Town Crier

Town Crier calling for attention on Lancashire Night

(Photograph: Iain Spencer Gerrard)

  Research Confirms Sash Windows Are Energy Efficient

It is a longstanding cause of concern that sash windows are being pulled out from many buildings on the grounds that uPVC replacements are needed to bring the building up to new energy standards. Helpful new research from English Heritage rebuffs this claim and shows that even the simplest repair and basic improvements will bring significant reduction of draughts and heat loss, and that using a combination of these methods will upgrade a window to meet Building Regulations targets.

The key findings of the study are:

The research comes at a time when large swathes of public and privately owned historic buildings will be subject to refurbishment and retro-fitting to improve their energy performance in order to meet the Government's ambitious climate change targets.

Dr. Simon Thurley, Chief Executive of English Heritage, said: "It is very encouraging to see that more buildings are being refurbished to meet modern energy requirements, but all too often a drastic and insensitive approach has led to the degradation of our streetscapes. Many original timber sash windows have lasted more than two hundred years and are capable of lasting another century. This piece of research provides the hard evidence that shows how easy it is to upgrade them and supports our call for their retention."


  "The Backbone of England"

Cover of Backbone of England

Photograph: Iain Spencer Gerrard

On Thursday 24th September, a very interesting open evening was held at the Coach House, when Littleborough Civic Trust invited author Andrew Bibby and photographer John Morrison to discuss their book "The Backbone of England".

Andrew explained that the watershed is the highest point anywhere in the Pennines from which water flows into streams and rivers and eventually into the Irish, Atlantic and North Seas.

He described some of the history, geology and ecology of this large area, and the talk was accompanied by some of John Morrison's very beautiful photographs.

We were delighted that a sizeable number of people attended and enjoyed this talk.

Elizabeth Birkett







  "How Ordinary People Have Changed Littleborough"

On Monday the 5th of October the Littleborough Civic Trust gave a presentation in the reading room of the Littleborough library entitled "How Ordinary People Have Changed Littleborough" about the work of the Civic Trust from its formation in 1971 to the present day.

Bernice Clifton opened proceedings by introducing Don Pickis who explained how the trust was first formed. It was suggested by Keith Parry that what Littleborough needed was a Civic Trust. As such organisations were few and far between in those days, no one knew what that meant. However, Keith, Don, Rae Street and one or two others got together and the Littleborough Civic Trust was formed.

Don then introduced Kate Morton who recounted how the Coach House was rescued from being a near derelict building, to what it is today, through the instigation of the Civic Trust and other groups. Kate also referred to the historical time–line that had been printed out on the display boards that were on show. These display boards have information about some of the Trust's work, including "before" and "after" pictures. Details of other projects, including a map of Littleborough showing the present Central Conservation Area, were also on display.

Lecture Team

The Lecture Team: Rae Street, Margaret Edwards, Kate Morton, Bernice Clifton, Don Pickis & Russell Johnson

Photograph: Iain Spencer Gerrard

Don then gave a talk on the Steanor Bottoms Toll House, explaining that as it deteriorated and the old tariff board started to split back to planks, it was decided something should be done, so the Littleborough and Todmorden Civic Trusts got together and made it into a dwelling by adding a sympathetic extension, had an exact copy of the tariff board made, and sold it. It is reckoned that on the few occasions that it has changed hands since, it has doubled in price each time.

Rae Street then gave a brief description of the difficulties faced whilst trying to have Hollingworth Lake designated as a Country Park. She told how the inspector said that he could see mill chimneys around, and how it had to be explained to him that that was one of the reasons why it should be made into a country park. Rae went onto explain how we nearly had to put up with a prefab–type visitors' centre, and how the Trust pressed for the more sympathetically built centre that we have today. The Hollingworth Lake Country Park now receives some 1.5 million visitors a year, and is the seventh most visited park in the country.

Bernice then introduced me, as the present chairman of the Trust. I explained how I, along with my wife, got involved with the Town Design Statement and then joined the Civic Trust. I then went on to say that among other things like having a planning sub–committee, and producing this Newsletter, the Trust is currently re–assessing the Central Conservation Area. We have started with a pilot scheme on Church Street which is now ready, and at the time of writing has been submitted to the conservation officer for approval. The reason the Trust are doing this is because the present Central Conservation Area has not yet been assessed, and because we wanted Hare Hill House and Hare Hill Park to be included within the conservation area, it will be necessary to assess them properly. At a recent meeting other groups agreed with us that this needed doing, and when the pilot scheme is approved, other groups are to become involved.

