The Bandstand in Winter
Two members of Littleborough Civic Trust attended the Pennine Prospects Conference in Burnley on October 1st. The theme was ‘opportunity’ – opportunity for local people working together to promote a South Pennine identity and sense of community. We were reminded that as industrial activity in the area declined, opportunities to develop our unique assets, including moorland, canals, reservoirs and varied heritage, increased. Clearly ‘tourism’ had become a main area of economic growth.
We were further reminded that by promoting and developing tourism and visitor interest, former industrial towns like Rochdale, Todmorden and Burnley could enjoy the renaissance that visitors can bring. A presentation by Hetty Byrne, the Sustainable Tourism Officer for the Forest of Bowland provided a useful case study on how tourism can revitalise an area. She explained that previously the area was known as “near to the Lake District”. After careful promotion, visitor numbers have increased dramatically and small businesses have flourished.
Later a discussion led by Susan Briggs explored the promotion of the South Pennines as an area with a unique identity and “a sense of place”. Clearly there are difficulties, not least the fact that the South Pennines straggles Yorkshire and Lancashire and includes a considerable number of separate administrative authorities.
The importance of carbon storage was emphasised by Tim Thom, the Peat Project Manager for the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Again we were aware of our unique moorland peat blanket, its flora and fauna. We were fortunate that our local councillor, Peter Evans, was vocal in expressing concerns about the impact of massive wind turbines on our own Pennine uplands.
The Conference gave us the opportunity to hear about a range of programmes and projects including Canal Connections and the different initiatives funded by the LEADER programme including renovation of community buildings, installation of sustainable energy systems, arts and cultural projects. The Conference was refreshing, enabling us to hear fresh ideas, listen to debates and learn about the work of other groups in the area. It was a day well spent.
As I suggested in the Summer newsletter that the chances of the Joint Services Centre going ahead in the foreseeable future is unlikely, is it not time for the library service to lay out plans for alternative scenarios for the library in Littleborough?
Much has been said nationally in recent months on the future of libraries in general and how they will have to change their modus operandi if they are to continue to serve the public in any meaningful way. 'Our' library has had falling numbers of user 'footfalls' over recent years and there is no indication that these will revive. It doesn't help that it is only open part time. As both national and local finances are becoming ever more constrained it would appear that only drastic changes will allow the service to continue.
Many people in Littleborough like the present location and value the service they receive, but it simply isn't viable to continue to occupy so much square footage of the building. If the library were to remain where it is it would have to either reduce its area of occupancy or pay larger fees to rent; surely the second option is not likely?
It has been suggested that libraries will have to go almost completely electronic and that real books will become less and less a part of the service; it is the books which take up so much of the space presently needed. Many people, the older members of society in particular, probably prefer to continue to read real books but it is surely obvious that as new generations look at the service and decide what they want from it (if anything!) the 'book service' will decline naturally?
This should be being discussed now. One possible outcome to 'waiting and seeing' is that the library will be lost to Littleborough completely. The indecisiveness of the library service does not help MoorEnd Trust to come to any solid decisions as to whether the takeover of the House and Library by them is economically viable.
Since writing the above the MoorEnd Trust has received a letter from the Community Builders, the funding body from which it was hoped that a grant of up to £500,000 would be made towards the refurbishment of the House.
The letter laid out in unequivocal terms that any grant monies would have to be spent by the end of March 2011. MoorEnd had been trying desperately to move things along in the, in my view, forlorn hope that the grant would be made if the work could be completed by September 2011.
Such a time schedule was, again in my view, almost impossible to achieve but the new truncated schedule IS impossible. So it looks like the future of the House and Library in the hands of MoorEnd is once again in serious doubt.
While we were conducting the internal survey on Hare Hill House and the Library building, earlier this year, we came across some interesting anomalies.
Because the roof windows grow out of the front elevation and the hidden guttering is behind the same elevation the guttering has to run through or under the internal sills of these windows. In each internal sill there is a small trapdoor which when opened reveals the gutter passing under it; this is for cleaning purposes. However in one instance an enterprising pigeon or blackbird (I'm no ornithologist) had built its nest there and this contained two (warm) eggs the first time we looked.
The cellars are roofed with brick barrel vaulting and this coupled with other anomalous items made me and others begin to wonder if parts of the house were older than the supposed building date for the main house of the 1850s.
