All talks take place on:
- 4th Wednesday of the month at 19:30 unless otherwise stated
- Upstairs in the Rankin Room
- At the Victory Hall, Broughton in Furness
2021-2022 Talks Programme
Friday, July 15th, 2022
Launch of Dr Deane de la Motte's historical novel "Oblivion"
At St Mary Magdalene Church 19:30
This is an open event and free to all
REPORTS OF PREVIOUS TALKS CAN BE SEEN BELOW THIS YEAR'S CALENDAR
September 28th, 2022
Coastal shipping - the rise and fall of maritime Cumbria
October 26th, 2022
Broughton in Furness - the war years 1941-1945
Saturday, November 12th, 2022
Victory Hall 10:00-15:00
Details to be confirmed
January 25th, 2023
The story of Broughton's twelve bells
February 22nd, 2023
Our washfold project in the Duddon Valley
Stephe Cove and Dave Hughes
March 22nd, 2023
The impact of motor transport in Westmorland c 1900-1939
April 26th, 2023
Roman Millom and the story of the castle
May 24th, 2023
Something different - the history of Gornal Ground
Hosted by Karen Bishop-Miller
June 28th, 2023
AGM of the Duddon Valley Local History Group followed by
The secrets of Broughton's churchyard
June 22nd, 2022 AGM followed by The Life of Riley - A search for Branwell Bronte's child
Wednesday, May 25th, 2022 Railways of Barrow Through the Lens of Michael Andrews - Geoff Holme
Stan Aspinall spoke briefly of the work being done with Broughton Primary School to allow the children to celebrate Local History Month with a walk around the town recreating Victorian photographs and exploring some of the local history ‘hidden in plain sight’. Stephe Cove gave a brief update on the Washfold Project which now has its own section on the Group www.duddonhistory.org.uk . Stephe drew attention to the work of the volunteers who had carried out the surveys and the proof reading of the text.
Stan then introduced the speaker for the evening, Geoff Holme who provided a fascinating pictorial excursion around the Railways of Barrow using the many photographs of Michael Andrews. Michael was a medical doctor by professional but a life long railway historian and enthusiast by inclination. The photographs he took, captured a largely lost world of rail engineering and architecture in Barrow, Barrow Island and the docklands, iron and steel plants. many of these were juxtaposed in the presentation with the same scene in modern times.
From its beginnings in 1846, transporting iron ore and slate for export to other areas of the UK, the railway sprouted numerous extensions feeding the docks, iron and steel works and onward to Hawcoat Quarry. Then with the closure of the iron works in 1964 so much infrastructure disappeared remarkably quickly. Here and there are buildings, facades and isolated fragments of this history, if one knows what to look for, but in the main Michael Andrews’ archive is all that survives.
Geoff Holmes has an encyclopaedic knowledge of his subject and the two “take-away” facts for me was that there were over 100 miles of track laid in and around Barrow; and how close they came to punching a railway shaped hole through Furness Abbey before it was decided to dig a tunnel.
To finish his talk, Geoff provided us with two excursions in pictures from Grange to Roa Island and then on the workman’s train from Barrow Island to Silecroft.
In short, Michael Andrews took pictures where nobody else bothered. His research was pulled together by his friends after his death in 2010 and published as “The Furness Railway: A History” and “Barrow in Furness and its Railway” by Barrai Books. If you enter these words into a search engine such as “google”, it is clear that these books are readily available.
April 27th, 2022
Stories Behind the Stones - Rod White
Having retired from the education sector, Rod has embarked on a major study of some of the stories behind the graves, monuments and other memorials that can be found in various cemeteries across Barrow, Dalton and the Furness peninsula. He was successful in securing Heritage Lottery Funding for a project to establish a website to allow us armchair access to some of the stories.
If you were not able to joins us, or want to explore further, Rod’s website can be found at:
Rod was able to tell us some fascinating tales about soldiers, industrialists, music hall performers, shipwrecked mariners and others who can be found within the cemeteries. As well as the last resting places, it was clear that cemeteries are also the sites of memorials and monuments to those with local connection who died and are buried elsewhere. One striking example was the grave of James Gall in Barrow Cemetery. Gall was a survivor of the shipwreck of the SS Forfarshire which immortalised by the story of Grace Darling. Though not one of those survivors rescued by the heroism of Grace and her father, the Secretary of the Barrow RNLI organised and impressive ‘Lighthouse’ edifice to be erected on Gall’s grave.
At one end of the social scale is the impressive mausoleum of Sir James Ramsden of Barrow. It contains four coffins, Sir James and Lady Ramsden, their son and, rather oddly, a friend of her sons who passed away on a visit to Barrow. Then, of course, there are the apparently unpopulated areas which very often contained the unmarked graves of the many folk who were unable or unwilling to pay for a permanent memorial.
As yet, Rod has not got around to exploring the many stories contained within the Churchyards of St Mary Magdalene and the other chapels hereabouts. We were keen to impress upon him that we had already uncovered many stories already and look forward to working with him in the near future.
What was very clear during the evening was that whilst many of us enjoy a stroll around a churchyard, a little curiosity about the epitaphs and monuments can unearth a wealth of ‘stories behind the stones’……stories which might otherwise be lost. The advent of on-line search engines and genealogy websites means that such stories can be discovered…. and it isn’t necessary to subscribe since many are available within the Library service.
Rod has researched the lives of people from the details written on headstones in local cemeteries.