On the display boards we invited other groups to give us their details, and these were available for people to learn about them, and what each group does. We also had our application forms for anyone who wanted to join the Trust. The display boards are now on show at the Coach House, where it is hoped that we can do the presentation again. They are also to be exhibited at the Hollingworth Lake visitors' centre in March next year.

The presentation was successful, and enjoyed by all those who attended but special thanks must go to Bernice Clifton not only for the amount of effort, but for the dedication and sheer hard work in putting it together from start to finish. We would also like to thank the Pennines Township for their help in funding the presentation.

Russell Johnson


  Lancashire Night

Friday November 27th saw the annual Lancashire Night in Littleborough, including the switching on of the Christmas lights (somewhat controversial this year with their rather premature setting up in August).

Our cover picture shows the Town Crier giving voice at last year's event. Littleborough Civic Trust's contribution to the evening this year included a Tombola stall, which raised a useful sum of money for the Trust. Thankyou to everyone who contributed prizes.

Brian Walker


  Town Exchange

Back in the spring, friends at Calder Civic Trust, rang to ask if I would go over to tell them about projects we had carried out in Littleborough, including the Township Design Statement. It was the idea of Gill Smith Moorhouse who had been a member of Littleborough Civic Trust in the early days. Two of us went over to give an informal talk and had a lively evening in the Hebden Bridge Theatre. Their group then suggested that they would like to come to actually see our centre, landmarks and results of Littleborough Civic Trust's work. We were, truthfully, quite surprised in their interest as we usually think of Hebden Bridge as a very model of conservation : a town which, while keeping the best of the old, seems to have developed well to accommodate modern developments and encourage tourism. But we learnt they had some controversial plans to be wrestled with. We thought we would be learning from them; but, of course, we can all learn from meeting with like–minded groups.

A group came over from Calderdale one summer evening and after some refreshments we set off for a walk, mainly around our Central Conservation Area, with a few loops. They loved the Park and Hare Hill House, the Coach House and the Square. However it was one of the rainy weeks in July so we had to miss out some of our favourites, such as Summit, the mills and the transport routes.

Calder duly invited our group back in October. They suggested we went by train to see the rail station (in October still full of flower baskets) so we could take the small bus up to Heptonstall and we wouldn't have the hassle of parking in the tight areas of the old village. A popular idea as many of our members have free passes now! We were also able to get lunch at the café. They even have toilets! Would that we had some of their facilities at Littleborough station. Still, we are doing well with flowers and the plaques are due to be re-furbished.

Visiting Group at a church entrance

Visiting group on walk round Heptonstall

In Heptonstall, our friends had planned a really interesting afternoon. Just so we had the Pennine feel (not planned!) there was a fierce wind; wuthering, definitely wuthering. So their walk round the village was curtailed as ours had been. But our amusing guides showed us round and kept our interest. We saw something of the village, the graveyard, the churches and they pointed out features we would have missed, including the face of a 'green man' carved in stone (peculiar to this area of the Pennines I think) in a wall of the ruined church. We were even given a free diary from the welcoming vicar!

We had plenty of time to browse round the re-furbished Museum in the old school which has fine new interpretive boards on local history. We then went to the room underneath for a film show from Nick Wilding, the well known local film maker. Nick has put together a DVD of some aspects of the history of Heptonstall with the help of local residents. Again there were really interesting discoveries recorded of old stones and paths and delightful talks, memories, of life from local people, which Nick has captured.

We ended the afternoon by all crowding into the new café (they had been warned we were arriving from over the border!). The café is well worth a visit; they make their cakes and better still, their own bread. So clutching our loaves some took the bus back and some of us took the daring route down the stone steps and through the park, in the valley, with wonderful autumn borders, (thanks to work from the Calder members) back to the station.

I am sure we will continue the exchange and we will let members know when anything is planned next year.

Rae Street


  Secretary's Notes

Wind Turbines....Partly....!

I am supposed to write about matters which concern the civic society movement but I find myself increasingly wanting to comment on government policy.

