United Utilities, The Southern Pennine Association and Pennine Heritage.
Bradford has been the lead local authority within S.C.O.S.P.A. It is to be hoped that this initiative will benefit the whole of the South Pennines area and not just that around the city. It is also hoped that it will be more concerned about the environment than other companies such as United Utilities (Scout Moor wind'farm' proposer!) and indeed some of the local authorities which compose S.C.O.S.P.A. and which have had to be reminded on occasion of their responsibilities in that direction.
Iain Spencer Gerrard
At the time of writing we were very sorry to hear of Mrs. Barker’s death. A Littleborough resident since 1957, she was much involved with the Community being a member of the Towns Women's’ Guild and our Society, involved with the Old People’s Welfare and renowned for her strawberry teas which helped to raise funds for charities such as the Lifeboat Service and the Red Cross.
In 1993 a community woodland was planted on land at Bent’s Farm, gifted by Mrs. Barker for recreational and educational purposes. The planting which was on the site of the former Starring Coal and Fireclay Works was carried out by the pupils of the local Primary Schools and Wardle High School.
Today that planting is well established and Barker’s Wood stands as a tangible environmental legacy tolocal people
The whole Committee would like to take this opportunity to express our thanks to Peter who has announced his intention to retire from the position of Treasurer and as a committee member of the Society; he has occupied this post for the past ten years and has looked after our finances well during that period, keeping impeccable accounts.
An example of his 'hands-on' involvement was his assistance with our recent 'race-night' fund-raising event, which was much appreciated.
His reasons for retiring from this position are partly due to his health but also because he wishes to concentrate more time on his love of music writing. We wish him well in this and, of course, are extremely happy that he will still be a member for some time to come.
Joan Smith Steps In...
At the same time as Peter announced his intention to retire We were very pleased to welcome Joan Smith, a newly co-opted member of the Committee, who has offered to take over from Peter as our Treasurer. She has, to some extent, been working with Peter for the last few months and will assume his duties completely from the 1st January 2004. We are very grateful to Joan for taking on the work so readily.
* * * * * * *