What were these anomalies?
The main house is basically a square on plan but there is an 'extension' running backwards to the rear of the north-east corner - thought to be the servants’ quarters – access to the first floor being via a separate servants' staircase. Everyone I have spoken to seemed to think that this was an add-on bit and younger than the house itself.
However the junction between the two is odd in that at the first floor the levels don't line up, something which would have been easy to do if this was a later extension to the house proper. Couple this with the stonework on the outside of the 'extension' which is of watershot construction, a form of stonework which was used between approximately the 1770s and the 1830s, and it is clear that the dating doesn't match up. While it isn't impossible that the use of this style of stonework might have carried on in the odd spot for a while longer, it is unlikely that it was still being used in the 1860s or later from when an extension might be dated.
A perusal of the 1840s ordnance map for the area reveals that there existed an earlier Hare Hill House to the north of the present one (approximately where the bowling green pavilion is now) and that another building named Hare Hill appears to be close to or on the same site of the present house at that date. So the question is: did the Newall family incorporate a part of the older construction into the new building, presumably to save a bit of cash?
Following my thoughts on this in the Autumn edition of the Newsletter matters have been moving on.
Reno Minopoli, one of our new members, who brought the matter up originally, has contacted the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to ask what might be possible. He received the following reply by email from the Department for Communities and Local Government:
Dear Mr. Minopoli,
Thank you for your telephone call enquiring what the procedure would be for the area of Littleborough to becoming a principal council in its own right. I apologise for the delay in getting back to you and hope the following is helpful.
The Secretary of State has no powers to amend the boundaries between local authorities (including merging or creating local authorities) without the new Local Government Boundary Commission for England (LGBCE) undertaking a review of the area and then acting on their recommendations. At present the Secretary of State has no plans to make any such request but we have noted your views.
Given the precarious state of public finances, the Government believes that this is not the time to undertake centrally imposed, resource intensive and disruptive restructuring of local government. Nevertheless, the Government is currently aware of numerous examples of councils of all sizes, working collaboratively in order to reduce duplication and costs; generating vital savings which are being reinvested in front line services for the benefit of their citizens. Central Government would like to see more examples of such collaborative working - approaches which will be made even more beneficial under plans to devolve more power to local authorities. In these circumstances, the Government believes that councils should be left free to decide themselves on sensible co-operation in the interests of their citizens, without recourse to restructuring.
You might wish to note that the LGBCE can, on its own initiative or at the request of a local authority, review and make recommendations for changes to administrative boundaries under the provisions of the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007. The LGBCE is currently looking at what it might do in its first years). It is highly likely to concentrate on its core task of updating electoral arrangements in councils but it is considering undertaking some administrative boundary reviews. Whilst it is not a matter for the Department we understand that any such boundary reviews are likely to be either small scale or ones where all the local authorities concerned agree that a review should take place.
When we spoke, I said I would send you details of how electors of an area can submit a petition to their principal council for the creation of a parish council.
In 2008 the Secretary of States responsibility for taking decisions about parish boundary matters was devolved to principal councils, under Chapter 3 of Part 4 of the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007. Section 80 of that Act provides for local government electors to initiate a community governance review and present a public petition for the creation of a parish to the principal council, who are responsible for taking decisions about boundary matters under the Act.
The community governance reviews allows local government electors to change community governance in their area by petitioning for a variety of matters including:
For a petition to be valid it must be signed by the requisite number of local electors:
District councils, unitary county councils and London borough councils (‘principal councils’) can make a decision under the 2007 Act to undertake a community governance review of the whole or part of their council area.
You may find the following website path to the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007 Act helpful:
I also attach the website path to our guidance on community governance (parish) reviews. You may find Section 2, paragraph 39 for guidance on "Public Petitions to Trigger Community Governance Reviews" helpful.
Department for Communities and Local Government
Local Governance Division
While this may seem a bit long-winded it seems to me to contain some helpful suggestions and leads me to the thought that the impossible idea may not be so impossible after all.
What do our readers think?
When it comes to making a comment we have recently made things easier for those with access to the Internet. Our website now contains a page through which members of the society (or members of the public) might easily tell us what they think. I hope that many do.
This is an important innovation, despite its simplicity, and I look forward to seeing your views. Anyone agreeing to those views being published on the web will see them posted and can then see what others think about their ideas and so on….