I have long advocated the necessity of improving our planning system from the bottom up. It has grown in an ad hoc way, since its inception before the Second World War, and is a mishmash of legislation, sometimes contradictory, and with a blindness of some important issues which often beggars belief. What we have is a list of rules which are followed, often without adequate thought, and which, while created with the best of intentions, are frequently bedevilled by issues which were not thought through in the original planning of the legislation.

I am old enough to remember the Labour governments of the 1960s and the 1970s. While details of those times fade, my lingering memory is of the arrogance of Wilson, Callaghan and Healey with their 'we know what's best for you' attitude.

Nothing changes!

The real problems lie not solely with the antiquated planning system, awful though it can be at times, but with the government, which as mentioned above, brings in changes without sufficient forethought and which always lead to 'unintended consequences' and which are often seriously detrimental to communities and the environment.

One such was Prescott's idea to make it necessary that, where available, brown field sites be considered first, in preference to green field sites, for new buildings. A good basic idea but which led, particularly in Littleborough, to brown field sites being sold to the highest bidder, usually a house builder, rather than being reused as sites for much needed new industrial development (and, no, I don't mean a return of the old smelly types of industry!).

Lately, we have the recent decision to ignore local wishes not to have wind turbines on Crook Hill, evidenced by the refusal of both Rochdale and Calderdale Authorities to allow them, but now overturned by the Planning Inspectorate because the public good outweighed all the other arguments. For (public good) read government instruction to ignore us.

More recently we have the idea put forward by the Secretary for Climate Change & Energy, that for important matters such as airports, nuclear power stations etc, the government are intending to 'streamline' the planning process for such matters of national importance, but giving people an 'improved chance of commenting on proposals' before they are passed.

Ha! We may be able to comment until we are blue in the face but our wishes will probably be ignored.

Does he really think we are fooled by his rhetoric; of how these matters are of such national importance that nothing should stand in their way?

I am, personally, in favour of nuclear power, despite all its known problems, as it is the only energy source capable of replacing the aging coal fired stations and the risky foreign–gas–powered stations, while being a non–carbon source. But just as I abhor the manner in which our wishes on wind turbines have been casually ignored I am just as appalled by the same route being taken on nuclear power etc.

We are of course going to be in desperate need for energy within the next ten years but all the wind turbines in the world won't provide it, not even a significant part of it; but they will ruin our moorland scenery for a very long time.

(Milliband has acknowledged this publicly!)

Had this and previous governments (not all Labour) stopped being afraid of the Green anoraks, who promoted the idea that we would all be blown away if we played with nuclear power, and got on with building some more power stations, via the proper processes of planning, we wouldn't be in the situation we now find ourselves.

But because they dithered and stuck their collective heads in the sand, we are facing a real erosion of democracy where we are no longer in charge of our own lives and our own environment.

Conservation Area Assessment Scheme

In the Summer edition of this newsletter I referred to the intention we have to work with the Local Authority's Planning Department to extend the Central Conservation Area further.

We have now completed a pilot scheme for a portion of the existing Central Conservation Area. This was carried out in order to gain experience in creating an assessment for the area, but will stand us in good stead when we eventually embark on an assessment for the whole of the existing Central Area; it will not be a waste of time because none of our conservation areas have had an assessment before and these assessments are an essential part of all of them.

The pilot has been scrutinised by the Rochdale Conservation & Design Officer and with his advice is now completed. We are creating a gazetteer for this work which I hope to place on our website.

Future work will begin shortly and will extend into areas not covered by the present Central area.

We hope to involve as many people as possible and have already invited one or two local groups to join in, but we will be happy to receive help from anyone including individuals; certainly our own members should consider whether they would like to help, even if only for an hour or two from time to time.

If you want more information please contact me or any of the committee. Once we have enough volunteers to make it worth while we will arrange a public meeting at which we will show the work done to date and details of what to do to further it in the future.

Hare Hill House

MoorEnd Trust has now received the feasibility study report on the House and Library buildings. Without going into details, I felt that the results placed an unacceptable financial burden on MoorEnd and this left me with a feeling that we had lost any chance of saving the House for the community.

I reported these feelings to the Littleborough Civic Trust committee in October and the work we had promised to carry out, the evaluation survey of the House's interior, was put on hold.