March 23rd, 2022
Swill Basket Making - Owen Jones
The group welcomed Owen Jones to it meeting to talk about and demonstrate the skill of making the traditional Oak Swill baskets, unique to this part of the southern Lake District. Swills made use of the oak woodland of the Furness fells, with woodsman tending coppices and supplying oak to the Swillmakers. Centred on the area between Broughton, Eskdale, Langdale and Backbarrow, the origins of swill making grew from a cottage industry through the agricultural and industrial revolution into a significant trade. In many respects Broughton could claim to be the centre with over 40 swill making traders at one time. Subsequent mechanisation and use of other material has lead to an inevitable decline during the first half of the 20th century.
There uses were many and various. In agriculture they were used for broadcast sowing, animal feeders and harvesting container. They were used in mining and for coaling steam ships. Domestically they found uses in the kitchen, laundry and the garden.
Whilst demonstrating the various stages of the process, Owen explained that the supply of coppiced wood had declined but talked of his self sufficiency in managing his own woodland to provide the raw materials - in fact the only commodities he purchases are sisal string and the small pins or nails used to fix the hazel ‘bool’ or rim of the basket.
Coppiced oak is cut every 18-25 years and the trunks are cut and sliced, into the required lengths before being boiled. Thereafter the softer oak ‘bilets’ are either torn thickly to provide the ribs (spelks) to the basket or torn into thiner strips (taws) for weaving.
From start to finish the process takes around 4 hours for each basket.
February 23rd, 2022
Bank Barns, Boskins and Beeboles - Andy Lowe
Andy Lowe took us on a tour of the architecture of farm buildings in the southern Lakes over the past 300 years. The focus was not on the farmhouses but the working buildings, primarily the Bank Barns built into the slope of the landscape, providing space for a threshing floor, grain and straw storage above a byre. Built with functionality and efficient use of space in mind, these Bank Barns remain a feature of the valley bottoms, though hardly any are used for their original purpose any longer. However the original “no frills” features remain for all to see. The large doors facing the prevailing wind were often not centred so as to allow asymmetric storage; a larger space on the one side for freshly cut sheaves, a smaller space for the straw stored after threshing. At the rear would be smaller doors would be opened at threshing so that winnowed chaff could be blown out by the breeze.
Andy also drew attention to the narrow vertical slits in the walls. No, not for arrows! Rather they were to encourage owls to next in the barn and thereby to deter rodents.
Boskins, it transpired were the slate or wooden divisions in a byre which were designed to separate space for individual cows or horses to be tethered.
There were pictures of other farm buildings such as the rounded Gin Houses. No, nothing to do with illicit liquor but horse powered ‘Engines’ used to power farming machinery.
Finally, Beeboles which were cavities built into walls to provide sheltered warm and dry places for straw bee skeps (the precursor of modern hives) to be sited.
Andy worked for the National Park for many years and described the building work that continues to be carried out on buildings using traditional materials and methods. As a result the skills and craftsmanship were being maintained due to restoration work.
Equipped with new insight into the architecture of farm buildings, our country rambles hereabouts will take on a whole new dimension now.
26th January 2022
Broughton-in-Furness Re-visited - Stan Aspinall
Since his previous talk on the history of Broughton given in 2019, Stan has continued his research and was able to tell four stories about life and events in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
After hundreds of years of reliance on wells and privies a new sewerage system was installed in 1897 and running water supplies in 1899 but a new vicarage built in 1899 shows that old attitudes still prevailed. The eight bedroom mansion with a fireplace in every room was built without an indoor toilet, Two flushing toilets, both still working today, were built outside instead
Next on to the Eccleriggs manor and the story of the First Viscount Cross who had the two “Pepper Pots” built at the entrance to his drive. Their origins were explained and why one was demolished.
Viscount Cross was also involved in the rebuilding of the church tower and installation of eight bells in 1899 but Stan’s third story focussed on the early bell ringers. He told the story of Annie and Emma Butterfield, the latter part of the bell ringing team for most of her life.
Finally in words and old photos we took a ride on the Postbus up the Duddon Valley with George Wilkinson as our driver. Arriving in Seathwaite we went to Havelock Cottage to hear the story of Kenneth Burgess who lived there from 1941-45. Kenneth’s journals paint a vivid picture of the flora and fauna and will be the subject of a future talk.
There were thirty members and seventeen guests at the meeting.
Wednesday October 27th, 2021
Waiter, Miner, Butcher, Spy - Germans and Austrians in Cumbria During World War One - Rob David
The October Meeting told of the experiences of Germany and Austrian born citizens in Cumbria during the Great War. In truth Dr Rob David’s talk was little short on Spies, but dealt with the climate of Germanophobia, suspicion and distrust of ‘the foreigner’ stirred up by the tabloid press - sound familiar ???
Using true family stories, Rob illustrated the fate of German born residents who had taken up British Citizenship and established families and roots in Cumbria. Whilst many had anglicised their names in order to fit in this was no guarantee that they were above suspicion. Riots occurred in Barrow and many German business were attacked.
Another group, which numbered about 150 at the time, were those German nationals who had settled in Cumbria but had chosen not to take up British Citizenship. Many in this group were younger men who worked in Hotels and Restaurants or were employed in mining and heavy industry. Of particular interest were a large group who worked for the Belgian company that owned the mines at Nenthead near Alston. Men in the group aged 17-44 were interned in camps, including the huge Knockaloe camp on the Isle of Man which had 23,000 internees. The families left behind without the breadwinner often suffered extreme hardship.