Iain Spencer Gerrard
About 40 people supported the latest of the talks promoted by Littleborough Civic Trust on September 30th at the Coach House. They were rewarded with a very interesting, amusing and thoughtful combination of photographs, film, interviews and commentary on Heptonstall Village by Nick Wilding.
Nick, who certainly knows how to bring a village, its history, traditions, memories and characters to life, had made this presentation especially for us. Afterwards, he said he said he was “delighted with the general response to the whole evening, so please treat that as my pat on the back for providing me with such a wonderful audience in such a great venue.”
The Events Subcommittee worked hard to make sure every aspect of the evening was enjoyable and ran smoothly. As with the previous talk on the Coach House’s Stone Head, the evening included a chance to win a prize by selecting a name for a central character in the presentation’s subject matter – we have now named not only the Head, which is now officially “Red”, but have also given a name to the stone cat in the wall of Heptonstall Village Church.
Thanks to all who supported us on the night, and helped to make it so enjoyable and worthwhile. We hope you will also want to attend our future events, which are listed in the Events Card which every member of the Trust should have received with their Autumn Newsletter.
A card outlining events planned for October 2011 through to December 2012 will be printed by the time of the 40th Anniversary of the Trust, which we are celebrating in June 2011. We all hope you will come along and join us – you will be made very welcome.
Being aware that having lived in Littleborough for a mere thirty five years I am still considered an 'incomer’, it is a shock to realise that I too am beginning to bemoan the many ways in which our little town is changing.
I realised this when pausing at the corner of Harehill and Calderbrook Roads. This junction has changed significantly, being now so much wider. I can clearly recall it being quite a narrow cross roads with the chapel and mill at the bottom of Shore Road. Now it is a major junction which many believe should be protected by traffic lights.
Earlier, of course, Caldermoor boasted its own Co-operative store. The shop opened in 1868 and provided the full range of groceries for people in the area. We must remember that before the days of fridges, freezers and supermarkets, most fresh food was obtained on a daily basis and that before mass car ownership, shops were located within easy walking distance. The Caldermoor store was a substantial enterprise which included a 'newsroom' and an outlet for farmers, selling animal feedstuff. It also had a cloggers which originally was accessed by outside steps. Shire horses were originally used for delivering groceries. Older readers may remember when these animals were 'dressed up' with ribboned manes and shining brasses for May Day and other parades. Later, it was usual for food 'orders' to be delivered by errand boys with bikes. Additionally, there was a cream and red van which served as a mobile shop.
In 1904, a fire caused by a careless cigarette resulted in substantial damage to the Caldermoor Co-op store but the shop was rebuilt and was still thriving in the 1960s. It is hard to imagine now that the Caldermoor junction was the site of such a busy shop.
Yes, Littleborough is constantly changing. Maybe we should take time periodically to record and remember before these memories are lost.
My first recollection of a library has stayed with me all my life. Living at Pikehouse Cottages down by the canal, our nearest library was up Summit. It was run by a lady called Mrs. Durber.
Mrs. Durber was a retired school teacher and the library itself was situated in her front room, in one of the many terraced houses that front onto the eastern side of Todmorden Road. I am not sure just where it was now, but I know that it was before you got to the Ebenezer Chapel and the chip shop. I know that because that part was always known as the ‘Top of Summit’.
I was never sure just how I found out about The Library, but I know that I went there on my own, because I had to take a form for one of my parents to sign. But that did not stop Mrs. Durber from helping me to choose a book, and letting me borrow it for two weeks. I was then given strict instructions, very strict instructions, on how to handle a book, I was ALWAYS to wash my hands before reading the book, I was to use the bookmark provided, I was NEVER to bend the corners of a page over to mark my place, and I had to have the book back in the allotted time. Even if I hadn’t finished it, it had to be restamped. Now although these instructions were of paramount importance, in no way was I made to feel as though I would be punished for disobeying the rules. Indeed, the way it was put across to me was that, in some way, it was a privilege to treat books like this. Mrs. Durber always had time for me whenever I went into change a book, often helping me choose which book I might enjoy, and which would be too difficult for an eight year old.
The Summit Library was administered by Lancashire County Council, I think, as was our school at Summit, and other schools around Littleborough. This of course was when Littleborough had its own urban district council, before things were ‘improved’ by being administered by Rochdale.