I have subsequently been persuaded, after further discussions with the MoorEnd Board, that all is not lost and it has now been agreed by the Committee to carry out this work early next year.

More recently still I understand that the company which produced the study have managed to get an initial acceptance of the proposals from a major grant supplier. There's still a long way to go but if there's any chance of success we must try to achieve it.

Christmas Lights in Littleborough

Most of you will recall that the Christmas lights were erected on the town centre street lighting columns in August.

This action had raised more than just local eyebrows and it had achieved some national notoriety.

It was agreed in Committee that the decision had been ridiculous and that no reasonable person could consider this to be acceptable. It was pointed out that no other towns (apart from those within the Rochdale Borough) had taken similar action. The Committee agreed that, despite much public comment that had already been made, a letter should be written to the local councillors expressing our dismay at this insensitive action and the hope that it would not be repeated in subsequent years.

We pointed out that this was both insensitive and ludicrous, reducing the impact that the desire to celebrate the Christmas period ought to have and that such seasonal objects are inappropriate so early in the year and, in the case of our town, ought to be scheduled for positioning the week or (at most) fortnight before the Lancashire Day celebrations which culminate in the 'switch on' of the Christmas lighting on the 27th November each year.

Those councillors who replied were unanimous in their agreement with our feelings and had made approaches to the appropriate department to ensure it was not repeated next year or any subsequent years.

Christmas Light 3

Despite the above it was amusing to me that as late as the afternoon of the 27th of November, with the Square already closed to traffic and the stalls and rides in place, it appeared that the Local Authority were only just putting the finishing touches to some of the lights along Church Street. It may be that something had gone wrong with those particular lights but perhaps fi they hadn't been in place for over three months, in all weathers.....

Iain Spencer Gerrard


  Summit and Calderbrook Heritage Trail

The Summit and Calderbrook Heritage Trail was officially opened on Saturday 4th April 2009. The walk is about 2.5 miles long and takes in local nature sites as well as key aspects of our industrial heritage, including the Rochdale Canal, the railway, tunnel and airshafts, textile mills, quarries and brickworks.

However the establishment of this trail has been problematic and caused some controversy including the felling of trees during its construction and, latterly, over the content of the trail leaflet. After several drafts, the leaflet has now been published. Unfortunately, at the time of writing, there were no copies available either at the Coach House or the Hollingworth Lake visitor centre.

Recently I re–walked the trail asking a friend, a visitor to this area, to take the lead using the new leaflet as her guide. There is no sign post indicating the start of the walk, which is at the quarry car park behind the Summit pub. However there is an information board about the trail in the car park. From there we climbed up to Calderbrook Road, Higher Calderbrook, past St. James' church and to Shop Wood, before returning along the canal to where our car was parked at Summit.

My friend, the 'mystery shopper', found the directions in the leaflet quite difficult, particularly the diversion along Mawrode and the section from Barnes Meadows across Todmorden Road to the rail track. (She spent several minutes gazing at the finger post which was positioned ambiguously towards the opposite bankside.)

The trail is a welcome means of encouraging people, both locals and visitors, to become more aware of the rich heritage of the area. However, it would be helpful to if there were more signposts and better publicity for the trail in local visitor centres.

Editor's Note: If you would like a copy of the trail leaflet and have trouble locating one, it can be downloaded from the Groundwork website using this link:

Margaret Edwards


  The Rescue of the Coach House

Following the talks at the Library, this article (based on the exhibition) is the first of a series covering the Civic Trust's major achievements, starting with the restoration of the Coach House itself.

Coach House 

Coach House before renovation

Situated as it is behind the Falcon Inn (dating from 1657) the Coach House is very much at the heart of Littleborough. It seems that the building was originally a barn, part of an extensive farm that stretched across the present A58 road and down through meadows bordering the river Roch. The cobbled yard in front of the building was a market place, the site of a cow and sheep fair. Later, in the 18th century, the Coach House performed a different function as travel by stage coach increased between Manchester and Halifax. Passengers rested at the Falcon while horses were changed and stabled at the Coach House.

As stage coach travel declined, the Coach House fell into disuse and disrepair. For many years it was used as a joiners' yard by the England family. To this day, several large Victorian houses in Littleborough have the England name inscribed on the servant bell or on elegant staircases.