The stories ranged from the tragic, such as the family of Ernest Altenheim, a German Citizen with an established business in Maryport who was accused of spying and signalling the U-Boat that shelled of Lowca coking works. The Altenheims were targeted because their home stood on the cliff top overlooking the coast and were driven out of their home and eventually decided to make a perilous voyage across the Atlantic in 1916. There was also the comical, such as the Scotsman who was the subject of a citizens arrest in Millom for having “foreign labels on the luggage”. He was marched to the Police Station are locked up whilst the constabulary sought to verify his story.
Wednesday, September 22nd, 2021
School Life in the 1950s and 1960s - Ambleside Oral History Group
Kicking off the new programme, we welcomed Alison Peak and Judith Shingler from Ambleside Oral History Group who took those of us over 60 on a trip down memory lane to our schooldays in the 1950s and 60s.
Oral History weaves together recordings made of folk talking first hand about their recollections. Chain smoking teachers, freezing classrooms heated by a single stove and PE consisting of runs to the river, across the stepping stones and back - a health and safety nightmare. We heard of the struggles to find the cash necessary to pay for the week's dinners (some things never change), the need to do the farm work before and after the school day and the excitement of youngsters going from remote farms to the “metropolis” of Ambleside or Kendal, perhaps to board with families in the towns during the week.
Weaving the recordings of teachers and pupils we were reminded of the 11+, the exam all children took to determine whether they could go the grammar school or not. The nationwide introduction of the comprehensive system in the mid 1960s brought about the amalgamation of schools and we heard first hand of the impact the first purpose built Lakes School had on children and their families. The Lakes School was opened in 1965 and brought together three existing schools, Windermere Grammar for boys, Old College School for girls and Kelswick School which was already a coeducational establishment.
Kelswick School may well have been coeducational but the vast majority of the pupils were girls and the recordings painted a picture of the extraordinary rules that were in place to try and ensure the sexes did not mix “whilst in uniform’ travelling to and from school.
Comprehensive education was not new to Westmorland however. Windermere Grammar School for boys was in fact is the first ever comprehensive school formed in 1945 after post war Education Act.
AGM September 1st 2021
Activity Report - Archives, Wordsworth, Furness Railway, Sankey Collection, Future activities
Gail Batten and Stephe Cove
Previous Talks: 2019-20 2018-19 2017-18 2016-17
Wednesday February 26th, 2020: A History of Stained Glass in South Lakeland - Sarah Lace
Sarah Lace was the speaker for the 26th February 2020 with an enthralling presentation called “The History of Stained Glass in South Lakeland”, including a display of many of her own creations, along with tools, designs and paints. She asked the group for our views on stained glass in churches and several members mentioned colour, translucence, light, and stories they depicted. Sarah talked about the stained glass in five Lakeland churches explaining the differences between techniques of decorating: silver paint, acid sketches, shading and coloured glass. There is still evidence of architecture from Norman through to modern day in many of our churches but you need to look very carefully at the way different windows have been designed. Some of us were already thinking “I must go and look at these churches”
The earliest fragments of stained glass date back to 12th century as at St Oswald’s church at Grasmere. Architects planned huge windows to let in as much light as possible and panels needed to be tied with metal bars to the stonework around them. Many windows were made with tiny pieces to create pictures in the large windows. The master craftsman worked on the intricate details while apprentices learned by working on the borders. It could take 25 years to become a master craftsman.
Some windows give the impression of distorted images because the Puritans smashed up so many in their quest for plain, no frills worship and when they were reconstructed many fragments did not quite fit. Some stained glass windows came into churches from other buildings. Urswick parish church has a window in the south side of the chancel believed to be from Furness Abbey. Many windows were bestowed by wealthy benefactors and these influential families wanted their coats of arms displayed along with the pictorial stories. William Marshall, Le Fleming and Pennington families are such local landowners.
At St Martin’s church in Windermere is a modern stained glass window commemorating World War 1 and it is decorated with a very unusual technique of enameling. The east window has fragments of 12th to 15th century glass, and has been reconstructed after damage by Cromwell’s officials. Sometimes glass can be dated by looking at the colour of Mary’s robe, early medieval robes were depicted with green paint, and blue became the standard colour by mid medieval. Two local churches – Jesus Church at Troutbeck and St James’ Church at Staveley near Kendal both have exquisite panels designed and created by Edward Burne-Jones, William Morris and Ford Maddox Brown and they are some of the finest examples in the country.
After the talk we were invited to look at the equipment Sarah had brought and even had the chance to cut our own piece of glass. We will now be planning to visit some of these churches with a “new” eye.
Our next talks will be on March 25th – “Bank Barns, Boskins and Bee Boles” by Andy Lowe and on April 22nd with “Waiter, Miner, Butcher, Spy – Germans and Austrians in Cumbria during the First World War” by Rob David.
Wednesday January 22nd, 2020: A Short History of Walking the Fells - Stephe Cove
This was a light-hearted perambulation through the history and geology of life and work on the Cumbrian Fells.
People have scraped a living here for thousands of years and have all made a mark on the landscape. He divided his talk into 1) Existence 2) Exploitation 3) Excitement
The geology of the Lake District was, and is the basis for the mining and quarrying industry – stone-age man created axe factories around the fells, where “rough-outs” were shaped before sending for refining on the coast to be sent all over Britain and many have been found as far away as Poland.
With the use of stone tools came hunter gatherers, leading to domestication, and forest clearing. Relics of their cultures stand eg.Giant’s Stones near Silecroft and Swinside Circle. Then came the Romans - Hardknott and Ravenglass forts with the wonderful relic The Crosby Garrett Helmet. The Normans and Medieval people followed, with their abbeys, and later, the yeomen farmers, who built stone longhouses, and many stone walls following the contours of the fells.