As I got older and went to Secondary school, and, as we had moved into a house up Shore, so of course, I had to get used to a different Library. The Carnegie Library in the park was our local one and I joined that, but instead of getting one card I was allowed two. Now this I couldn’t understand; how could anybody possibly read two books in the allotted time of two weeks? I nearly always struggled to finish one within a fortnight.
At first I was a little overawed by the choice of books and the fact that there was a reading room. Why, I wondered, would anybody want to read in a library? It wasn’t until I investigated and found out that not only did they do books for lending, but there were reference books,newspapers, and things like the electoral roll, that people would go in and study.
The Libraries these days do of course provide access to much more information, with computer terminals and music C.D.s. Also, I believe, lessons on how to use a computer are available weekly at Littleborough. All adhering to the principle of access to information for the people.
I, and probably many more people, have gained a lot from having free and unlimited access to books, from fictional books that kept my interest and whet my appetite, to reference books on the many hobbies that I have pursued, throughout my life, and work. Although the recent scare about moving the Carnegie library from Hare Hill House has died down somewhat, it has not gone away, and I for one do not want to see it moved from such a lovely setting.
As I mentioned earlier, people now have lots of other ways to access information these days, so the footfall into libraries on the whole will be reduced, it’s bound to be, but public libraries should continue in general and ours in particular should strive to maintain the services it provides.
Our lending libraries are a wonderful institution, long may they continue.
Photograph: Iain Spencer Gerrard
As I write this the beautiful autumn leaves which have glowed bronze, red and amber are falling. It is the season when we celebrate Harvest, gathering in the last apples and vegetables. I recall my mother busy salting down runner beans, making the chutney, jellies and jams which would serve us through the winter months. Our lives would reflect the seasons and we were acutely aware of the need to sow, plant and harvest as the year progressed.
In this modern age of supermarkets, when food is transported across the world, we are losing the connection with the seasons and also the customs and traditions which accompanied them. In my childhood, the kitchen was full of activity from early autumn, this reached its peak when ‘soul cakes’ were made on the last day in October. This continued until Christmas when they were given to any visitors or Carol singers. They were spiced buns, rather like Hot Cross Buns, with lots of currants and sultanas. Children would sing a special song:-
"Soul cake, Soul cake,
"Please, good missus, a soul cake,
"One for Peter, two for Paul,
"Three for Him who rules us all".
Then there was ‘Stir up Sunday’ when Christmas cakes and puddings were made. It was important that 13 ingredients were included in these, representing Christ and the twelve apostles. We would stir, always from east to west, and make a wish. Charms were added to the puddings; each was supposed to foretell births, deaths, weddings etc.
As Advent approached a spiced apple wine would be ready for visitors. It was only later that I understood this to be ‘wassail” originally an ale-based drink originating, I think in Saxon times, when the words “Woes hael” (be well) and “Drinc hael” would be spoken. I believe that in some areas the wassail was sung in apple orchards.
As a child one of the exciting events would be searching for a Yule Log. The log had to be large enough to burn throughout Christmas day, this ensured good luck for the family. When it was placed in the fire place, wine or brandy was poured over the log and a piece of wood from the previous year was used to light the fire. The fire was kept alight until twelfth night.
It seems rare to hear carol singers going from house to house now but as a child it was a regular occurrence. We always had soul buns, a few pence and toffee by the door. Maybe there is more concern these days about children wandering from door to door in the dark evenings. It seems sad that modern anxieties are likely to be more successful in ending carols than Cromwell's short-lived ban on all things joyful in the 1640s.
A more frightening event was mummers. Mummers were treated with great awe and we all had to be careful to abide by strict rules in their presence. Never speak to, or try to identify a mummer. They were always in ‘guizes’; dressed in black and their faces were covered in soot. Always open all the outside doors for them and let them wander at will throughout the house. The mummers, who were always adult men, would make a murmuring noise and move their hands over tables and chairs in a circular gesture. It was important to reward the mummers with brandy or whisky, a mince pie and money.
These traditions were an important part of my childhood. They marked the changing year and were part of the pre-Christmas excitement. Maybe other readers have their own memories of customs and traditions. I think that it is important to record these before they are lost.
Editor: Brian Walker