After the formation of Littleborough Civic Trust, the need was felt for a meeting place in Littleborough. At a packed meeting in November 1979, Civic Trust members presented a case for a community centre and a wide range of groups and individuals lent overwhelming support to this proposal. A steering group quickly identified the Coach House as a potential site. Although the building was in a poor state it was very evocative of its former central role in local life: stalls for eight horses could still be found on the ground floor, while the England family's ancient carpenters' tools littered the first floor.

Coach House 

The Coach House after renovation

A lease was negotiated from the building's owners (the brewery that owned the Falcon) and a start was made on fundraising. Assistance from Fothergill and Harvey together with small grants and advice from Rochdale and Greater Manchester Councils all contributed to the restoration of the building. However, the success of the project ultimately depended on the enthusiasm, dedication and support of volunteers.

The restored Coach House was officially opened by our patron local MP Joel Barnet in 1983. Most people agree that its conversion is internally modern and functional, while externally it fits pleasingly with Pennine vernacular architecture. It now provides exhibition space for artists, local information for visitors, meeting/function rooms and a well–used café. We hope local people will continue to use, support and enjoy the building for a long time to come.


  Shopping '46 – '56

"Russell will you just run up to t'shop?"

Not so much a question as an instruction, and the words that I dreaded hearing. The shop would most likely be one of the shops up Summit, about half to three quarters of a mile away from where we lived at Pikehouse Cottages, situated on the eastern side of the Rochdale Canal on Lightowlers Lane. And, being a small boy, this errand would seriously infringe on my playing out time.

Originally from Todmorden, my parents had moved in to number four Pikehouse Cottages in 1946, as my father had managed to get a job at Fothergill and Harvey's on shift work, and because travelling on public transport from Todmorden at unsociable hours was not always possible, we were given one of the cottages. These cottages would be known today as a two up and two down, and would be considered very primitive now, with just one tap over a slop stone in the kitchen, and a range in the front room, that had a boiler on one side, and an oven on the other. In those days I suppose it was luxury, but the house was in a terrible state and my mother would have set to and cleaned it, whilst trying to unpack, get meals ready for dad at unusual times, and see to me, an 18 month old baby.

There was nothing unusual for me to run such errands, because our nearest shop, the Co–op grocers, was over at Shop Wood on Todmorden Road, just across from my school, now known as Summit primary school, and still in use today. Although the Co–op delivered our shopping once a week on a Thursday, Mother would have to make a list of what she needed — known as the store–order — a few days before, and that list would have to be handed in to the shop in time for Mr. Dearden, (the Manager) and Alma, (his assistant) to get the order ready in time for the van to pick it up at the start of his rounds.

Now Alma sang in the choir at Calderbrook church (St. James'). This was our nearest C. of E. Church and I was taken there from being a small boy, until such time as I was able to go on my own. However — and mother used to tell this tale just to embarrass me — on one of my first visits, standing with the congregation whilst the procession was walking up the aisle, with the choir following on, my little voice could be heard saying "Oh look Mam, there's Alma, but where's Mr. Dearden?". I am told that this created quite a giggle from those around because everyone knew that the two worked at the same place, it was only me that thought they should be together all the time.

But back to my tale; as I said it was not unusual for me to "run up t' shop". Indeed, Dad had made me a hand cart out of a pair of pram wheels and a box, for that very reason, and I was often seen trundling up the factory side road to the shops at Summit, and I would use this until I was old enough to have a bicycle.

Pig cartoon

It was just before one Christmas, I remember, when I heard those dreaded words. Mum was ill in bed and she explained that if I didn't go, we wouldn't be able to have a Christmas dinner. She asked me to call at the butchers and to order a piece of pork off a good loin, so I wrote my note and off I went.

Lion in Colour

The shop was full with it being near Christmas. Mr. Fletcher the butcher took my note off me whilst he went in the back to get his glasses. As he came out from the back he said "Who has written this note, Russell?" I told him that I had written it and that that was what my Mum had said, "Oh, OK then, I'll see to it for you". I found out later that I had written "A PIECE OF PORK OFF A GOOD LION"! And of course after that I was the laughing stock of the village!

Russell Johnson


Editor: Brian Walker