There came an explosion of industry around the lakes, from forestation, coppicing, usage of water power eg Boot Mill, iron bloomeries and then furnaces (Duddon Furnace), the slate industry, not to mention farming, gamekeepers etc. Latterly there has been army training eg at Caw and Black Combe was an ideal summit for the Ordnance Survey to view so many fell tops.
Now, apart from farming and isolated quarrying, the fells are primarily for leisure and pleasure. The many ancient tracks are still in use today and packhorse bridges help us onto the fells with maps to guide the way (Wainwright etc). The Victorians notably set up walking centres such as at Keswick and created an infrastructure of coaches, boats and railways to tour the beauty spots.
Today many other activities use the facilities, hang gliding, motorbikes, mountain bikes, etc therefore establishing the need for the Mountain Rescue.
All this scurrying about has caused some erosion of paths etc especially with storm wreckage. This has given rise to organizations like the Fix the Fells Projects.
Stephe’s favourite moments in the fells are in the snow and he finished his journey with delightful photos of snowy scenes.
Wednesday October 23rd, 2019: Furness Abbey and the Fellowship - Gill Jepson
Wednesday September 25th 2019: Coniston Coppermines - Mark Hatton
Tonight’s talk was a return visit from Mark Hatton of the Cumbria Amenity Trust Mining History Society. Last year’s talk gave the background to mining in the Lakes up to the arrival of the German Miners at the time Queen Elizabeth set up the Mines Royal. She needed the Treasury filling again and the real experts came from abroad and were brought over to Keswick.
It was some time before they came to Coniston, probably due to the distance involved in taking the ore up to the smelter at Keswick. Then there was a period with nothing much happening until the arrival of a series or mining adventurers who were able to raise the capital and go underground in search of the copper. Mining the veins at the surface created problems with baling out the water and raising the ore to the surface.
This period saw shafts and drainage adits and bigger and bigger water wheels to give better access to the hidden riches so by the mid 1800s, several hundred men were working deep below ground - below Coniston village, even below sea level – with some 1200 feet of ladders to get to down to their working areas. Women and children were involved at the surface separating ore from rock and getting it crushed, sieved and separated ready for smelting.
The new owners developed the technology to assist their operations and created major engineering feats to get the free power source of fast running water to the wheels powering machinery. By now it was british mining engineers that were taking their skills across the world
Leats, small canals if you like, criss-crossed the face of the fell between Levers Water and Red Dell linking the processing areas where the ore was broken down into fine particles ready for smelting. Before the railway came to Coniston, the ore would be carted to the lake, carried by boat down Coniston water, loaded on carts again for the trip down the Crake Valley to Greenodd where it was shipped to Lancashire and South Wales. Transport by rail was so much more efficient
The end of mining came with the increasing problems of working at depth and the fall in the price offered for copper as imported ore started arriving from mines all across the world.
Wednesday July 24th 2019: Commonwood Quarries - Geoff Stebbens
It was a packed appreciative audience for Geoff Stebbens’ talk and DVD of Common Wood Quarries in the Duddon Valley. There is evidence that a William Casson took over the lease of the site in 1792 which would suggest that the quarry had been in existence before then. He explained how in 1997 he and another friend, Eric Holland, attempted to reach the closehead, with help from another enthusiast, Martin Maher. Quarrying was and still is extremely hard and dangerous work as was demonstrated by Geoff’s description of what they found in the levels. A DVD of the three men clearing out the rubble showed just how determined they were to reach the closehead in spite of many blockages. Rubble needed to be cleared but in the quarrying days the government charged for every yard of land covered with waste, so the miners shored up the levels as they advanced with walls of slate, then covered the passage over with planks of wood and stored the rubble on top. Several levels would be excavated down the hillside to access the slope of the vein of slate, rather than digging down a shaft. Over time these have collapsed giving Geoff and his team much work in clearing it. Some blocked levels have not been dug since WW1. Trying to work through the debris was back-breaking toil, and once cleared wooden supports needed to be erected, and many planks had to be taken up. Once, after a couple of weeks’ break, they returned to find it blocked with a huge boulder, the result of a natural fault, and there were also some large stones to move. Eventually they reached the head of the level, having found several miners’ tools on the way eg a gunpowder flask (empty), a mallet and pieces of old newspaper dated 1915; also the remains of a bogey, a ladder and a tramway. These were all shown on the DVD in situ and in the cramped conditions one marvelled at the conditions miners must have endured in a time of little safety.
Whilst researching through records Geoff discovered that an ancestor, another William Casson had worked in the quarry and his grandson Eddie was located and contacted. When the level had been cleared and was safe Geoff and his friends took Eddie in to the closehead to show where his grandfather had worked. It must have been a very emotional moment.
Wednesday May 22nd 2019: The Ribble Way - A Saunter through the Seasons - David Fellows
David Fellows was the speaker at the May meeting with a change of subject from his original. Called “The Ribble Way – a Saunter through the Seasons” this was a gentle meander along the River Ribble to its source, passing mainly through rural areas. Beginning near Preston David led us on a slide show of seasons, from April to November, showing photos of the places he and his wife passed, with the differing architecture of the buildings and the many varieties of flowers from spring to autumn. Sometimes the walk took them through small villages, with houses clustered along the road, at other times there were isolated farms, or just fields or woods. The track itself also changed from busy main roads, to farm tracks, to little footpaths, to finding your way through fields and marsh. David explained that Preston was the home of the first Mormon, the Romans founded Ribchester, and there is a Roman Museum there, and he discovered sculptures along the path near Wigglesworth, and a stone circle near Gisburn.
The source of the Ribble was eventually found as a little spring near Ribblehead – someone took their time thinking up that name for a few houses and a viaduct.
27th March 2019: The Diaries of Edward Wadham: Susan Benson -
Susan Benson, from Barrow archives, was the speaker for this month’s meeting. The subject was a man few people have heard of, but after much research Susan discovered he was as influential in Barrow as his counterparts Schneider and Ramsden. They both have streets and Squares named after them, Edward Wadham has nothing to record his contribution to Barrow’s success. Edward left many diaries and those from 1851 to 1930 were found in the archives where Susan began her research.
Born in 1828 he began training as civil engineer and was particularly successful in railway construction in Devon. He moved to Cumbria (then Lancashire), lodging first in Dalton before living at Thurstonville at Penny Bridge, to become agent to the Duke of Buccleugh in 1851. He became director of many companies, including the steelworks, shipbuilding, iron mines and the railways. He set up schools, such as Ireleth, Dalton and Martin, and churches, the nurses’ home at North Lonsdale Hospital, and was on the Board of Guardians to help the Workhouse and the poor. He took a keen interest in the new telephones but was not impressed with a trip in a motor car which he found very shaky!
He must have had prolific energy because beside all his other commitments he was made mayor three times, was a member of the Conservative Party, and he was a great traveller – to America, Africa, Egypt, Turkey and Spain, always with business in mind eg Delta irrigation canals in Egypt and mines in many countries.
In 1860 he built Millwood which developed problems and fell down so it was 1862 before he and his family moved in. His children were encouraged to marry into the important families like Schneider, Hannay, Ainslie, etc and his son Walter went to work for the Great Northern Railway.
Edward seemed to be quite accident prone. He enjoyed shooting but managed to shoot off his finger and thumb! And in 1908 a cyclist ran into his back and he ended up having to have his leg amputated. But such a successful business man as this needs more than some diaries as a memorial to Barrow’s development. Perhaps one day a new street or estate will be named after him.
27th February 2019: Old Roads of Cumbria: Nick Thorne -
It was standing room only for Nick Thorne’s presentation and what an interesting talk it turned out to be. Nick has been the footpath officer for the National Park for the last eighteen years and has vast information on the condition of most of them over time. I for one will hopefully not complain about our potholes again!
Roads, tracks, byways etc have been a necessary communication for Cumbria for thousands of years, linking settlements, industries and farms, and are integral to our landscape. Crossroads have built up market places around them, roads have linked settlements, or villages have developed because a road was there, possibly because many of our inland rivers were not easily navigable. Tracks tended to be quite windy, often due to the landscape – hills, fells, rivers and boggy lowland areas to negotiate, and the early tracks often used fell tops or passes as they tried to link villages to each other. Even our main roads today are windy, following in part, the courses of older roads. Most roads began with the Romans, who used many of the established tracks.
After the Romans left roads fell into disrepair during the “Dark Ages” until the monasteries began to maintain many roads linking their properties and land. Market towns then developed, and roads were used for moving stock about the country, or for funerals – corpse roads developed as coffins had to be taken to the mother church which could be many miles away. Monks often sat on the edge of these roads to collect alms. With the dissolution of the monasteries, roads deteriorated and things didn't improve until the nineteenth century with the Highways Act stating that all parishes were to be responsible for the maintenance of the roads in their jurisdiction. They had to appoint surveyors and provide labour – usually unskilled locals. Vegetation along the sides of the roads was to be cut back to protect travellers from highwaymen.
Eventually packhorse trails developed and some were flagged to strengthen them. Generally, until the mid eighteenth century, long journeys were taken by horse or by walking, as the roads were in too bad a state to take carts. Nick showed a number of paintings of many breakdowns, or carts bogged down in the deep ruts, and jolting carriages made travel very uncomfortable. Inns grew up along the way, usually about twelve miles apart, the distance travelled in a day, to cater for the growing traffic. It became popular to write poems and romantic stories about the adventures on route. Although it was the duty of parish councils to maintain the roads most had no money and no inclination to comply. So it was natural that tolls began to be levied and turnpike roads developed, to pay towards improvements.
It was engineers like Telford and MacAdam in the late nineteenth century, who at last developed a strong tarmac surface to improve the road network. But it was the 1960s before new roads and motorways began to be constructed, to take increasing traffic.
The pictures and photographs of the activities and disasters on these early roads portrayed the resilience and determination of early travelers and it is a wonder that anyone would want to travel unless it was for trade.
23rd January 2019: Horrible Railway Histories - Bill Myers
Numbers at the DVHG meeting were very pleasing considering the icy weather. Ken informed us that Dave was planning a historic walk around Broughton and Barbara has produced a record of the historic houses in Broughton. He also mentioned that the popular and the final reports of the Longhouse Project are now nearly complete.
Our speaker, Bill Myers, who is well known for his interesting talks about the local area was then introduced. His talk promised an entertaining evening of catastrophes and calamities from our local railways.
He started the evening with the last train to Coniston, in 1962. The 99 year old Coniston Flyer made its last journey and had a record send off as most people would have known it all their lives. The train was 5 minutes late! Better than these days then!
The local railways were well used in the nineteenth century providing round Furness tours and linking up with a coach to Ambleside and steamers to Lakeside, and accidents happened regularly with no compensation or insurance and safety consisted mainly of a sign warning “LOOK BOTH WAYS”. At Foxfield a plate layer was killed. He knew a train was due on one line and stepped on to the other line but unfortunately was hit by another train. Clearing rubble and planks from the lines was also dangerous with sleepers and wood flying about. At Barrow Steelworks there were many tracks with trains running all the time and with several thousand people moving about there were inevitable accidents. Kirkby villagers came to the rescue in 1939 with an excursion train which was hit from behind by another train at 1.30 a.m. The villagers were woken up and came to help and provide tea. There were 30 injuries and 3 people, including the guard, were taken to hospital.
In 1876 3 enginemen were found to be drunk in charge of the train. The driver was lying incapable across the footplate, the guard was too drunk to drive and the man laying ballast was also incapable. A new crew had to be sent from Barrow and the other three were locked up and charged. They were given six weeks in prison with hard labour.
In 1904 a goods train from Whitehaven crashed into the footbridge at Millom station leaving a twisted mess and their version of health and safety showed three planks nailed to what was left of the stairs. A signal box in 1913 was destroyed when a goods train crashed into a passenger train knocking over a coach into the signal box.
At Bootle in 1945 a catastrophic incident was avoided by the bravery of enginemen when a train passing through with depth charges was found to have a wagon on fire. The wagons near the front were uncoupled by the fireman and the train moved forwards about 8o yards. The engine rejoined the other 6 wagons and moved forwards and the wagon on fire was uncoupled and the rest of the train moved forwards again, but the isolated wagon then blew up and it was discovered that the driver had been killed in the explosion. It is thought he had got down and gone back to see if there was anything he could do and was blown up in the process while the fireman survived. The fireman received a medal for bravery but there was none for the driver as medals then could not be awarded posthumously.
An engine at Lindal came to a sudden end in 1892 when a large hole left by one of the many iron ore mines in the area opened, swallowing the locomotive but leaving its tender still on the track. In a week the line was fixed and ore continued to be transported but passengers had to walk across the embankment. A photograph showed a precariously balanced railway track beside a huge hole with no safety measures in sight. It was decided to fill in the hole and the report in the paper stated that one local who came to see it for himself was disappointed and said “there’s nowt to see but a big hole that’s filled up”.
In Millom a lady dumped her husband by train and left a letter to say she could no longer live with a man with no whiskers!
Bad behaviour and vandalism also occurred in the nineteenth century as it can now and was dealt with very severely. A teenage boy caught firing a catapult at several trains at Oxenholme was sent to prison for six years and a man fare-dodging between Dalton and Silverdale was fined thirty shillings. He couldn’t pay so was sent to prison for a month.
Extreme weather only stopped trains when they could not physically move, as shown by a photograph from 1940 of deep snow in Millom several feet deep which cut off the town for a week. And in 1903 a gale with a gust of 120mph blew a train over on the Leven Viaduct and the passengers had to cling to the fence of the viaduct to escape.
Horrible Railway Histories indeed. It made us realise that perhaps our health and safety overload may have some use after all.
24th October 2018: Great Grandad's Army - Jeremy Rowan Robinson
Jeremy introduced himself by explaining he first had the idea for this talk when he was volunteering for bracken bashing for the National Park and on Torver Common came upon the remains of target practice equipment. Researching archives he found there was another example on Silver How which was shown on the 1897 map but not on the earlier 1849 sheet. Further research of archives and records showed eighteen ranges in the Lake District. Jeremy then did a detailed survey of the area on Torver Common to search for ammunition etc some of which was displayed for us to examine. These dated between 1859 and 1873. Target platforms were also discovered, where cartridge cases were found.
The ranges on the maps were shown with various shooting distances up to 800 yard range and a breach loaded rifle could fire 10 rounds (as in Zulu, where Henry Martini rifles were used). The metal targets were 3 cast iron plates 6ft by 2ft with a pit in front and a thick bank behind. A hut close by protected the markers who kept watch and signaled with flags the target results, although less than a quarter of all ranges were safe! So huts called Captain Hill’s Boxes were eventually designed which had a very thick window and a slot in the side wall where a pole with a disc on the end was pushed out, with the appropriate colour brushed on to signify the result. These were abandoned when shooting butts developed. One range from 1898 at Troutbeck has graffiti carved close by saying “5 months, 1 week and 5 days to do”.
Why were there so many of these training targets? Research showed how stretched British resources were and in 1859 home defence corps were raised. 180000 volunteers enrolled in six months. A detachment was set up in Broughton and a meeting was held in the Old King’s Head in 1860. The volunteers were encouraged with field days and annual inspections and each unit seemed to have its own design of uniform, creating much scorn from the army.
Jeremy also discovered several accidents through his research. At Grasmere 2 sheep were shot; it was found that Kendal golf pavilion was in the direct line of fire of the range, and some fishermen had a narrow escape when Lake Windermere iced over and the bullets ricocheted across the ice!
26th September 2018: Mining in the Lake District - Mark Hatton
Ken welcomed a capacity audience, including many visitors, to our meeting on Wednesday. The speaker was Mark Hatton, a member of Cumbria Amenity Trust Mining Society – CATMS and there were many followers of CAT in the audience. Mark presented an excellent talk entitled “A History of Mines and Quarries in the Lake District” and his enthusiasm throughout the whole evening inspired us all. He warned us that mines are not for entering without professional leaders as many are unenclosed with many hidden dangers, adding that he is happy to show people round.
Displaying a geology map Mark showed areas around the Lake District where various minerals are found, including copper, lead, tin, graphite, coal, and most commonly, iron (eg Red Dell etc). Also bands of slate cross the whole area as at Honister, Coniston, and Longsleddle. Mark then explained the beginning of mining in the area, which was as early as 5000 years ago, showing stone axes which were chipped out of a vein and exported from Langdale, Scafell etc. These were highly prized as many have been found as grave goods.
However, little was known about the importance of mining for minerals in the Lake District because it was considered a wild inhospitable wet land which was inaccessible. There was a little small-scale mine working around as mortar stones have been found which were used for crushing stone by hand to get the ore. It was Queen Elizabeth I who exploited mining here as metal, especially copper was needed for warships. The Company of Mines Royal was set up in 1564, which was the first organization in England to mine for ore. The Lake District became perfect for industry and mining as there was so much water for power. Mark explained with a diagram how English miners struggled to produce ore because they dug from the surface down which caused problems with flooding, excavating and transporting. German miners, however, discovered that by creating an adit into the bottom of the hillside towards a vein of ore reduced the problems significantly. So many German miners came especially to Keswick to the Newland Valley in 1564 and to Coniston in 1599 and many have stayed as evidenced by Germanic names still in the area.
Mining was an extremely dangerous and hard life. Rock hewn out must have taken many weeks just to produce a small amount of ore and to minimize labour adits were “coffin” shaped to save on energy and time. Several companies went bankrupt in the struggle to produce enough ore to make any profit. However, with better machinery in the 1800s mining became big business and our Lake District landscape is riddled with the remains of all this industry, including some which are still producing slate.
25th July 2018: Diana Matthews - Jack Kitchen, The Windermere Inventor
Diana came to describe the life of the Windermere inventor Jack Kitchen. Jack died in 1939 leaving over £31,000 in his will, so he must have been a successful inventor to have made so much money. He started his working life as an engineer in Lancaster. Though he continued to collaborate with his old employers, he set himself up as an inventor from his home in Windermere. In his life he patented over fifteen hundred inventions, both mechanical and electrical. He developed many ways to improve the propulsion of boats, some of these were used by the Royal Navy in the 1930s and 40s. His other works involved the remote control of boats using HF radio waves. All these experiments were carried out on Lake Windermere. Diana showed slides and diagrams of Jack's inventions while other slides showed the practical applications of his inventions. The vote of thanks was given by Sue Lydon on behalf of the History Group.
23rd May 2018: Carving in Cumbria - Frank Wood
Frank inspired me with his fascination for Cumberland Vernacular furniture in the seventeenth century. He told us how the development of decoration of wood could be traced back to the patterns carved in stone by early man, through the greeks and romans up to the present day. Circles, spirals and zigzags have featured as repeating patterns to fill space and make edgings. The simple paterns developed in more complex shapes like the commonly found daisy pattern. Mahagony furniture came late to Cumberland where most furrniture was dark oak until the late 1700s.His interest was in the lowly farm houses rather than the posh house with fine furniture following in the Dutch and French styles. he showed examples of his own work making accurate copies of original pieces to museum standard and encouraged us to look for examples of carving and other decorative wood working such as victorian barge boarding and finials before they were all replaced by plastic.
25th April 2018: The Coniston Miniature Railway - Geoff Holme
Geoff gave an interesting presentation of Major Hext's steam railway in the grounds of his house in Coniston. Major Hext had been interested in railways as a child and looked through toyshop windows at model trains not knowing that one day his dreams would come true. The railways was built and extended over the years with a number of engines working to a "timetable" with meticulous recoding of journeys made. Signalling and and signal box frames ex-British Railways made an authentic system. The line and locos were maintained by a loyal band of volunteers. After the Major's death, the engines were worked one more time before everything was sold at auction. Geoff's final photos were of his own garden and the items he had had brought away from the sad day when the collection had been broken up with bits going all over the country.
28th March 2018 : Settlements and Field Names in Finsthwaite - Sophia Martin
Sophia gave a presentation of maps and photos of the history of Finsthwaite village. Finsthwaite settlement dates back to Viking times. All around the village are extensive woodlands, originally of oak, birch and hazel but with the opening of a bobbin mill in 1835 the forests were converted to smaller coppice trees. The records from Chapman House and Finsthwaite House show how the land in the village had been divided and how field names gave indications of how the land had been used in the past and also of the nature of the land. Sophia gave some examples such as Grubbins - a clearing, Hard Hills - hilly land difficult to work on its rocky slopes, and Featherbed - a humorous reference because of a lump of bedrock in the field.
28th February 2018 : Jack Kitchen the Windermere Inventor - cancelled due to the snow. Rescheduled for later in the year
24th January 2018: Broughton Soldiers in the Great War 1917 - Peter Greenwood
Peter took us through just one year of the war and the deaths of seven soldiers on the memorial. He detailed the events of the battles and the life of the soldiers in the trenches and their movements forwards and backwards in the lines. He brought some trench maps and reference books for the period and had members reading extracts from letters sent and received from one soldier to his parents, their reply and the notification of his death from the commanding officer. The scale of the losses was brought home by the regimental diary entry on the day a guard was killed by sniper fire - "Quiet day".
Tuesday 14th November: Duddon Dig Year 2 - Ken, Stephe, Jamie Q and Jeremy B
After the presentation of Peter's certificate, Stephe gave an overview of the project with pics of all the volunteers for the benefit of a number of people in the audience that had only become involved recently. Jamie outlined the background to long houses/shieldings and Jeremy talked about the dig and what we found. Then came Jamie to talk about the carbon-14 dates from samples that we sent off. We were hoping for something around 1000 but three dates came back with very similar dates in the Bronze Age. This has a number of possible explanations which we will have to investigate next year. It would be great if we could prove occupation from such an early date but we will need to show that the charcoal is not the result of clearing by burning across the whole site.
26th October 2017: Unearthing the past - Stuart Flett
A great talk and display of finds by a local metal detectorist who made it clear that many of the "treasure hunters" were not interested in the importance of their finds to archaeology so much is not being well recorded. He had found coins a plenty and a string of tudor coins found along a Kirkby pathway indicate how long it had been in use. A Hanseatic League steelyard found in the south of England was a major find in historical terms. I was particularly interested in the number of civil war lead musket balls found around Ashlack Hall - not a battlefield but a Cromwellian barracks! The weight of a handful made you realize just what sort of a load was carried by a soldier going into battle.
27th September 2017: Lakeland Churches - Andy Lowe
As always Andy gave a flowing and interesting talk looking at the architecture of our churches both grand and small, from the fell churches like Cartmel to the larger town churches like Bowness following the expansion of church buildings in the mid to late Victorian period. Andy offered a new insight into the Stained Glass in our lakeland churches The medieval glass that still remains was removed from Furness Abbey and Cartmel Priory to be reused in small fell churches at Cartmel Fell and the grander church at Bowness. Andy then moved on in time to the stained glass in churches of the Art Noveau which can be found in churches like Irton, Ambleside and Broughton. Andy finished his talk by mentioning some of the books that had been written about our Lakeland Churches.
26th July 2017: From Clay to Shale - Furness Industrial History Society
Information about the brick making industry in Furness
28th June 2017: Holme Mills - Geoff Pegg
History of the flax industry
26th April 2017: Recording Historic Buildings in the Furness Area - Daniel Elsworth
22nd March 2017: Transport Delights of the Isle of Man - David Alison
22nd February 2017: The Haverigg Tannery - Bill Myers
There was a great number of members and some visitors at the Feb 22nd meeting opened by Ken. He congratulated Peter Matthiessen on gaining the British Association for Local History award for Personal Achievement for his outstanding work on the Longhouse Project. Members were then reminded of a forthcoming trip to Eden Camp. Our speaker, Bill Myers was then introduced, who gave a very interesting insight into Haverigg Tannery.
Usually Millom is known for its legacy of iron mining but after WW1 there was not as great a need for iron and steel and the workforce suffered. In the 1920s Lord Adams raised £80 million to get support for a Millom industrial regeneration and especially for a tannery, sometimes also called West Coast Tannery. Since import duties were high it was more profitable to make leather for sale in this country and many Hungarians came to escape Hitler’s hatred of Jews. Millom was a prime site with water from the river Lazey and a ready supply of labour. Foreign businessmen approached the local MP Frank Anderson to help him set up industries, which also included a button factory. Many Jews who had escaped here became managers of local factories and gained British citizenship after many years.
Haverigg Tannery was built in six months! There were 200 employees which increased to 500 when a new building was opened by Harold Wilson with a promise of government aid for development. Chrome leather was a speciality here. This involved chromium sulphate being added to aid the retention of the colour.
The tannery became successful because boots etc were needed for WW2, then there was a call for fashion items and also for sheepskin products. Hides were imported from all over the world and involved a lengthy process to produce a pair of shoes. However in 1968 10% of the workforce disappeared as production fell due to many other countries producing leather. In 1969 they applied for more government investment but were turned down and there was a deep depression since the tannery was the largest manufacturer in Millom.
A prominent figure, Vigodny, travelled all over Europe to trade fairs to encourage trade and also tried to claim compensation for his family tannery being nationalized, but he failed.
The tannery closed in 1969 and in 2008 some buildings were demolished and others used for small industries which are still on the site today.
25th January 2017: Duddon Dig Update - Stephe Cove
Stephe split the evening into three sections. He started with a ten minute presentation prepared for the Lancaster University Archaeology Conference at the beginning of March. This shows the way that the DVLHG has moved from a typical history society with talks and an interest in in local and oral history to a group that has been able to set up up a three year archaeological excavation project. This will introduce Jamie’s talk on the dig itself. There was then a presentation that tried to give a simple explanation of what carbon dating was all about and what to make of the strange graphics that accompany the result. Finally he brought out some of the main points from the Interim Report and discussed whether Tongue House A was a shieling or a longhouse and how much did the name matter in the wider understanding of what had been happening at the site.
29th November 2016: Social Evening Prince of Wales, Foxfield
Another super spread put on for the members. Stephe and Dave tested the group's knowledge of words containing the letter "L" with some interesting results!
26th October 2016: Crossing the Duddon Estuary - Mary Jardine
28th September 2016: History of Brantwood Gardens - Ron Ward
26th July 2016: Vikings in Cumbria - Iain McNichol
28th June 2016: Digging up Millom's Past - Duane Farren
Duane has spent many years digging for treasure around the area. His finds are not silver or gold, but glass, eathenware and rusty metal. He has also been digging in the archives to flesh out the stories from the manufacturers' names on the bottles. The saga of Millom's pop maker and the far flung colonies was an interesting reflection on migration from the area. He showed some mystery objects that had been identified and got some crrect answers. The objects that he hadn't identified are still a mystery despite our fevered speculation!